Arthurs Guilt and Suffering
People get guilt when they have done something they know they should not do, and their conscience tells them it is wrong. Suffering comes after the guilt, when they do not do anything about it and the guilt builds up inside of them and physically hurts them. In The Scarlet Letter written by Nathaniel Hawthorne in the mid-1800s, there is a lot of sin and wrong-doings which lead to guilt and suffering. In the novel, many of the characters feel guilt for the sins they commit and regret committing the sin in the first place. Arthur Dimmesdale feels an abundance of guilt for committing his sin, and because of his lack of courage and the guilt he has built up inside, he is suffering significantly.
Arthur Dimmesdale is the Reverend of the village of Boston, and the whole congregation looks up to him for advice and spiritual guidance. He is known for his inspiring and rhetorical sermons, but when he commits adultery with Hester Prynne, he starts to go downhill; not just with his sermons, but also his mental health. his cheek was paler and thinner, and his voice more tremulous than before (Hawthorne 111). This quote is an example of how the guilt built up inside of him was literally eating away at him to the point that he becomes tremendously unhealthy. Arthur becomes so unhealthy that the townspeople start worrying about him, but is happily surprised when Roger Chillingworth, Hester Prynnes unknown husband, moves into town and volunteers to nurse him back to health. The two men soon become very close, and Roger even moves in with Arthur so he can care for him as much as possible; unfortunately Arthur still does not get better because the guilt is not forgotten.
Arthur is not the only being affected by his guilt and suffering either; many of the main characters are being affected by his sin. Hester Prynne, Arthurs secret lover, is also being affected for many reasons; for instance, she is not allowed to be with her one true love, Arthur, and this upsets and depresses her. She also has to raise their love child, Pearl, alone because Arthur is unable to be with her without people knowing about their affair. Pearl is affected by his guilt because she cannot be raised by two parents and have a fatherly figure in her life; this affects her mentally as well, for example, she acts up in public to get attention that she should get from a father figure and also because she does not have the right discipline. her wild, desperate, defiant mood, the flightiness of her temper, and even some of the very cloud-shapes of gloom and despondency that had brooded in her heart (Hawthorne 83). Roger Chillingworth is also surprisingly affected by Arthurs guilt because the guilt is so apparent that Roger knows he is Hesters lover, so he wants revenge. He wants revenge so bad that he does not even care about the Reverends health anymore.
Although Arthurs guilt and suffering may be considered a bad thing, because he is sick and dying because of it, it is also a good thing. Because of his guilt, he feels what Hester feel everyday when she walks through town; the pain she feels has to feel publicly because of the scarlet letter, he feels in his heart because of all the guilt built up inside that he wants to let out. He also becomes closer to Hester because with his guilt he can relate to what she is going through, and that makes them closer as lovers. He also becomes closer to Roger because he is sick and Roger tries to help him; as a result of the help they talk and become good friends. they took long walks on the sea-shore, or in the forest; mingling various talk with the plash and murmur of the waves, and the solemn wind-anthem among the tree-tops (Hawthorne 112). Through his guilt and suffering, Arthur becomes more spiritual because he looks to God and the other clergymen of the town; therefore his sermons become more spiritual and inspiring which make the people of Boston cherish and care for him even more.
Arthurs guilt affects him both mentally and physically, and to try to get rid of his guilt, he uses various forms of self-punishment. He whips himself, starves himself, and the most known way of self-punishment that he uses is branding his own scarlet letter on his chest. As a result of starving himself, Arthur becomes very weak to the point where he cannot walk without assistance. and advanced to give assistancethat he must otherwise inevitably fall (Hawthorne 225). Next, to punish himself, he brands the letter A to his chest to feel the pain that Hester feels, but with his scarlet letter comes everyday pain from the branding; this is why he is caught, many times in the novel, with his hand over his chest. Mr. Dimmesdale exhibited no symptom of positive and vivacious suffering, except that, as little Pearl had remarked, he kept his hand over his heart (Hawthorne 170).
Arthur feels an abundance of guilt for committing adultery with Hester Prynne, and with his guilt comes suffering. But he does not have the courage to tell everyone his sin and get his guilt out, so it stays bottled up inside of him. To try to get the guilt out, Arthur tries self-punishment, but that does not work; it actually causes him more pain. The guilt starts literally eating away at his body, and he starts to die, but Chillingworth comes in to help. Although all these things are bad factors, the guilt can also be considered a good thing, because through his guilt and suffering, Arthur becomes closer to Hester, his true love, and Pearl, his secret daughter.