Why is Arthur Dimmesdale the character who holds the most guilt in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter?Use the Stephen Toulmin style of argumentation and clearly define what the character is...

Why is Arthur Dimmesdale the character who holds the most guilt in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter?

Use the Stephen Toulmin style of argumentation and clearly define what the character is guiltiest of. Also, identify examples of pathos, logos, and ethos, and any real world examples that apply.

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Without putting the argument into the paradigm, here are some declarations about the guilt of Arthur Dimmesdale in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter that can be placed appropriately:

  • As the minister of the community, the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale is held to certain moral standards, and is expected to be the moral measure for his congregation.
  • As this moral measure, Dimmesdale should ensure that his personal conduct is above reproach, subjugatind his physical passions, urges, etc. to the moral code to which he is obligated
  • After he has committed his act of passion, Dimmesdale should have the moral integrity to step forward when Hester Prynne is on the scaffold in the marketplace (Chapter III).  [Governor Bellingham calls upon Dimmesdale,

'Good Master Dimmesdale,...the responsibility of this woman's soul lies greatly with you.  It behooves you, therefore, to exhort her to repentance and to confession, as a proof and consequence thereof.'

  • By not confessing to his sin, Dimmesdale selfishly places even more ignominy upon Hester, who must bear the burden of her guilt and his, as well
  • By not confessing to his sin, Dimmesdale is guilty of pride as he believes that he can better help his congregation by continuing to minister. (e.g. He feels that his Election Sermon will be inspiring, and he can leave for England after having accomplished a worthy act:

'At least, they shall say of me,...that I leave no public duty unperformed or ill-performed!'

  • Unlike Hester, whose exposure and forced admission of her sin has allowed her to redeem herself through good deeds (the townspeople talke of the A as meaning "Angel"), Dimmesdale's life has been one of the hypocrite and he has held within his "secret sin," and been false to all who know and trust him.




missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I will give you some ideas about the question specific to the text in The Scarlet Letter for you to apply the Stephen Toulmin style of argumentation.

First, I believe Dimmesdale is the guiltiest and Hawthorne being the author is not a character in the story. He is guiltiest of letting the community find Hester at fault for so long taking the blame by herself when he was an equal party to her crime.

This applies to the real world because out of wedlock pregnancies are frequent in a society like ours and because the male never has the baby, he rarely bears the burden of shame that women suffer.

As for pathos, logos, and ethos, let us first address logos. Dimmsdale being a reverend drew the correct conclusion that should his crime have been discovered, he might have lost his position. The people would not have respected a man who had a child out of wedlock in Puritan culture and his sin would have been made public, an issue for everyone to deal with.

As far as for his pathos, or emotional side, we watch the young minister squirm and endure the pain quietly for a great part of the book. It's almost as if he wants to take away Hester's pain, but he know the cost to him would be greater and deals with his shame privately, but it ages him quickly. He is being eaten up from the inside out by his guilt.

The ethos relates to his pathos because I think he wants to do the right thing, but can't for the price in his life he will have to pay.

scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The other editors have addressed the part of your question about the appeals; so here is how your statement about Dimmesdale would work with the Toulmin model.

Claim: (This statement needs to be similar to a thesis for an essay and should be somewhat controversial). In Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Arthur Dimmesdale struggles with more guilt than the other characters.

Data: Supply several specific examples here of Dimmesdale seeming to struggle more than Hester or Chillingworth (i.e., his physical difficulties, his questioning Hester about finding peace and admitting that he has found none). This evidence should include Dimmesdale's specific sins and a discussion of the appeals.

Warrant: (This is a broad statement that ties the claim and data together and that is generally accepted as true; many writers use warrants in their introductions and then narrow the topic to their specific thesis.)  Here's an example: Puritan philosophy focused heavily on guilt and penance and caused internal conflict for many of its adherents.

mkcapen1 | Student

Arthur Dimmsdale serves as the town minister in the book The Sacrlet Letter.  Ye, he has engaged in sexual misconduct with another man's wife.  He is willing to allow the woman to suffer alone for his actions.  

When the town places Hester on the scaffold before them for sentencing, he remains silent.  Throughout the book he has ample opportunity to tell of his actions.  When Hester is brought before the men for a questioning about her involvement and inability to raise her child he may speak up but he does not admit his own involvement.

Dimmsale continues to observe the torment that Hester goes through and still longs for her, but he is too afraid to tell the truth.  Instead he carves the letter "A"onto his chest and suffers internal feelings of guilt an shame which eventually diminishes his health.

Even after he reunites with Pearl and Hester and tells Pearl he is her father, he changes his mind and does not follow through with his promises.



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The Scarlet Letter

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