Dimmesdale and Puritan Society

Dimmesdale
and Puritan Society

In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
utilizes imagery to convey that Dimmesdale can represent Puritan Society
rather than the round character that can be seen on the surface level.

This is seen through the imagery and symbolism of hypocrisy, Dimmesdale
as a Christ figure, and the scarlet letter.

First of all, Hawthorne parallels the hypocrisy
of Dimmesdale to that of Puritan society. Hawthorne describes Dimmesdale
as, "a viler companion of the vilest, the worst of sinners," even though

Dimmesdale is seen as the most holy man in the Puritan community. Puritan
society was supposed to be a utopian society and do away with their English
traditions. Similarly, as Dimmesdale was supposed to be holy, yet they
both were hypocritical. Secondly, Dimmesdale portrays the Puritan society
by not initially taking his place on the scaffold, "Ye have both been here
before, but I was not with you... and we will stand all three together."

The Puritans modeled Dimmesdale's hypocrisy, as they were supposed to be
a "city on a hill" for the world to see while they ended up mixing up English
tradition with their ideals. While Dimmesdale hid his sin at the first
scaffold seen, so did the Puritans when they colonized America. The Puritans
faults were not initially that obvious but as time grew on they appeared
on their scaffold just as Dimmesdale does. Hawthorne writes about one of

Dimmesdale's sermons that is, "addressed to the multitude a discourse on
sin, in all its branches." In Dimmesdale's sermons, he spoke out against
sin while at the same time he commits this sin, just as the Puritans committed
sins that they condemned Dimmesdale's character models Puritan society
in the way they treat religious persecution. The Puritans left England
to flee from religious intolerance, but when they got to the colonies,
they had no religious tolerance for people with different religious beliefs.

Dimmesdale speaks out against adultery and commits it, the Puritans demand
religious tolerance but refuse to give it.

Dimmesdale symbolically portrays Jesus

Christ in certain ways. For example, Dimmesdale's death marked the beginning
of a new era, just as Christ's death marked a new beginning for all of
those who believe in Him. Dimmesdale's death symbolically ends the marks
the beginning of American History and the end of colonial history, just
as Christ's death marked the beginning of the Christian church. Also, Dimmesdale
mirrored Jesus Christ, in His teaching that to save your life you must
lose it. Anyone that wants to follow Jesus must give up their life and
let Him live for them. Similarly, Dimmesdale can not truly live until he
confesses his sin, but when he finally confesses he dies. Finally, Dimmesdale
parallels Christ through the suffering of his death. Hawthorne describes

Dimmesdale's suffering, "This burning torture to bear upon my breast! By
sending yonder dark and terrible old man, to keep the torture always at
red-heat!" So it can be seen that Dimmesdale does not just die, but rather
he suffers much pain in his death. In this way, Jesus did not just die
but was brutally murdered and suffered indescribable pain. Through this
imagery that parallels Dimmesdale to Jesus Christ we can see that Dimmesdale
represents a Christ figure for the Puritan society, and Hawthorne uses
this to criticize Puritan society.

Finally, the character of Dimmesdale represents
the rise and fall of Puritan society, through the imagery of the "scarlet
letter" on his chest. Dimmesdale is described with much potential; "His
eloquence and religious fervor had already given the earnest of high eminence
in his profession." This potential of Dimmesdale and Puritan society is
contrasted by the weight of sin seen in the scarlet letter. While they
both could be very successful, indeed they are not; their sin holds them
back. Furthermore, the scarlet letter develops Hawthorne's criticism as
the weight of the burden on Dimmesdale's chest grows larger, so does the
weight of sin on Puritan society. Dimmesdale goes from having, "his hand
upon his heart," to being, "burdened with the black secret of his soul."

Similarly the Puritans go from having a few dissenters, to the foundation
of Rhode Island. Last of all, Dimmesdale and the Puritans are linked by
the consequences of their sin, the permanent affects that they have. From
the time Dimmesdale hides his sin the, "scarlet letter" on his chest develops
and its affects are not stopped until he confesses his sin. Yet, even when
he confesses his sin, he still dies. The Puritans on the other hand were
able to have somewhat a level of success, while they never live up to their
hope