The Scarlet Letter Questions and Answers
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter book cover
Start Your Free Trial

What effect does Reverend Dimmesdale's guilt have upon his popularity in the colony?

Expert Answers info

patrickwilliams eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2005

write6 answers

starTop subject is Literature

This proposed question is a very interesting one indeed. Reverend Dimmesdale's guilt does not directly affect his popularity, but it does make the reader question whether or not he should remain in office. Being a young man, Dimmesdale is most likely under scrutiny by the older generation. As the times begin to change toward more leniency towards certain once thought crimes, Dimmesdale still takes his vows of reverend seriously, and thus his "crime" begins to way heavy upon him. Throughout the story, Dimmesdale is constantly facing an internal battle over the decision of whether or not to admit his part in the sin of Hester Prynne. Dimmesdale is left with two choices; one choice leaves him tortured by his own mind; the other will result in being disgraced to the entire community. His reputation with the town is one of perfection. No matter what error he makes, the people still consider him the ideal example of a flawless life. By keeping this secret, Dimmesdale becomes rather emotional in his preaching and is able to sympathize with his sinful congregation.

Whenever he preaches, the people listen intently and follow every bit of advice Dimmesdale gives. Clearly, it would appear that Dimmesdale would be most happy by keeping quiet about all that has happened and go on with his life. We are given the description of him at his Election Sermon, despite his peculiar behavior recently, as “an epoch of life more brilliant and full of triumph than any previous one, or than any which could hereafter be.”(223)

Popularity is regarded highly in many people’s minds. Dimmesdale is possibly the most popular and well-liked man in the whole community.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

mallaroo | Student

Reverend Dimmesdale feels guilty about having an affair with Hester. Because of this he stops preaching advice to people because he knows he sinned and dosen't deserve to people telling other colony members what they should be doing. Since he stops communicating the way he used too, his popularity slowly decreases.