The Cowardice of Arthur Dimmesdale

Length: 3 Pages 789 Words

The Cowardice of Arthur Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, behavior is centered around a rigid Puritan society that leads to great consequences in the lives of Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale. Their act of adultery greatly effects their lives and its result greatly alters their presence in the community. Hester handles her situation with as much dignity and pride as possible while Dimmesdale, the minister, acts in a different and cowardly manner. Hester openly confesses her sin and bears the punishment, while Dimmesdale does not even contain the strength to confess and tolerate the results that could be thrust upon him. Arthur Dimmesdale’s inability to confess is strictly due to his fear of confrontation thus characterizing him as a coward. The fact that Dimmesdale does not publicly acknowledge or reveal his sin only contributes in denouncing himself as well as his courage. His lack of a confession solely results in the loss of power, self-esteem, and dignity. His great lack of inner strength is easily grasped due to the lies he preaches every week for seven painful years about truth and in the manner in which he av Continue...


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When the minister, Arthur Dimmesdale, does finally reach a point of confession, he does so in the manner of a weak and cowardly person. The minister can only extol Hester when she refuses to reveal him as the father by expressing "the wondrous strength and generosity of a woman's heart! (Hawthorne 69) rather than confess his own half of the sin. His confession does not contain even a slight shred of dignity or courage - he has to coerce Pearl and Hester to join him on the scaffold for fear of being alone. He can only praise a woman who has more strength and power than himself, for degrading her would be extremely hypocritical for a man in his position. Once he reaches a point near death, he chooses not to confess out of goodness, but out of the knowledge that if he does, he will have a chance of forgiveness from God. The confession of Arthur Dimmesdale only exposes his cowardice to his community and denounces his position, rather than strengthens him. He spreads the word of holiness and goodness, yet he himself does not abide these simple laws of the Puritan lifestyle. He is unable to acknowledge his sin during the day due to his fear of the reaction of the community in dealing with the fact that their well-respected minister has been a part of a great sin. His high position only invests higher quantities of dread and fear within, digging Dimmesdale farther into a hole of shame and failure. The fact that he his held above the rest in his community leads him to believe he is a model for those to follow, and he is not able to deal with the fact that he has broken the mold. and to his own infinite alarm, burst into a great peal of laughter (151). Dimmesdale completely avoids confrontation by confessing before death.