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Scarlett Letter

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne paints a picture of two equally guilty sinners, Hester Prynne and Reverend Dimmesdale, and shows how both characters deal with their different forms of punishment and feelings of remorse for what they have done. Hester Prynne and Reverend Dimmesdale are both guilty of adultery, but have altered ways of performing penance for their actions. While Hester must pay for her sins under the watchful eye of the world around her, Reverend Dimmesdale must endure the heavy weight of his guilt in secret. It may seem easier for Reverend Dimmesdale to live his daily life since he is not surrounded by people who shun him as Hester is shunned, but in the end Reverend Dimmesdale suffers a far worse punishment than his female counterpart. As the story opens, Hester makes her way from the prison door to the market place, revealing for the first time the scarlet letter A fastened to her gown. Hester must wear this letter A as a penance for committing adultery and to set an example for the rest of the community. As Hester stands on the platform, facing her fellow citizens, she feels horrible humiliation on top of all her guilt for the sin she has committed. “The unhappy culprit sustained herself as best a women might, under the heavy weight of a thousand unrelenting eyes, all fastened upon her, and concentrating on her bosom. It was almost intolerable to be borne” (Hawthorne 58). At the same time Reverend Dimmesdale sits above Hester, seeming to judge her just as everyone else does. At the command of his superior, he questions Hester, “…I charge thee to speak out the name of thy fellow-sinner and fellow-sufferer…though he were to step down beside thee, in thy pedestal of shame, yet better were it so, than to hide a guilty heart through life” (Hawthorne 68). At this point, it is unknown to the reader that the “fellow-sufferer” Reverend Dimmesdale refers to is him...

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