In the novel The Scarlet Letter, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale’s cruel deception of concealing the truth of his and Hester Prynne’s affair stems from fear causing him to experience merciless suffering for his wrongdoing. Moreover, the silence of Dimmesdale throughout the story becomes his own demise. Dimmesdale enters a very unstable state of mind committing many acts of self-harm and abhors himself for his deception. The following quote from chapter 11 reveals that his cruelty for lying ironically converts into self-cruelty. “Inward trouble drove him to practices more in accordance with the old, corrupted faith of Rome than with the better light of the church in which he had been born and bred. In Mr. Dimmesdale’s secret closet, under lock and key, there was a bloody scourge. Oftentimes, this Protestant and Puritan divine had plied it on his own shoulders, laughing bitterly at himself the while, and smiling so much the more pitilessly because of that bitter laugh.”In chapter 3 when Hester is presented to the people of the town on the scaffold. She is asked who the father is but refuses to tell anyone. After constant public harassment by the clergymen of the town, her reply is: “‘Never,’ replied Hester Prynne, looking, not at Mr. Wilson, but into the deep and troubled eyes of the younger clergyman, ‘It is too deeply branded. Ye cannot take it off. And would that I might endure his agony as well as mine!'” Hester Prynne thought this decision to be helpful to Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale. Ironically though, Dimmesdale wanted to come clean and tell the truth. Prynne carries the shame and isolation for them both throughout the novel. She thinks that life as a martyr for them both will get rid of his pain. In fact, though, Dimmesdale takes up self-harm for his cowardice of not confessing and suffers enormously both mentally and physically.Arthur Dimmesdale deception is important because it fuels his inner torment and contrasts with Prynne’s acceptance of her outward shame. While Prynne is scrutinized and isolated with her daughter, she finds closure in life and feels she is free from suffering. Meanwhile, Dimmesdale’s inability to publicly reveal his cruel sins creates inner cruelty that manifests itself in his nasty attitude, physical illness and self-injury.
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