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Themes of Shame in The Scarlet Letter

            Shame is a painful sense of having done something wrong, improper or immodest. In Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter, Arthur Dimmesdale struggles to overcome sin, guilt, and public shame in Puritan society. Arthur Dimmesdale reveals his guilt and shame towards the end of the novel when Hester and Pearl stand with him on the scaffold while he confesses his sin to the townspeople. To feel shame or guilt, one must have a clean conscience. Dimmesdale is a good example of this because he is loyal to God, and his shame affecting him physically, emotionally and mentally represents that he is a good person. One should not feel shame if one behaves according to one's own beliefs or instincts. .
             Dimmesdale's mentality is affected severely by shame. Mentality affected by shame is caused because when the conscience constantly reminds one what has been done, and remorse is felt. At one point, Dimmesdale goes to the scaffold during the night to confess his sins, shows signs of his state mental weakening. When Dimmesdale is on the scaffold, it becomes clear that he is beginning to lose his mind, shown when "without any effort of his will, or power to restrain himself, he shrieked aloud" (Hawthorne 153). With a guilty conscience, Dimmesdale's mental health suffers, along with his ability to restrain himself from talking to Reverend Wilson while he was on the scaffold. However, Dimmesdale does not speak to the Reverend, the guilt he feels inside has caused him to believe that he has. When Dimmesdale goes to the scaffold to publicly reveal his sins, it's suggested that his mentality is now back to normal. With his sins now exposed to the public, he seems more supportive with Pearl. Before he confessed, Dimmesdale ignored Pearl and did not show any affection towards her due to the fear of exposing his sin. Now that his secrets are out, he is free to show affection towards Pearl and Hester.

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