Compare and Contrast Hester and Dimmesdale


In the classic novel The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne and Roger Chillingworth are two very different characters with unique motivations and behaviors. While Hester is a strong and independent woman who takes responsibility for her actions, Dimmesdale is an insecure man who hides behind his reputation as a pious clergyman to avoid facing his own guilt.

Through their interactions with each other and with other characters in the novel, we see clear differences between Hester and Dimmesdale. For example, while Hester actively seeks justice by publicly shaming herself and enduring various hardships, Dimmesdale feigns piety in order to avoid taking responsibility for his part in concealing Hester’s secret. Similarly, while Hester willingly accepts both punishment and exile for her crime, Dimmesdale refuses to admit his guilt and continues to hide behind his reputation.

In the end, Hester’s strength and independence ultimately win out over Dimmesdale’s cowardice and hypocrisy. Through her actions and enduring spirit, she proves herself to be a truly remarkable character, while Dimmesdale is revealed as weak and pitiful. In this way, The Scarlet Letter serves as a powerful example of the many ways that society judges women based on their appearance and behavior, often unfairly judging them according to rigid standards that are rarely applied to men.

In addition, Hester and Dimmesdale are characters in the Scarlet Letter. They bear the burden of their adultery sins. The Puritans frowned on this sort of evil at the time. Hester and Dimmesdale can be compared and contrasted in terms of their scarlet letter, cowardliness, and belief in an afterlife. While both Hester and Dimmesdale wear a scarlet A, their reactions to it are different. The color red is prominent throughout Hawthorn’s depiction of Hester’s crimson letter because it symbolizes her shame for being a whore (Hawthorn 51).

The letter is so beautiful that it almost seems out of place on her. The way she handles the letter shows strength and defiance. She does not try to hide her sin, but instead wears it as a badge of honor. Dimmesdale’s scarlet letter is not something he wears on the outside for everyone to see, but is something he keeps hidden on the inside.

The scarlet letter is his secret sin, a constant reminder of his cowardliness. He is too afraid to admit his sin to the world and has to suffer in silence. The way these two handle their scarlet letter speaks volumes about their character. Hester is strong and defiant while Dimmesdale is weak and cowardly.

Furthermore, Hester has a scarlet A branded on her chest, while Dimmesdale bears a scarlet letter carved in his. When Dimmesdale was giving his confession, he ripped off the ministerial band that had been around his neck. It was revealed! (Hawthorn 232). Because the Scarlet Letter on Hester is viewable by the public, she has been condemned and despised. This female deserves death for bringing about such tragedy amongst us all (Hawthorn 49) says a female in town discussing Hester. She grows more confident as a result of living through this difficult existence.

The people in the marketplace were not the only once to think harshly of Hester. The minister also thought that she should have been put to death for her sin, The black man that flies yonder, we call him Satan! But this scarlet woman- as thou hast called thyself!- why, she is worse; she is his mistress! And will be, I doubt not, unless thou repentest and turnest from thy wickedness (Hawthorn 233) Dimmesdale says this to Hester when he found out about the affair. Although he was one of the main reasons why it happened in the first place.

The hypocrisy is strong with this one. The way that Hawthorne shows how each character develops differently helps readers to see the scarlet letter in a different light than before. The way that Hawthorne uses irony is to make the characters more interesting, but also to make a point about how society works. The fact that Hester is judged more harshly than Dimmesdale, even though he is just as guilty, shows how unfair and hypocritical society can be.

The scarlet letter is meant to be a symbol of sin, but Hawthorne shows that it can also be a symbol of strength and resilience. Hester may have been judged harshly by her community, but she was still able to overcome it and become a better person because of it. Dimmesdale on the other hand, was not able to handle the guilt and eventually died because of it.

Instead, Mr. Dimmesdale is forced to live a life of cowardly and selfish meanness, which only adds to his original disgrace and ignominy (Loring 185). He becomes more useless and vulnerable with time, neither wiser nor stronger, but rather paler and paler, more abject (Loring 186). Their bravery is also lacking. The courage the two of them have is comparable; they are all afraid of what others would think if they knew.

The difference is that Hester shows her courage by facing the public alone, while Dimmesdale hides behind a mask of righteousness and piety, which in the end does not help him. The two people share guilt but differ in how they handle it and deal with their lives.

At the heart of The Scarlet Letter are two main characters – Hester Prynne, a young woman who has committed adultery and must face the consequences of her actions, and Arthur Dimmesdale, the man with whom she had an affair. While both characters grapple with feelings of shame and guilt for their transgressions, there are some key differences between them.

For one thing, Hester clearly displays much more courage than Dimmesdale. Whereas Hester is willing to stand up and take responsibility for her actions, Dimmesdale is much more cowardly. He hides behind a facade of religious piety, even going so far as to give public speeches condemning sinfulness – all the while knowing that he is just as guilty as those he is condemning.

Additionally, Hester seems to be able to move on from her mistakes much more easily than Dimmesdale. While she still suffers the consequences of her adultery – wearing the scarlet letter “A” on her clothing as a constant reminder – she eventually comes to accept it as part of her life. Dimmesdale, on the other hand, dwells on his guilt and it slowly eats away at him until it consumes him completely.

In the end, Hester and Dimmesdale are two very different characters who face very different challenges in The Scarlet Letter. While the novel is undoubtedly a story about sin, guilt, and redemption, it is also a story about the courage to stand up for yourself and the strength to move on from your mistakes. Even though they both committed adultery, Hester emerges as the stronger of the two characters – an example that we would do well to follow in our own lives.

Hester refuses to reveal her real husband, Chillingworth, who is still alive, or her lover, Dimmesdale. When Hester has the opportunity to depart for Europe and go abroad with him, she suggests they do so immediately. After advising them to flee Boston, Hester takes off the scarlet letter. She intended on never wearing it again after stating: “The mid-ocean shall take it from my hand and swallow it up forever!” (Hawthorne 62).

The reason Hester refused to tell them about Chillingworth and Dimmesdale is because she was afraid they would do the same thing as her. If they did, it would have been devastating (Petrocelli 7).

She fears that if not only one of them had spoken up, but both of them together, there might have been a different outcome for the scarlet letter she wears. The Scarlet Letter would be destroyed in the fire; and then its ashes–so much of it as had survived that end which its persistent vitality made natural–would be swept into some sternly remote corner with other rubbish (Granger 8), The ending outcome from their weakness could have lead to Hester’s death or The Scarlet Letter being destroyed, both of which Hawthorne agrees were not acceptable.

Despite the similarities between Hester and Dimmesdale, there are also significant differences that set them apart. The most glaring difference is their attitudes towards sinning and atonement. While Hester has fully accepted her sin as part of who she is, Dimmesdale never seems to truly accept and embrace his own secret sins. In fact, he seems to be constantly racked with guilt and self-loathing over his actions. The shame he feels ultimately drives him to a state of constant physical illness as he deteriorates mentally and physically from these feelings.

Another key distinction between Hester and Dimmesdale is their relationship with Pearl. While Hester enjoys a close and loving relationship with her daughter, Dimmesdale seems to be afraid of her. He is constantly worried that Pearl will somehow reveal his sin to the world and ultimately cause his downfall. This fear eventually leads him to distance himself from her which only adds to his feelings of guilt and shame.

While Hester and Dimmesdale may seem similar on the surface, there are actually many key differences that set them apart. Their attitudes towards sin, atonement, and Pearl all serve to illustrate the unique ways in which they deal with their shared scarlet letter.


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