Inner states of being manifested outwardly in The Scarlet Letter People often times try to cover up their interior in order to hide something that is not to that persons liking.
However, this inward state of being always winds up working its way to a persons exterior, and thus, letting everyone know of their respective sins. This is a recurring theme in Nathaniel Hawthornes, The Scarlet Letter. Names like Chillingworth and Dimmesdale let the reader know how, in reality, these characters are, before ever really encountering them. Characters whom the reader will encounter in this novel are going through some type of dilemma on the inside, which begins to show itself in the exterior of the particular individual. In The Scarlet Letter, two studious individuals, Roger Chillingworth and Arthur Dimmesdale, two of the main characters in the novel, each possess their own sins which begin to show themselves in their outermost features, each brought apon themselves for their own respective reasons.Roger Chillingworth’s features begin to display his inward deformities externally as the novel progresses due to his attempts at finding the man who violated his marriage. When he is first seen in the novel, “there was a remarkable intelligence in his features, as of a person who had so cultivated his mental part that it could not fail to mould the physical to itself and become manifest by unmistakable tokens.
” He also has a left shoulder which is slightly higher than the right originally, which only gets more ugly and misshapen with the rest of his body. Chillingworth then takes up residence with Dimmesdale and begins his quest to punish the minister and find out the true identity of this man. After he begins his quest the townspeople observe “something ugly and evil in his face which they had not previously noticed, and which grew still the more obvious to sight, the oftener they looked upon him. Soon his wife, Hester, finds “the former aspect of an intellectual and studious man, calm and quiet, which was what she best remembered in him, had altogether vanished and been succeeded by an eager searching, almost fierce, yet carefully guarded look.” Chillingworth, the injured husband, seeks no revenge against Hester, but he is determined to find the man who has violated his marrige: He bears no letter of infamy wrought into his garment, and thou dost; but I shall read it on his heart.
Chillingworth comments: Believe me, Hester, there are few things..few things hidden from the man who devotes himself earnestly and unreservedly to the solution of a mystery. Thus, Chillingworth intends to seek the father at any cost. The reader finds out that cost winds up to be his own life, through the attachment that he has made to trying to bring down Reverend Dimmesdale, the father of the child whose name is Pearl. It is quite apparent that his external features have changes during this whole procedure of finding out the identity of Dimmesdale: a change had come over his features.
.how much uglier they were..how his dark complexion seemed to have grown duskier, and his figure more misshapen.
This attachment is evident at the end of the book when he calls up to Dimmesdale on the scaffold to come down because he knows the only way to escape the guilt in the ministers heart is to tell the truth about his identity.Finally, his life has become controlled by evil to the extent that once Dimmesdale dies, Chillingworth “withered up, shriveled away, and almost vanished from mortal sight.” Roger Chillingworth grows completely disfigured and misshapen do to the constant nagging and dependence on the Reverend Dimmesdale. Though Dimmesdale commits the sin of adultery with Hester, his punishment is augmented because he fails to immediately confess his identity. Perhaps the reason for this is that just like his exterior, he is a weak man. He does not want to admit to sinning against the Puritan God whom he serves. It is quite evident that Dimmesdale is hiding something when in the Governors Hall he speaks for Hester and Chillingworth comments, You speak, my friend, with a strange earnestness.
However, Dimmesdale holds his sin within himself, using the justification that some sinners, “guilty as they may be, retaining, nevertheless, a zeal for God’s glory and man’s welfare, they shrink from displaying themselves black and filthy in the view of men; because, thenceforward, no good can be achieved by them; no evil of the past be redeemed by better service”.Unfortunately, he does not trust this reasoning. He had tried many times to confess his sin, but he always fell short. During this time, Dimmesdale has grown quite ill from the constant nagging of Chillingworth and Dimmesdale resorts to putting his hand over his heart. Even the child of Hester and himself, Pearl, wonders why he keeps his hand over his heart. She asks, Why dost thou wear the scarlet letter on thy bosom, and why does the minister keep his hand over his heart? She is not quite aware of the utter agony that the reverend is experiencing inwardly, which begins to manifest itself outwardly.Dimmesdale’s feelings of guilt for his unconfessed sin caused him to seek his own private penance. To help relieve his soul of the agony caused by his sin, Dimmesdale fasted “rigorously, and until his knees trembled beneath him as an act of penance”.
He also “kept vigils, likewise, night after night,” that he might have the evil of his sin relieved from his conscience. This results in a great physical suffering, for His form grew emaciated; his voice, though still rich and sweet, had a certain melancholy prophecy of decay in it; he was often observed, on any slight alarm or other sudden accident, to put his hand over his heart, with first a flush and then a paleness, indicative of pain. This quote shows his inward status beginning to rear its ugly head on the outer visage of Dimmesdale. His continual decline of health allows Chillingworth to obtain residence with him.In these close quarters, Chillingworth becomes “a chief actor in the poor minister’s interior world,” and has the ability to make the minister suffer both mental and physical agony.
It is apparent that Dimmesdale feels guilt, for when he speaks regarding the act of adultery or his family, he holds his hand over his letter that we later see on his chest when he delivers the sermon. In this scene, the minister finally releases all the emotions from his insides that we see through most of the book, only this time he shows the feelings externally. We see in this scene the ultimate sign of Dimmesdales sin: his own scarlet letter A.
Thus we finally see that the only remedy for guilt, according to Hawthorne, is truth.The theme rings out throughout the entire novel: Be true! Be true! Be true! Thus, the deterioration of Dimmesdale could have been avoided by simply telling the truth about his identity and showing his inward state of being, outwardly. Roger Chillingworth and Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale both have sins which they venture to cover up, but ultimately wind up showing themselves on their exteriors. These men try to conceal their sin and expect it to go away, but the manifestation is inevitable.
It is shown in the cases of these two men that sin cannot be put under a veil. If sin is addressed with truth, there is no guilt to be concealed, and thus there will be nothing to cloak or be displayed externally.