In the Scarlet Letter, how does Hawthorne explain the remarkable increase in influence over his congregation which Mr. Dimmesdale develops as he grows sicklier?

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In Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, the Reverend Dimmesdale is depicted as a man of strong faith, beloved by his congregation and tormented by secrets that he cannot reveal. It seems that the sicklier he gets, the more the people revere him. Hawthorne states that the reason for this is that Dimmesdale won his popularity "in great part, by his sorrows" (127). The people see his sickly body as some kind of proof of his faith and his interior goodness, and they empathize with him. They do not know the true nature of his torment, so they believe it is his faith and love of God that is driving him. In truth, despite his "sin," Dimmesdale is a true man of God and a believer in the truth. Hawthorne states that it was his true desire to speak the truth from the pulpit, but he was just not strong enough.

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