How does Dimmesdale feel about his role as the much-respected ministry in the community within Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter?Why doesn't he thrive amid the people who admire him so much?  (I need...

How does Dimmesdale feel about his role as the much-respected ministry in the community within Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter?

Why doesn't he thrive amid the people who admire him so much?  (I need a quote to support the answer.)

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter XIX Arthur Dimmesdale remarks to Hester,

I have a strange fancy...that this brook is the boundary between two worlds, and that thou canst never meet thy Pearl again. 

These words he could have easy spoken of himself.  Once he committed his sin of passion, he can never go back to what he once was.  Therefore, he cannot thrive among the congregation that so admires him, for they do not know the man that he is.  In their midst he feels like a hypocrite. 

Earlier, in Chapter XVIII, Hawthorne narrates,

he was broken down by long and exquisite suffering;...his mind was darkened and confused by the very remorse which harrowed it; that between fleeing as an avowed criminal, and remaining as a hypocrite, conscience might find it hard to strike the balance....And be the stern and sad truth spoken, that the breach which guilt has once made into the human soul is never, in this mortal state, repaired.  It may be watched and guarded....But there is still the ruined wall....

The conscience of Arthur Dimmesdale is far too alive and sensitive by "the fretting of an unhealed wound" for him to live among the villagers and pretend to be what he is not. Having sinned, the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale cannot feign being one who is sinless.

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The Scarlet Letter

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