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Analysis of Nathaniel Hawthornes Novel The Scarlet Letter - Book Report/Review Example

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The author analyzes Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter which is the dichotomy of public vs. private guilt. The author of the piece under consideration studies a gap between putting a person to shame in public and letting him/her suffer the consequences and overcome the guilt all alone…
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Analysis of Nathaniel Hawthornes Novel The Scarlet Letter
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One of the main themes of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter is the dichotomy of public vs. private guilt. More specifically, the author of the piece under consideration studies the significant gap between putting a person to shame in public and letting him / her suffer the consequences and overcome the guilt all alone, in private. Overall, as it is shown in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, experiencing private guilt and dealing with it all alone is much more destructive, in terms of both physical and emotional state, than experiencing, dealing with and suffering the consequences of public guilt.
Dimmesdale experiences pangs of conscience and has to deal with this pain on his own, without the opportunity to tell about it to anybody. Such a private guilt has a significant influence on his physical and emotional state. At the same time, Hester, his lover, also has to deal with guilt, which is of another character though. In particular, her guilt is exposed to the public, and, perhaps, everybody in the town knows that she has committed adultery. At first, when the society gets to know Hester has committed such a grievous sin, people condemn her and avoid her presence, which leads to Hester’s complete isolation. However, with the time passing, her public position starts to improve. She herself gets to know that public disapproval and isolation are the worst things that she has already overcome; consequently, she can move on and start a new life.
Unfortunately, Dimmesdale cannot do the same to his life. On the contrary, as the novel develops, he is getting worse and worse. First of all, it is his physical state that declines. This is how Hawthorne describes what is going with Dimmesdale: “His cheek was paler and thinner, his voice more tremulous than before” (92). In other words, keeping such a horrible secret and the lack of opportunity to share it at least with one soul exhausts his body. In addition to this, his mind is also corrupted by his silence. He gets more turbulent, restless, and haunted, and people start to notice “[…] gloom and terror in the depth of the poor minister’s eyes” (Hawthorne 97). Also, Chillingworth starts to suspect something is going on: “A bodily disease […] may, after all, be but a symptom of some ailment in the spiritual part” (Hawthorne 103). While Hester has to wear a scarlet letter on her dress so that everybody sees it, Dimmesdale burns the same letter out on his chest to atone for his guilt but the fact that nobody can see it burns him even more than the injury itself.
Guilt is one of the central themes of The Scarlet Letter, and it is shown there in two different forms, public and private. As the example of Dimmesdale and Hester shows, public guilt is much easier to overcome while private one can lead to serious consequences, such as decline of physical and mental health and even death. Dimmensdale’s case illustrates how destructive private guilt can be and demonstrates that even the seemingly strongest people can fall victim to guilt if it is hidden somewhere deep in their hearts.
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Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. Arc Manor LLC, 2008. Print. Read More
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