September 18, 2005

Dimmesdale's Sermon

"According to their united testimony, never had man spoken in so wise, so high, and so holy a spirit, as he that spake this day; nor had inspiration ever breathed through mortal lips more evidently than it did through his." (Chapter 23)

After Dimmesdale's sermon, it seemed that he was as high as he possibly could be. Whether it was because he was trying to escape from his own sin, or if he was going to confess then leave, it seems to me that he was sailing on "cloud nine." This sermon appeared to be the most truthful, which also makes me think that's why it was most meaningful. Maybe Hawthorne was sending the message to the reader as well.

Hearing the sermon from mortal lips about sin and New England in the wilderness, makes me as the reader feel a little more normal, rather than trying to stay as pure as possible (because it's impossible). Everyone enters "the wilderness," whether it be the 1600's or the 2000's. I know that we were supposed to relate the literature to the time period, but the sermon by Dimmesdale seems to be a statement meant for any time period.

On another note, it really frustrates me how the people of that society put Dimmesdale on a pedastool. I know that Dimmesdale is supposed to end up portraying the good guy, but I still have no sympathy for that moron. I'm sorry, but Hawthorne making him out to be a good guy because he's a sinner, is wrong.

What about you?

Posted by The Gentle Giant at September 18, 2005 11:19 PM

ahhhh...jay. i do agree with you to some extent. i believe that dimmesdale's sermon after his encounter with hester in the woods was his best ever because his burden had been lifted. sure, he still was carrying around his sin, but just by talking with hester, he seemed to grow a little more lighthearted, and a little bit more personal. before, he seemes like an empty shell of a person, but his dialogue with hester proved that he did have passion and emotions.

along the lines of sympathy---sure, you're supposed to have sympathy for dimmesdale. that's what hawthorne intended. i know you don't, but at the same time, you have to look at it from the point of keeping a terrible secret. he kept a secret for 7 years...that would have killed me! i understand that he's a minister and that adultery is an executable sin, but just think about it from his perspective. empathize. just for a minute.

Posted by: LaurenEtling at September 19, 2005 03:10 PM

Jay- I agree Dimmesdale's sermon could be relevant for not only the Puritan period, but for today. The message of "sins make us human" is a universal theme that could be preached today. However, I do have some symphathy for Dimmesdale beacause he has to deal with this heavy burden of adultery everyday. Afterall, he is only human and everyone needs a second chance!

Posted by: Ashley Holtzer at September 19, 2005 03:37 PM

I wouldn't go so far as to call Dimmesdale a "moron" Jay. Sure, he isn't the brightest but he has his good qualities (sure, not a whole lot are coming to mind right now but...they are there). And the whole pedastool thing? If you were living in Puritan New England, with religion consuming your entire life more or less, wouldn't you look up to the religious figure in the town?

Posted by: Vanessa at September 19, 2005 04:47 PM

I don't know, I think I agree about the pedastool thing. The book has said how all the females were all swooning for him and why? He is a sickly man who sounds as though he is becoming unattractive because of his ill health, and with this all consuming guilt he can't be great company. I think it is this whole religious fervor that pretty much encompasses their lives and the prestige that would come from marrying a minister.

Posted by: Holly McCloy at September 19, 2005 11:27 PM

haha Jay...he might be a moron, but at least he admitted to his sin. Trying to lie about it is worse than telling the truth about your sin. I don't think it's so much sympathy i feel for him, more along the lines of respect. I finally respected him as a character because he put himself out there, and revealed himself as a sinner even if it killed him. I wouldn't so much say he was the "good guy" but Hester sinned too, and you don't seem to have much of a grudge against her, and the book kind of made her to be the "good guy" too. There were plenty of times I felt bad for her, eventhough her actions weren't they right thing to do.

Posted by: Liz Ludovici at September 21, 2005 10:49 PM

Alright, maybe he wasn't a moron, maybe I was being a little brash with that comment. But I still feel exactly the same way that I did. I think he got everything that he deserved, including his death.

