What does this quote from "The Scarlet Letter" mean/explain?Quote: "No man for any considerable period can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered...

What does this quote from "The Scarlet Letter" mean/explain?

Quote: "No man for any considerable period can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true."


3 Answers

enotechris's profile pic

enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted on

Later in the novel, Hawthorne states: "Among many morals which press upon us from the poor minister's miserable experience, we put only this into a sentence:- Be true! Be true! Be true! Show freely to the world, if not your worst, yet some trait whereby the worst may be inferred!"

Not only is he describing the minister's difficulty in maintaining a "public" and "private" face, Hawthorne is also tacitly criticizing Chillingworth for him doing the same; publicly pretending to be the healing physician, but privately doing just the opposite.  Both these characters reflect the opposite of Hester, whose worst is made public, and in doing so, she is freed from attempting to keep a secret which could, like it does to both men, destroy her.


charcunning's profile pic

charcunning | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

Posted on

Poor Dimmesdale! :)

This quote means that you can't pretend to act one way with all of your friends and family (the multitudes) all the while knowing that the way you are acting is NOT who you really are (the face to yourself) without eventually getting confused---who are you? Which one is the real you? Will you mess up and show the face you are trying to hide? What will happen if you do so?

To be bewildered is to be utterly confused, and living a double life and telling lies and not revealing the truth will also get you confused...and in loads of trouble...

Read the description of Dimmesdale on this link...

quinn78's profile pic

quinn78 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

ANSWER: Essentially, this awesome quote is speaking about being true to yourself. If you are being phony with who you really are, then you will be the one who suffers at the end. Both Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale, prominent characters in the novel, convey this two-faced nature in the countenance of an overbearing Puritan society. It is this inner conflict, existing within all humans, that eventually brings about the downfall of these characters and to a large degree sheds light upon the human condition.