Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, provides us with intricate characters to analyze and evaluate. Hawthorne carefully constructs his characters, giving them each different emotions, values, physical attributes, and thus creating different souls. One sees character development throughout the book, until at the end, one is left with an image of a seemingly "real" person. One of Hawthorne's carefully constructed characters is, Arthur Dimmesdale. With Arthur, one sees how sin changes him dramatically, causing in him moral conflicts. Dimmesdale is continually trying to see who he is.
In the beginning of Hawthorne's novel, we are introduced to Hester Prynne, who has been condemned for adultery. Through this sin, she has a child named Pearl. The bigger controversy though, is who is Hester's "partner in crime." But for seven years, Hester does not reveal it to anyone, not even her husband, Roger Prynne, who comes to town the day she is brought up on the scaffold. Prynne is not happy about finding his wife convicted of being an adulteress. He feels that the other guilty party should be up on the scaffold with her. His deep want to find the guilty party, leads him to disguise his identity, and he becomes, Roger Chillingworth. Hester agrees to keep his secret. The novel takes us through the seven years that Hester keeps quiet. A reader of the novel finds out early that Arthur Dimmesdale is the man Hester is trying to protect.
One notices, that even in the beginning, there is deep inner conflict affecting Dimmesdale. On the scaffold stands his parishioner, and his lover, Hester. She is publicly paying for her sin of adultery, and although she has the opportunity, she does not reveal Dimmesdale to the public. Dimmesdale is lost. He wants to confess, but he is scared. He is a clergyman. How would the public view him? Would they look at his sin, and be disgusted? Or, would they look at his sin, and find him stronger for confessing? Dimmesdale, does not know. Thus, he chooses not to tell what he did. It is this choice, which brings about his downfall. From this point on, we see Dimmesdale become weaker and more dependant.
Chillingworth, claiming to be a doctor, befriends Dimmesdale. The two men live together, without knowing the other's real identity. But, soon enough, the truth comes out. Chillingworth discovers a marking on Dimmesdale's chest, leading him to realize that the clergyman is guilty. Hester reveals to Dimmesdale, the true identity of Chillingworth. At this point, there are no more secrets, in this triangle of sin. These three characters all know the truth about one another, but they go on living as if nothing has changed.
At one point in the story, Dimmesdale goes to the scaffold by himself, in the dead of the night. This is his way of revealing his sin. While he is there, Hester and Pearl walk by. He calls to them and asks them to join him on the scaffold. Pearl, being the child she is, asks him to stand on the scaffold with them tomorrow afternoon. She wonders why they have to do it at night. Dimmesdale tells her that he can't do it tomorrow, but promises her that sometime soon, "at the great judgement day" (The Scarlet Letter, p.149), they will stand together. He also makes the comment, "But the daylight of this world, shall not see our meeting." One wonders if Dimmesdale is ever going to confess. His comment shows his fear of what the public will think. Later on in the novel, Dimmesdale and Hester speak with each other in the forest. This is when she reveals Chillingworth's identity. Dimmesdale gets angry with Hester, but soon sees that she is not at fault. He realizes that Chillingworth, has been deliberately torturing him. He is afraid. Hester suggests that they leave the town. Dimmesdale is skeptical at first, but eventually agrees.
Dimmesdale starts to change at this point of the novel. He is still weak and close to dying. The guilt he feels is still eminent after all these years. Trying to make up for not confessing, he starts punishing himself. Fasting, self-mutilation, and beatings are some of the ways he tries to make up for his sin. One realizes that Dimmesdale is a