Do You Dread Guilt?
What is guilt? We all have guilt about something. Maybe forgetting something,
lied about something, or even did something that shouldn't of been done. In The Scarlet
Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne we saw guilt fester in the minds and outward appearance
of the main characters, Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale and Roger Chillingworth.
When you hear the word guilt what do you think it means? Guilt means
remorseful awareness of having done something wrong or of having failed to do
something required or expected. Does that sound about right? Guilt is something
everyone has. Its this mental manifestation that lets us know when we did something
wrong but no one knows it yet. Guilt is very powerful. Some people after awhile give in
to this guilt and confess what they did.
In The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale commit a great sin.
Because of this great sin, it causes them immense guilt and sadness though out the rest of
the book. One of the main character's that is affected the most is Arthur Dimmesdale.
Dimmesdale handles it in a different way though, to him its more of a "concealed sin." A
example of this is, "It may be that they are kept silent by the very constitution of their
nature. Or - can we not suppose it - 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 or
the past be redeemed by better service." Dimmesdale also has another reason for his
concealing, he wants to remain silent so that he can continue to do God's work as a
Hester Prynne handles her guilt in another way. Instead of worrying about it day
after day and letting to fester, she makes it outward. At the beginning of the book she
wears the most awesome clothes and shows the world she's not guilty for what she has
done. An example of this is, "And never had Hester Prynne appeared more lady-like, in
the antique interpretation of the term, than as she issued from the prison." Also she shows
it with the scarlet A on her chest. Instead of just putting some dumb A on her chest she
spends the time and embroiders it with red and gold thread and even wears the scarlet A
long after she could have removed it.
Roger Chillingworth appears at first to be the one that was sinned on but though
out the book that changes with every page of the nasties that Chillingworth has caused.
Even with the major sin of Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale, Roger's sins are much
greater. First Roger knows that he never really did love Hester and says he did wrong by
marrying such a young wife that also didn't love him. But Roger doesn't notice is second
sin, taking revenge on Arthur Dimmesdale. An example of this is, "We are not, Hester,
the worst sinners in the world. There is one worse then even the polluted priest! That old
man's revenge has been blacker then my sin. He has violated, in cold blood, the sanctity of
a human heart. Thou and I, Hester, never did so!" Because Chillingworth's sin was the
blackest his fate was the most horrible of the three.
To overcome this great guilt the character's handle it in there own way. Hester
Prynne handles it by trying to hide nothing, trying to show the world, see what I did and
I'm proud of it! Arthur Dimmesdale handles his terrible guilt by concealing it to himself.
To overcome it he would whip himself, take long walks into the forest, and even get in a
secret interview with Hester. His final output to the world was to tell them all on the
scaffold of his great sin on election day. Roger Chillingworth handles his guilt by not
showing he had any. Ignorance played a big part for Roger and in the end he also tells and
notices what a great sin he has caused.
What comes to the mind when guilt is said? Good, bad or are you just plain
confused? Everyone has this problems about guilt, its not just yourself. Right? In The
Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne guilt affected many people. Guilt is very powerful
and festers in our minds and hearts of everyone when wrong doing occurs.