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The eighteenth century British novelist Laurence Sterne wrote, “Nobody, but he who has felt it, can conceive what a plaguing thing it is to have a man’s mind torn asunder by two projects of equal strength, both obstinately pulling in a contrary direction at the same time.” This quote can be used to describe an element from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”. More than one character in the book is tormented by the task of having to make a tough but wise decision which will shape the flow of events throughout the rest of the novel. One of these characters is Hester Prynne. Hester has an ambition to tell Arthur Dimmesdale about Roger Chillingworth’s true nature, but is unable to do so due to Chillingworth’s blackmail. Moreover, she wants to escape from the impurity of the community that she lives in, a choice she will not be able to make unless Dimmesdale’s cowardice disappears.
Hester is eager and, in some respect, obliged to tell Dimmesdale about who Roger Chillingworth really is and what his ill intentions towards Dimmesdale are. If Hester were to do this straight away, Dimmesdale would not have stayed under the same roof as Chillingworth and, more importantly, Chillingworth would not have gotten a chance to poison Dimmesdale and hinder him in the long-run.
Hester’s overall desire was to leave the community with both her little Pearl and Dimmesdale. Moreover, she wanted Dimmesdale and Pearl to be with each other the way a father and daughter would be, as is shown on page 14 of the novel. In other words, Hester’s true longing was to leave the community and go live with her family elsewhere.
Hester was influenced by Roger Chillingworth against telling Dimmesdale of Chillingworth’s identity. He blackmailed her, warning her that if she revealed his part as Hester’s husband he would then uncover Dimmesdale’s sin by informing the community of his relationship to Pearl. Hester could not allow such a thing to happen for Dimmesdale was an important member of the community; he was the religious leader. If the Reverend of the community were to be blamed for adultery, rather than himself confessing, there is no telling of his punishment. Surely he would be worse off than Hester. Hester, however, would be much helped if Dimmesdale would have confessed. Sadly, his cowardice prevented him from doing so.
At the end of the novel, Dimmesdale has still not confessed, but Hester breaks the bonds of Chillingworth’s blackmail. But only too late does she tell Dimmesdale of the poison Chillingworth has been feeding him. He is near death already. However, in the last chapter of the book we see, on various occasions, that Dimmesdale and Pearl do learn to love each other. Pearl ran and held his hand, shortly before his death. These outcomes outline one of the book’s main themes. No person’s free will may or can be restrained for long. In addition, what is meant to happen, happens. Likewise, what’s not meant to be will not happen. No matter how hard a decision is to take, the outcome will be both positive and negative. Otherwise decisions would be easy tasks.
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