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Scarlet Letter Private Versus Public Essay Example

Conscience in The Scarlet Letter Private versus public conscience is the desire to do what one thinks is right versus having the responsibility of carrying out what society thinks is right. This technique is used in the novel, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter. In this novel a prime example of private versus public conscience is Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale. He does what he truly feels and wants to be right, but he is still in conflict with the rest of society, who views him as the perfect person. Very much is expected of a minister in puritan society.

The towns people think of him as a good person. One woman says, ..that the Reverend Master Dimmesdale, her godly pastor, take it very grievously to heart that such a scandal should have come upon his congregation.(Ch. 2, Pg. 49) They believe that Dimmesdale is so extremely concerned for his parish, that he is heart broken when he finds out about Hester Prynn. The people expect him to be saint-like.

He is constantly referred to as godly. Also, in the beginning of the novel, to show what society expects of Dimmesdale, Hester and Dimmesdale are shown as contrasts. Just as in the quote above, ..the Reverend Master Dimmesdale, her godly pastor..such a scandal should have come upon his congregation. Dimmesdale is godly and Hester is part of the scandal. Society also demands that he would be moral. By contrasting the reverend and Hester, it is assumed that if he is so worried and upset about what this is happening to his congregation, that he is moral if Hester is not.

Dimmesdale has an affair with Hester Prynn. Even though he knows that society wouldnt approve of it, he still feels that what he has with Hester is right. They are showing their love for each other throughout the story. When Hester doesnt confess who the father is, Never! replied Hester..(Ch. 3 Pg. 66).

Also, Hester asked Chillingworth to stop torturing Dimmesdale. Dimmesdale wants to be free and not to conservative. In truth, nothing short of a total change of dynasty and moral code in that interior kingdom was adequate to account for the impulses now communicated..(ch 20, pg 213) Dimmesdale wants to say dirty jokes and say cruel things. That isnt what society wants from him. If society finds out all of his secrets they could condemn him just like they did to Hester. They could make him wear an A on his chest, just as Hester has. The towns people dont want a minister who is the father of an illegitimate child. All of the damnation Hester gets is proof enough, of what a society can do to an adulteress or adulterer.

If the towns people were to find out that he was the father, Dimmesdale would save his health. Because he doesnt confess, he suffers due to the stress and the torture that Chillingworth gives him. Dimmesdale is a classic example of private versus public conscience. He does what he thinks is right but then is in conflict with what society believes is right. Therefore, private versus public conscience is the central theme to the novel, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. English Essays.