In the novel, The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne relates the struggle of Dimmesdale’s soul to the classic model of good vs. evil. Arthur Dimmesdale has committed a sin that is heavily frowned upon throughout his community, though; nobody in the community knows what that sin is besides Hester Prynne. Dimmesdale is the minister of the community and he has committed the sin of adultery, partaking in an affair with Hester Prynne while she long waited for her Husband to arrive at Boston.
Dimmesdale, being a religious leader, goes through the struggle for salvation throughout the novel because the action of his sin that he has committed is killing his conscious. Throughout this novel, Dimmesdale is being pulled by the two sides of good vs. evil. In this novel, Roger Chillingworth plays as the role of evil, tormenting the life of Arthur Dimmesdale, with the intent of revenge on his mind. Rather than playing the role of a common doctor, Chillingworth is interested in revenge, not righteousness.
With the change of name on his arrival in Boston, Chillingworth has hidden his past from everybody except Hester who is sworn to secrecy (Hawthorne 117). He includes himself into the society in the role of a doctor and since the town lacks any sufficient medical care, he is welcomed (Hawthorne 118). Coincidentally, Dimmesdale has been suffering from several health problems and appears to be in pain by frequently grabbing his chest as though his heart is hurting him. Chillingworth then urges the town leadership to insist that Dimmesdale allow Chillingworth to be his medical adviser and accompany Dimmesdale in his residence.
By this, Chillingworth may be able to diagnose and possibly cure Dimmesdale (Hawthorne 121). Chillingworth holds a gut feeling that Dimmesdale’s health problems may relate to the sin of adultery that Hester has committed. Throughout the novel, Chillingworth stands by his theory and is out to seek revenge, showing great determination in receiving the most private details about Dimmesdale’s life. Chillingworth torments Dimmesdale’s mind with uncomfortable conversation about sin as Chillingworth is trying to get Dimmesdale to reveal what the doctor wants to hear.
For example, when the minister points out an odd looking plant, Chillingworth explains that the weeds were found growing on an unmarked grave and suggests that these dark weeds are a sign of the buried person’s failure to reveal their hidden sin (Hawthorne 129). Dimmesdale insists that this is a mere fantasy that Chillingworth holds and then the two get into an uncomfortable conversation about redemption, confession, and the action of burying one’s sins. Chillingworth consistently uses devious ways to try and get the minister to say something that the doctor wants to hear.
For instance, when the two are having the conversation about confession and redemption, they notice Hester and Pearl outside of the house and the doctor remarks that Hester is not a woman who lives with buried sin because she wears her sin openly on her chest (Hawthorne 132). This causes Dimmesdale to be more cautious not to give himself away as a person who is attached to Hester or holds a buried sin of his own. Roger Chillingworth continuously attempts to influence Dimmesdale only into the path of destruction and evil.
Pearl portrays the good side of this novel, pulling Dimmesdale and influencing him towards salvation. Dimmesdale’s conscious hurts him throughout this novel because he cannot show his full affection for his own daughter and has to be cautious about how he acts and what he says. Let us consider the scene where Hester and Pearl are confronted by Bellingham, Wilson, Chillingworth, and Dimmesdale (Hawthorne 113). They come into an argument about why Hester should be able to keep Pearl as her child. Dimmesdale then has to step in and speak his word after being begged by Hester. There is truth in what she says…truth in what Hester says, and in the feeling which inspires her! God gave her the child, and gave her, too, an instinctive knowledge of its nature and requirements – both seemingly so peculiar – which no other mortal being can possess. And, moreover, is there not a quality of awful sacredness in the relation between this mother and this child? ” (Hawthorne 113). In this passage, Dimmesdale speaks up for Hester and for why she should be able to keep Pearl, although he needs to watch what he says and not reveal himself as too attached to either of them.
This also ties into a sense of guilt in Dimmesdale’s part. He cannot express his true emotions towards Hester and mainly Pearl, his own daughter. Furthermore, in the scene of the brook side, as Dimmesdale has declined Pearl’s request to walk back into town together as a three, he hopes that a kiss to her forehead will relieve any harsh feelings. As he does so, Pearl breaks free of her mother’s arms and runs to the brook to wash off the kiss (Hawthorne 201). As a result, Dimmesdale is more to feel guilty that he cannot reveal himself to his own daughter.
It hurts him to see that his own daughter has washed away a kiss from him and that he can do nothing about it unless he reveals his secrets, confessing his sin. Thus, Pearl’s impact in this novel is more of a positive one than Chillingworth’s impact to Dimmesdale. Pearl is more of an influence towards a brighter side for Dimmesdale by influencing him towards salvation and that is why she holds the role of the good side. The well-known model of good vs. evil dig deep into the roots of the novel The Scarlet Letter as it continuously touches on many aspects throughout the storyline.
Roger Chillingworth portrays evil while Pearl represents the good. This good vs. evil connection can almost be seen as the common visual of a devil sitting on one’s shoulder and an angel sitting on the other. These two sides bite back to each other with the middle man, Dimmesdale, into getting what the angel and devil want, in this case Pearl and Chillingworth. Pearl is the good angel persuading and guilt tripping Dimmesdale into confessing his sin to reach salvation. Chillingworth is the evil devil who seeks more of a negative influence upon Dimmesdale.
Although the goal is the same for both Pearl and Chillingworth, both have very diverse intentions as Pearl wants him to confess for salvation and Chillingworth wants Dimmesdale to confess in order to seek revenge. Nathaniel Hawthorne relates the struggle of Dimmesdale’s soul to the classic example of good vs. evil by conveying it through the characters of the novel. Chillingworth is the evil as he continuously influences Dimmesdale to the path of evil and destruction only seeking revenge. Pearl is the good, positive influence upon Dimmesdale that only has constructive intentions towards his salvation.
This common example of good vs. evil connects well throughout the novel through the characters. We have an angel and the devil sitting on our shoulders at all times, it is just a matter of recognizing it and choosing the right path down the road. Rationale The strategy I incorporated into my essay was a structure of a 6 paragraph paper. This included my intro, BP1, BP2, BP3, BP4, and conclusion. I included my thesis statement into the intro of the essay. In body paragraph one I explained what Dimmesdale’s general sin was and how it affected him.
Body paragraphs two, three and four I explained the influences of Chillingworth and Pearl then the connection of good vs. evil. Within my paragraphs, I first included background information of each action and then provided evidence and lastly an analysis relating to good or evil. I think that a six paragraph structure proved to be effective with this prompt. I was able to first talk about each of the characters and their actions on how it was either good or evil, then I was able to put them together and make a full on connection to good vs. evil.
Cite this The Struggle for the Soul of Arthur Dimmesdale
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