Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter portrays Hester, Dimmesdale and their self-delusion. Hester is puzzled by her Scarlet Letter interpretation. Dimmesdale gets caught up in Hester’s inspirational words about a better way to live.

Hester is disappointed by the thought that her punishment and all the associated burdens will be removed with the Scarlet Letter. She feels that she has done enough penance. Hester questions Dimmesdale as to why they should “linger over [the] sin now” when “[she] would undo the entire thing.” Dimmesdale says that they shouldn’t dwell upon the sin and that it can be erased by literally ripping the Letter. Hester believes she can also “undo it all” if the Letter is taken off her chest. Here is an example of her delusional thinking. Hester says that after removing the letter, Hester felt “exquisite relief,” as though she no longer had to carry the burden. This is Hester’s freedom. Hester ignores, however, the fact that Scarlet Letter also burdens his conscience. The Scarlet Letter, although materially a punishment article, cannot be removed from the body. However, the “other” form penance is intangible and cannot be thrown out of her mind. Hester believes that by taking the Scarlet Letter off, she is free from any obligation to pay her punishment. And this self-delusion misleads her to not think realistically, and not fully understand that she cannot get rid of her sin or the punishment from her conscience.Dimmesdale is revealed to be caught up in Hester’s vision, reflected in his reaction to the release and purge of his sin and penance. Hester helped him transform from gloom into a state of happiness. Dimmesdale is relieved to hear that Hester has pardoned him. He feels an exhilarating glow and strange pleasure. It’s as if he has finally been freed from the torment caused by sin. Dimmesdale had never experienced such joy beforehand. He was only familiar with torment, anguish and pain. Dimmesdale is now enveloped in a “free environment”. He believes he can live without his penance. His childlike desire to get rid of his penance is evident in his reactions. Dimmesdale describes current circumstances by saying that God’s mercy is what God has done for him. Hester’s encouraging words are what made his joy evident. Dimmesdale claims that he was once “sick, sorrow-stained,and blackened” before he changed. The contrast between “start” and “finish” of his transformation is stark. Hester’s words are what Dimmesdale follows with joy. He credits Hester directly for his behavior change and calls her “[his] greater angel.” “Angel” can be used to denote a hero, savior, or rescuer. Dimmesdale wouldn’t have believed it if she hadn’t encouraged him. While he may be free and innocent in the forest, his knowledge of his sins would have a devastating effect on his already troubled soul. He is now more optimistic and focuses on Hester’s vision of the better life.

In the two last paragraphs of the selected passage, Hester’s belief in God and Nature for their recovery from their fall from grace is revealed. The couple are further affected by the imagery of the forests and changing environment. Hester claims that she feels “exquisite freedom” after removing her Letter. She has never known weight loss until this point and is convinced that her “freedom” from the letter will solve all of her problems. Hawthorne makes Hester shine in the dark forest by displaying her hidden beauty. Hawthorne refers to the “a sudden smile in heaven” that describes the approaching rays. This indicates that Nature understood Hester’s dilemma and forgave them. It is encouraging for them to know that Heaven is the cause of this phenomenon. This shows how Nature and/or Goad take care of them. Hawthorne says that the “Nature is not subjugated” by human law. He means that rules and punishments are ineffective in Mother Nature’s forest. Hester, Dimmesdale think that Nature is pleading for their good and pardoning them. This is because Hester and Dimmesdale have seen a better world and received Nature’s advice. They now see a blockade in the world and are driven to achieve their goals and aspirations.


  • rhysgraham

    Rhys Graham is an educational blogger and professor who writes about topics such as literacy, mathematics, and science. He has written several books, including one on the history of science. He is also the co-founder of the website Learn Out Loud, which helps educators create and share classroom activities.