How can "Although Hester and Dimmesdale's share similar feelings, they both express it differently," in The Scarlet Letter?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The similarities in Hester's and Dimmesdale's feelings are not limited to whatever attachment they feel for each other. They also include guilt, frustration, and a need for closure. Yet, there are more differences than similarities between Hester and Dimmesdale as far as their emotions go. Although we ultimately do not get as in-depth into each character's psyche as we would want, the behaviors speak much louder than words or thoughts; this allows the reader to at least make an inference of the characters' true feelings.

Guilt is the sentiment that substitutes the love that Dimmesdale and Hester once felt; this, however, seems to affect Dimmesdale more than Hester.

What we did had a consecration of its own. We felt it so! We said so to each other! Hast thou forgotten it?”

“Hush, Hester!” said Arthur Dimmesdale, rising from the ground. “No; I have not forgotten!”

The latter, defiant of the puritan rule, still clings to what they once felt. Dimmesdale's behavior, as well as his future actions, point out more less toward love and more toward guilt. Yet, Hester's own guilt does not go toward Dimmesdale, or Pearl but toward the betrayal of not revealing Chillingworths true identity. Again, it is Dimmesdale who shows guilt more profoundly.

Wretched and sinful as I am, I have had no other thought than to drag on my earthly existence in the sphere... Lost as my own soul is, I would still do what I may for other human souls!

Frustration is also expressed differently: Hester's own frustration is geared toward Dimmesdale's refusal to let go of his parochial image, and of the guilt of having conceived Pearl. Dimmesdale's frustration is similar; he is also angry at himself for the same reasons as Hester, however, instead of speaking about it, he cows down and continues to fear any change.

The need for closure is also expressed much differently. While Hester plans every step it would take to move back to England and start a new life with Dimmesdale, the latter's sense of closure is a public disclosure of his sin and his eventual death. This is what tells us as readers that Dimmesdale's intentions toward Hester are ambiguous. When Hester pushes her luck with Dimmesdale one last time she asks

Shall we not meet again?” whispered she, bending her face down close to his. “Shall we not spend our immortal life together? Surely... we have ransomed one another, with all this woe

To which Dimmesdale, quite dramatically and yet cold in nature, answers

when we violated our reverence each for the other's soul,—it was thenceforth vain to hope that we could meet hereafter, in an everlasting and pure reunion.

This being said, although the emotions are labeled with the same name they are expressed differently because they do not apply to the same thing; Hester's frustration is different from Dimmesdale's, and so are their ideas on closure, and guilt.

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The Scarlet Letter

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