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Consequences of Guilt

            Guilt often has detrimental effects on those who are at fault for punishable doings. The romantic novel The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a story that revolves around the consequences of the sinful act of adultery, which is committed by the characters of Hester Prynne and Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale. The narrative is set in a theocratic Puritan community in the seventeenth-century colony of Massachusetts, thus Hester is publicly punished for her sin and forced to wear the letter “A” on her chest. Hester chooses not to identify her fellow sinner and the father of her daughter Pearl, as Dimmesdale is a highly respected minister among the members of the community. Instead of taking responsibility for his part in the birth of Pearl, who is thought of as evil, Dimmesdale lives his life in self-inflicted pain and suffering. In the novel, Hawthorne particularly uses the character of Arthur Dimmesdale to illustrate and explore a relationship between actions and a sense of guilt through Dimmesdale’s characteristics, actions, and near destruction but eventual redemption. .
             Dimmesdale’s character and nature help to convey the reasons for his longtime secrecy and guilty conscience. When the reader first encounters Dimmesdale, there is a slight hint of what is to be discovered about him. Hawthorne writes, “Notwithstanding his high native gifts and scholar-like attainments, there was an air about this young minister,— an apprehensive, a startled, a half-frightened look,— as of a being who felt himself quite astray and at a loss in the pathway of human existence, and could only be at ease in some seclusion of his own” (46). Hawthorne also describes Dimmesdale as eloquent, striking, and passionate (46). Dimmesdale is given both wonderful qualities and tragic flaws. In contrast to the strong and determined character of Hester Prynne, “Dimmesdale is presented as a figure of frailty and weakness…” (Telgen, ed.