How Deceptive Decisions and Actions Can Affect a Person's Life

Topics: Adultery

In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, and Veronica Roth’s Insurgent the authors use the characters of Arthur Dimmesdale and Tris Before to show how deceitful choices and actions can affect a person’s life long after the original sin was committed.

Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, the main character in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter, proves to be a sinner against man, against God, and most importantly against himself because he has committed adultery with Hester Prynne, resulting in an illegitimate child, Pearl.

His sinning against himself, for which he ultimately paid the price of death, proved to be more harmful and more destructive than this sin of the flesh, and his sin against God. Dimmesdale portrays himself very ironically. He is a very well respected reverend and yet, for the last 7 years has worked on preaching the word of God, especially while he urges the congregation to confess openly to repent unto God. While, in reality, Dimmesdale is the one who needs a clean conscious.

He feels like he needs to confess not only to the town but also to himself. Halfway through the novel, Dimmesdale has yet to reveal the truth, which, so far, has been devouring him, physically and mentally. Since this good reverend is so spiritual, he cannot reveal his truths to the town so simply. He is of the Puritan faith and being a follower of that, the sin of adultery is very grand. The whole town would look down on him as if he were a hypocrite.

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He is, but his sin of adultery in that town would have been scoffed at just as Hester’s has. The reverend is so well-liked by the townsfolk that Hawthorne states, “They fancied him the mouth-piece of Heaven’s messages of wisdom, rebuke, and love. In their eyes, the very ground on which he trod was sanctified.” (139) Arthur Dimmesdale refuses to reveal the act of adultery, instead of allowing it to diminish him throughout the novel. The status of Dimmesdale is very different compared to Hester; a highly regarded reverend, Dimmesdale is determined to keep the sin a secret from the beginning.

The deed already seems to be troubling him from the beginning, as he is described as having “an air about [him]—an apprehensive, a startled, a half-frightened look—as of a being who found himself […] at a loss in the pathway of human existence” (Hawthorne 63). Despite this, Dimmesdale attempts to keep his composure to the best of his ability, although it becomes very obvious that something is wrong with him. As time passes, Dimmesdale’s health begins to plummet; he is described as “emaciated: his voice […] had a certain melancholy prophecy of decay in it; he was often observed […] occurs put his hand over his heart, with first a flush and then a paleness, indicative of pain” (113). Of course, most villagers attribute this to his unrelenting and exhausting devotion to his religious studies, unaware of the true evil that is troubling him. One major existence when this occurs is when it is said that “the breach which guilt has once made into the human soul is never, in this mortal state repaired” when it is referring to Dimmesdale as he has become a complete mess because of the existence of guilt in his life (191; ch. 18). Dimmesdale’s condition becomes no better, especially under the intrusive care of Roger Chillingworth, Hester’s husband, who of course has ulterior motives for agreeing to be his caretaker. Towards the end of the novel, Dimmesdale’s conditions spike, but this time in a positive way; this of course occurs after he accepts his sin and makes plans to flee the town with Hester and Pearl. Racing through the town, Dimmesdale feels energetic and impulsive, wanting to say to everyone that he passes “‘I am not the man for who you take me! I left him yonder in the forest. […] Go, seek your minister, and see if his emaciated figure […] be not flung down there, like a cast-off garment!” (207). Ridding himself of the horrible weight that Dimmesdale carried upon himself for seven years is liberating. Of course, the weight of seven years is not so easily purged; Dimmesdale reveals to all of the townsfolk his sin and casts aside his garments to reveal his very own stigma. Dimmesdale suddenly becomes very weak and dies. In his final moments, readers are left with the comforting truth that Dimmesdale rids himself of the weight that he carried for so long. However, this cautionary tale proves that spending our lives trying to store away our dark secrets is not advised, seeing as how this action resulted in Dimmesdale paying the ultimate price.

In the novel, Insurgent Tris faces these same problems as Dimmesdale. In the prior move Divergent she chooses to kill one of her close friends to save herself. This essentially creates an everlasting feeling of guilt within her as she feels like she is a horrible person but still goes on living her life. At one point she says “I can’t let anyone else die because of me” (Roth 121). This shows how she has been feeling this quilt and can’t bring anyone else down around her similar to when Dimmesdale finally came out saying he committed adultery because he couldn’t bear to bring anyone else down with him either.

When others criticized Hawthorne for his works in Scarlet Letter they also criticize the characters. In the document titled “The Enigma of evil and concept of sin as reflected in the fictional world of Nathaniel Hawthorne: an appraisal” the author S. Chelilah focuses on the controversy surrounding Puritan society and how that contributes to a person sinning. He adds insight as to why Hawthorne created these moral conflicts between his character as well as adding that “because of pride, [Dimmesdale] suffers seven years with hidden guilt” calling to attention the overall well-understood longevity of sin.

These works not only portray sin in characters but also work criticize the morality of these characters. As a whole, they all address the understanding that guilt is unavoidable and a part of every person’s life.

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How Deceptive Decisions and Actions Can Affect a Person's Life. (2022, May 10). Retrieved from

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