Inner states of being manifested outwardly in The

Scarlet Letter
People often times try to cover up their interior in order to hide something
that is not to that persons liking. However, this inward state of being always
winds up working its way to a persons exterior, and thus, letting everyone know
of their respective sins. This is a recurring theme in Nathaniel Hawthornes, The
Scarlet Letter. Names like Chillingworth and Dimmesdale let the reader know
how, in reality, these characters are, before ever really encountering them.
Characters whom the reader will encounter in this novel are going through some
type of dilemma on the inside, which begins to show itself in the exterior of the
particular individual. In The Scarlet Letter, two studious individuals, Roger
Chillingworth and Arthur Dimmesdale, two of the main characters in the novel,
each possess their own sins which begin to show themselves in their outermost
features, each brought apon themselves for their own respective reasons.

Roger Chillingworth’s features begin to display his inward deformities
externally as the novel progresses due to his attempts at finding the man who
violated his marriage. When he is first seen in the novel, “there was a
remarkable intelligence in his features, as of a person who had so cultivated his
mental part that it could not fail to mould the physical to itself and become
manifest by unmistakable tokens.”He also has a left shoulder which is slightly
higher than the right originally, which only gets more ugly and misshapen with
the rest of his body. Chillingworth then takes up residence with Dimmesdale and
begins his quest to punish the minister and find out the true identity of this man.
After he begins his quest the townspeople observe “something ugly and evil in
his face which they had not previously noticed, and which grew still the more
obvious to sight, the oftener they looked upon him. Soon his wife, Hester, finds
“the former aspect of an intellectual and studious man, calm and quiet, which
was what she best remembered in him, had altogether vanished and been
succeeded by an eager searching, almost fierce, yet carefully guarded look.”
Chillingworth, the injured husband, seeks no revenge against Hester, but he is
determined to find the man who has violated his marrige: He bears no letter of
infamy wrought into his garment, and thou dost; but I shall read it on his heart.
Chillingworth comments: Believe me, Hester, there are few things… few things
hidden from the man who devotes himself earnestly and unreservedly to the
solution of a mystery. Thus, Chillingworth intends to seek the father at any
cost. The reader finds out that cost winds up to be his own life, through the
attachment that he has made to trying to bring down Reverend Dimmesdale, the
father of the child whose name is Pearl. It is quite apparent that his external
features have changes during this whole procedure of finding out the identity of
Dimmesdale: a change had come over his features…how much uglier they
were…how his dark complexion seemed to have grown duskier, and his figure
more misshapen.This attachment is evident at the end of the book when he
calls up to Dimmesdale on the scaffold to come down because he knows the
only way to escape the guilt in the ministers heart is to tell the truth about his
identity. Finally, his life has become controlled by evil to the extent that once
Dimmesdale dies, Chillingworth “withered up, shriveled away, and almost
vanished from mortal sight.”Roger Chillingworth grows completely disfigured
and misshapen do to the constant nagging and dependence on the Reverend

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Though Dimmesdale commits the sin of adultery with Hester, his
punishment is augmented because he fails to immediately confess his identity.

Perhaps the reason for this is that just like his exterior, he is a weak man. He
does not want to admit to sinning against the Puritan God whom he serves.It
is quite evident that Dimmesdale is hiding something when in the Governors
Hall he speaks for Hester and Chillingworth comments, You speak, my friend,
with a strange earnestness. However, Dimmesdale holds his sin within himself,
using the justification that some sinners, “guilty as they may be, retaining,
nevertheless, a zeal for God’s glory and man’s welfare, they shrink from
displaying themselves black and filthy in the view of men; because,
thenceforward, no good can be achieved by them; no evil of the past be
redeemed by better service”. Unfortunately, he does not trust this reasoning. He
had tried many times to confess his sin, but he always fell short. During this time,
Dimmesdale has grown quite ill from the constant nagging of Chillingworth and
Dimmesdale resorts to putting his hand over his heart. Even the child of Hester
and himself, Pearl, wonders why he keeps his hand over his heart. She asks,
Why dost thou wear the scarlet letter on thy bosom, and why does the minister
keep his hand over his heart? She is not quite aware of the utter agony that the
reverend is experiencing inwardly, which begins to manifest itself outwardly.

Dimmesdale’s feelings of guilt for his unconfessed sin caused him to seek his
own private penance. To help relieve his soul of the agony caused by his sin,
Dimmesdale fasted “rigorously, and until his knees trembled beneath him as an
act of penance”. He also “kept vigils, likewise, night after night,” that he might
have the evil of his sin relieved from his conscience. This results in a great
physical suffering, for His form grew emaciated; his voice, though still rich and
sweet, had a certain melancholy prophecy of decay in it; he was often observed,
on any slight alarm or other sudden accident, to put his hand over his heart, with
first a flush and then a paleness, indicative of pain. This quote shows his
inward status beginning to rear its ugly head on the outer visage of Dimmesdale.
His continual decline of health allows Chillingworth to obtain residence with him.

In these close quarters, Chillingworth becomes “a chief actor in the poor
minister’s interior world,” and has the ability to make the minister suffer both
mental and physical agony. It is apparent that Dimmesdale feels guilt, for when
he speaks regarding the act of adultery or his family, he holds his hand over his
letter that we later see on his chest when he delivers the sermon.In this scene,
the minister finally releases all the emotions from his insides that we see through
most of the book, only this time he shows the feelings externally. We see in this
scene the ultimate sign of Dimmesdales sin: his own scarlet letter A.Thus we
finally see that the only remedy for guilt, according to Hawthorne, is truth. The
theme rings out throughout the entire novel: Be true! Be true! Be true! Thus,
the deterioration of Dimmesdale could have been avoided by simply telling the
truth about his identity and showing his inward state of being, outwardly.

Roger Chillingworth and Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale both have sins
which they venture to cover up, but ultimately wind up showing themselves on
their exteriors. These men try to conceal their sin and expect it to go away, but
the manifestation is inevitable. It is shown in the cases of these two men that sin
cannot be put under a veil. If sin is addressed with truth, there is no guilt to be
concealed, and thus there will be nothing to cloak or be displayed externally.