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Essay on Secrets in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s "The Scarlet Letter"

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Secrets can destroy even the most respected people. Sometimes is not the secret itself that drives people into exhaustion, but the emotional baggage that comes with it. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Reverend Dimmesdale physically deteriorates because of his guilt caused by a dishonorable sin. The Puritan society in which the story is set discourages the idea of the private self, which Hawthorne shows by creating distinctions between the characters’ private and public lives, specifically Dimmesdale’s.
Dimmesdale’s public life and private life are radically different, but affect each other nonetheless. Dimmesdale’s private life destroys him mentally and physically. His affair with Hester violates his moral codes that he is supposed to abide by as a minister, which causes him to feel extremely ashamed of himself, resulting in self-inflicted abuse: “Oftentimes, this Protetant and Puritan divine had plied [the scourage] on his own shoulders” (132). All of his abuse is the result of the shame created by his private life. Moreover, Dimmesdale hides his wounds from his cong...


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