How is the quote below significant from "The Scarlet Letter"? It is inconceivable, the agony with which this public veneration tortured him! it was his genuine impulse to adore the truth,...

How is the quote below significant from "The Scarlet Letter"?

It is inconceivable, the agony with which this public veneration tortured him! it was his genuine impulse to adore the truth, and to reckon all things shadow-like, and utterly devoid of weight or value, that had not its divine essence as the life within their life. Then, what is he? -- a substance? -- or the dimmest of all shadows? He longed to speak out, from his own pulpit , at the full height of his voice, and tell the people what he was. "I, whom you behold in these black garments of the priesthood, -- I, who ascend the sacred desk, and turn my pale face heavenward, taking upon myself to hold communion, in your behalf, with the Most High Omniscience, --I, in whose daily life you discern the sanctity of Enoch --I, whose footsteps, as you suppose, leave a gleam along my earthly track, whereby the pilgrims that shall come after me may be guided to the regions of the blest, --I, who have laid the hand of baptism upon your children, --I, who have breathed the parting prayer over your dying friends, to whom the Amen sounded faintly from a world which they have quitted, --I, your pastor, whom you so reverence and trust, am utterly a pollution and a lie!"

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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The quote suggests Arhtur Dimmesdale realizes his own hypocrisy. He has done his utmost to be a good minister, but is a fraud in his own mind. The list of items Hawthorne enumerates suggests all the good works Arthur has done, but all are undermined by his unlawful union with Hester. Interestingly, Arthur's hypocrisy is the lesser of others found in the novel, perhaps because he acknowledges it and therefore struggles with what to do with it; this again suggests how virtuous he truly is ("..genuine impulse to adore the truth..")

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