‘s The Scarlet Letter Scarlet Letter essaysPower of Guilt in The Scarlet Letter If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, did it make a sound? This saying brings me to my thesis of “Guilt Without Confession leads to Great Consequences in The Scarlet Letter”. If a character does something wrong but no one knows, that character can both gain and lose from what they have done.
This happens multiple times in The Scaret Letter. Characters commit evil deeds, some are caught, some are not. For those that aren’t caught, they have a decision to make.
To turn themselves in or to live their lives as if it never happened. For those that choose to live on as if it never happened they are faced with a tough road ahead. They have to deal with the guilt of what they’ve done. All the while, they must watch to see if anyone is on to them or suspects them of the crime they have commited. However they are rewarded. They get to live on as a regular member of society rather than be imprisoned or even worse, put to death. These are examples of characters who have commited crimes without confessing.
Arthur Dimmesdale is a minister, a father, a sinner and a man who feels incredible guilt. He commits adultery with Hester before the book begins. As the book begins it is revealed he is the true father of Hester’s child Pearl. Dimmesdale, afraid of losing his status and being humiliated , does not confess his crime. For this this he is rewarded and greatly punished. He is rewarded by keeping his status in the community.
He continues to preach to his flock, for which he gains great acclaim. He is able to see Hester and Pearl whenever he wants. He is also free to leave anytime he wants. He has his freedom and his reputation.
However, he also has something he doesn’t want, his conscience. How unfortunate it is a person can get away from being caught for a crime. A crime that is punishable by death. Yet, he can’t enjoy it. Most people would leave town, sorry for that they’ve done, but ecstatic they got away to start a new life.
Not Dimmesdale, not Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale. He beats himself up over it. Usually thats an analogy, but not this time. The rest of his life is a descent into madness brought on by constant self-induced suffering, which is later more than self-induced when Chllingworth figures it out. Dimmesdale locks himself in a closet beating himself relentlessly with chains and a whip. He also cuts the letter “A” into his skin like how Hester has to wear it on her dress.
As if this wasn’t enough he also goes on near life-threatening fasts. To top it all off, his inner conflict manifests itself into the outside world. This happens when he develops a heart condition and which causes him to clutch his chest very often. These are all examples of his pennance, but it still is not enough. Dimmesdale tries many times to tell others of his sin but always falls just short. He tries to tell the people at his church that he is a sinner like them.
The people there assume he is just trying to be modest now that he is receiving great acclaim for his sermons. Another time he goes up to the scaffold where Hester and Pearl stood. He makes a noise, wanting people to come out and look at him to force him into a confession, but alas no one looks. Just then Hester and Pearl arrive and they stand there with him and Pearl asks “Wilt thou stand here with Mother and me, tomorrow noontide?” Dimmesdale refuses. Hester convinces him to run away with her and Pearl and he accepts. After he delivers his final sermon he runs over to the scaffold finnally admits what he has done and dies.
Overall he is punished much greater than he is rewarded. Hester Prynne commits the biggest sin of the book, for which she is caught. We can only speculate what would have happened if she didn’t confess and wasn’t caught. However there were sins she committed that she didn’t confess.
First, she didn’t tell who her accomplice was in committing adultery. For not confessing this she is rewarded and punished. She is rewarded by keeping Dimmesdale as a freind and a confidant. She is punished however by having to watch her husband, posing as Roger Chillingworth slowly kill Dimmesdale. Her decision to not tell who the father of Pearl was may or may not have been the best move. Perhaps if they knew who the father was they would have killed Hester and Pearl.
Dimmesdale would have surely been put to death. In the end, it may have been the right choice, or maybe not, that could easily be debated. She also commited a crime when she aided in hiding who Roger Chillingworth was. Once again this desicion led to both good things and bad. Had she told everyone who Chillingworth really was she might have been put to death for adultery as one of the reasons for not killing her was she though her husband was dead.
She did however pay for not confessing she knew who Chillingworth in the same way she paid for not confessing who the father of Pearl was. She had to watch her close freind Dimesdale be hunted down by Chillingworth. Then slowly tortured until his life was worse than death. Overall Hester not confessing her crimes may or may not have worked out, we can’t tell from the information in the book. Roger Chillingworth, as he is now called, is also a sinner. He commits the most sins of anyone in the whole book. He starts by marrying Hester without love.
He says “We have wronged each other. Mine was the first wrong, when I betrayed thy budding youth into an unnatural relation with my decay.” He feels like he didnt deserve such a young, beautiful wife and doesn’t blame her for cheating on him. He does blame whoever she did it with.
Which is why he commits his next sin. He sins when he comes back into Boston saying is name is Roger Chillingworth. His real last name is Prynne, like Hester.
He uses this lie to gain access to the town in a way he wouldn’t have been able to if he used his true identity. Thanks to this false name, he has the freedom to hunt down whoever commited adultery with his wife. He takes this opportunity and spends every waking moment looking for the criminal.
He foreshadows it by saying he shall see it in the man’s heart. When he examines Dimmesdale in his sleep and feels his heart, Hawthorne writes Chillingworth feels how “Satan comports himself when a precious is lost to heaven and won into his kingdom”. So far not confessing who his identity is really paying off for him, and theres much more to come. After he discovers for certain that Dimmesdale is the father of the child, he makes it his mission to put Dimmesdale through hell, or as close to that as he can get. Dimmesdale, so afraid everyone will discover for him for the liar and sinner he is, he doesn’t notice Chllingworth as an enemy.
He is so afraid of the whole town, he lets his biggest enemy move in with him. After this Chillingworth and Dimmesdale are not the same. Chillingworth turns inhuman torturing Dimmesdale non-stop. Dimmesdale turns into a wreck with heart problems among many others. He eventually succumbs to the torture on the scaffold and dies. Chllingworth also sinned and didn’t confess when Dimmesdale died after slow mental torture by Chillingworth. Overall not confessing worked out very well for Chillingworth.
He married Hester without love and didn’t confess, which didn’t work out well for him. However lying about his identity gave him the opportunity to commit his next sin which he also didn’t confess. Unlike Dimmesdale, Chillingworth gained more than he lost by lying. As you can see by these examples if you commit a crime and no one knows about it, it’s up to you to move on with your life or fall into a pit of guilt. If you can escape the guilt, there are great rewards. You can accomplish things you wouldn’t normally be able to.
You can settle the score with anyone who has wronged you. Or you can run away and start your life over. If you can’t escape the guilt, your life will be come a living hell. You will be tormented by what you have done and won’t be able to live your life.
You could run away but your guilty conscience would catch up quickly. So in conclusion if you commit a crime and you aren’t caught, good things can come to you by not telling anyone it was you. However, terrible things often follow.