© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter


by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale Quotes

"Be not silent from any mistaken pity and tenderness for him; for, believe me, Hester, though he were to step down from a high place, and stand there beside thee, on thy pedestal of shame, yet better were it so, than to hide a guilty heart through life. What can thy silence do for him, except it tempt him —yea, compel him, as it were —to add hypocrisy to sin?" (3.26)

Hmm. Here, Dimmesdale seems to see hypocrisy as separate from sin, and not as a type of sin. Either way, we're not too cool with the fact that he seems to see it as Hester's responsibility—maybe he should take control of his own life.

"Nay; not so, my little Pearl!" answered the minister; for, with the new energy of the moment, all the dread of public exposure, that had so long been the anguish of his life, had returned upon him; and he was already trembling at the conjunction in which—with a strange joy, nevertheless—he now found himself. "Not so, my child. I shall, indeed, stand with thy mother thee one other day, but not to-morrow!" (12.17-28)

As our mother always said, "Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today," which in this case includes confessing your adulterous sin to your worshipful community. Dimmesdale, like us, should listen to our mother a little more often.

"No, Hester, no!" replied the clergyman. "There is no substance in it! It is cold and dead, and can do nothing for me! Of penance I have had enough! Of penitence there has been none!" (17.18)

Right, because you can't be penitent if your entire community thinks you can do no wrong. Problem #193 with hypocrisy: you can't even expiate your sin.