Posted by: Jason Pugh at September 22, 2005 02:51 PM

Very inciteful. I think that his speak was so good and full of inspiration because of the talk he had had with Hester. As soon as she basically said to him it's okay i forgive you, he totally changed. Also, i think he's speak was so good because no he had seen every side of things, good and evil. Dimmesdale was definitely the good guy compared to Chillingsworth but that isn't saying much!

Posted by: Meredith Benson at September 22, 2005 08:30 PM

This actually sparked a conversation. I think that we really are getting the feelings of Dimmesdale. I'm pretty proud of this blog.

Posted by: Jason Pugh at September 28, 2005 08:32 PM

(I tried to post earlier, but I guess it didn't take. If this is doubled, forgive me.)

I stumbled on this blog because I am thinking about revisiting Dimmesdale's sermon for a paper. Allow me to share some of my views. First, I seriously doubt Hawthorne intended Dimmesdale to be any kind of tragic hero. Hawthorne held church leaders at some form of contempt because they symbolized or reflected a hypocracy regarding notions of sin and perfection indigenous to Puritan culture. Hawthorne's own bias toward women as a psychological defense (his mother was left behind by a world-sailing husband) has a lot to do with my view. If you go back into the book and see how Hawthorne sets up the conflict regarding Dimmesdale, Hester Prynne, Chillingworth, and the community, it is obvious that Chillingworth's absence, both physical and public, is a fact that mitigates the 'adultery' of the young couple, who were actually in love. Dimmesdale's apparent chastity was an important factor in his being worshipped by the women; their lust for him was softened by their perception of his 'honor.' Meanwhile, Dimmesdale is caught between the locals' unfair, iconic view of him and the reality of his 'sin' that was borne in integrity of emotion but not allowed by law, both civil and religious. In both Dimmesdale and Hester Prynne, Hawthorne placed integrity beneath the outer view, thus revealing the local Christians as more vain than holy. Dimmesdale's sermon is spoken by a man who has come to grips with his own reality but who is still trapped by the fact that he can preach only because the public will let him. If he confesses, he loses his freedom to exercise his gift.

Second, Hawthorne allowed the sermon to occur for a reason, obviously. He apparently was not against sermons, but he recognized the fact that those who preach passionately against sin are usually those who understand it, either because they have committed sin or because they really have figured out that "the wages of sin is death." (Or, he figured out that only those who sin can preach about it.) As Christ stated, one only has to think of [sin] freely to commit it. In Puritan society, the stricture of law prohibited these two young, free, adults from having an honest relationship because Hester was not legally free, even though, ethically, she should have been because Chillingworth revoked his right to her due to his selfish activity and his unwillingness to reveal his true identity. In Hawthorne's stories, the 'secret' is a symbol of power and of evil. A 'forced' secret is an extension of that evil. The church's unwillingness to forgive and accept the sinner (in this case, the 'beautiful' sinner) is a sign of its profound hypocracy--that it claims to live 'by the spirit' but actually lives by 'law.' Yet, Hawthorne holds Dimmesdale accountable because the young minister really does know better but doesn't act on his ideals because he fears retribution. I believe he has the minister die so that any sympathy for him is muted by the reality of Dimmesdale's self-deception. It becomes a lesson for all. A young woman is taken advantage of by an antiquated system and a young child--the first dysfunctional child in American Literature--is now father-less, no matter what the self-righteous bishop and governor tell her.

Finally, the fact that Dimmesdale's sermon was spoken on a 'regional-territorial' holiday (rather than, let's say, Easter) has profound implications. There was a whole community of people gathered outside that church--including Hester and Pearl--who couldn't hear it or could get it only by the luck of acoustics. I believe a revisiting of the sermon in today's American context would reap great benefits a bit too deep for blogging.

Posted by: Jeff C. at December 14, 2005 12:52 PM

A good guy? A good guy? I don't think that's clear at all. He more than anyone else knows the depth of his sin. He more than anyone else is responsible for Hester's suffering, Chillingworth's demise, etc. For whom much is given, much is required.

Posted by: Lynne at February 23, 2006 09:47 AM
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