Scarlet Letter: Guilt Will Destroy “Be true to yourself, and everyone else” This is the main point that the author of the “Scarlet Letter,” Nathaniel Hawthorne is trying to convey when he says “Be true! Be true! Be true! Show freely to the world, if not your worst, yet some trait whereby the worst may be inferred! (200). ” One can come back and learn from their mistakes, and their sin. In the novel, Hester Prynne and Reverend Dimmesdale both commit the same crime.
The difference is that, everyday Hester shows her face and accepts her guilt, while, for seven years, Dimmesdale covered it up – which ultimately led to his demise. Everyone makes mistakes, but it is those that do not accept their wrongdoings that ultimately get punished. Hester was punished every day, excluded from society, and looked down upon, but in the end, she was respected. Reverend Dimmesdale, on the other hand, hid his guilt, and attempted to go on with his life without a punishment, and he ended up dying.
Those who accept their faults will be more content than those who do not. From the moment that Hester Prynne received the scarlet letter upon her breast, she had been the subject of public ridicule. Hester was shunned, and excluded from society “on the outskirts of the town, within the verge of the peninsula, but not in close vicinity to any other habitation (61),” called upon only when her handiwork was needed. For Seven years Hester was subjected to her daily punishment. There were many times when Hester thought she could no Jacobs 2 onger stand the burden of her sins, “She could no longer borrow from the future to ease her present grief,” be she continued anyway. Over time, she earned herself respect. That respect was earned either from her being a kind and selfless person, or from her courage, but, nonetheless, she earned herself respect. Reverend Dimmesdale knew just as well as Hester did, that Pearl was his child. Reverend Dimmesdale sinned just as Hester did. He was seen as an angel in the towns’ eyes. The town looked up to the reverend, and worshipped him in a sense. He could do no wrong in their eyes.
The town thought so highly of him, and he did nothing to change it. Not once did he admit his wrongdoings to anyone. Everyday he allowed Hester to walk in public shame, while he did not. Indeed, he was guilty. He realized what he had done, and the severity of it. He somehow believed that if he ignored it long enough, that it’d go away. As time went on, Dimmesdale felt more and more guilty. “A bodily disease, which we look upon as whole and entire within itself, may, after all, be but a symptom of some ailment in the spiritual part,” continued to inflict him.
Dimmesdale died in the end; he let his guilt control him. Although no one knew, he did, and that was enough to ruin him. Day and night he lied, with that guilt hidden deep in his heart. He died very shortly after his secret was revealed, leaving no time for respect to be earned. People will forever remember him not as the man who sinned, but the man who sinned and was not man enough to admit it. The difference between the two lovers is immensely obvious. The two are the same in that they both committed adultery, an atrocious crime back in those days.
They both had a child Jacobs 3 out of wedlock, and they both were wrong and remorseful for what they did. So why were their fates so different? Why did Hester survive and prosper in life, while Dimmesdale went on a downward spiral until his untimely death? Their difference is that Hester accepted her sin, Dimmesdale did not. Although it appeared that Hester was punished more than Dimmesdale, she was not. It is harder to live with guilt than to be ridiculed for a mistake. The moral of the story: accept your faults and accept your wrongs.
Everyone makes mistakes, but it is those who learn and admit them that prosper, as Hester did when “the scarlet letter ceased to be a stigma which attracted the world’s scorn and bitterness, and became a type of something to be sorrowed over, and looked upon with awe …(203). ” Leaving a secret hidden will not make the secret go away, but just make it worse. Attempting to not only hide something from the public, but also from oneself, will lead to self-destruction. And that, is the difference between Hester Prynne and Reverend Dimmesdale.