The Doublespeak of Arthur Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter

| No Comments

Michael McCullough

Dr. Dennis Jerz

American Literature EL266

October 18, 2010

The Doublespeak of Arthur Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter


     In Kenneth D. Pimple's article "Subtle, but remorseful hypocrite": Dimmesdale's Moral Character, Pimple examines the ways that Nathaniel Hawthorne uses Arthur Dimmesdale's speech as a way of conveying both his sincerity as a minister and inner human emotions through his dialogues and sermons. "Dimmesdale's tone of voice, his position as minister, his reputation as a caintly man, and the genre of the sermon allow him to say, 'I am the greatest sinner among you,' but be understood to be humble, pious, and godly."

     In reading this article, I was able to understand more fully the way that Hawthorn molds his Man of God and allows his speech to be the only conveyance of Dimmesdale's true emotions, much like a verbal hand over his heart he was so apt to do. "Dimmesdale's eloquence speaks to the heart; its power comes more from affect than meaning, mnore from emotion than reason, more from pragmatics than semantics." Dimmesdale means everything he says, but from his actions and the author's control of the character, everything Dimmesdale says contains layers of meaning. In the forest when he talks to Hester, in his Easter Sermon, even when we meet him at the beginning of the novel, Dimmesdale says the things on his heart with a clouded conscience, and for everything he says there are truths he knows but his congregation doesn't, a second meaning to what he says to Hester, an undisclosed response to what should be said, but isn't.

Dimmesdale is a broken man. Physically, mentally, emotionally he is busted from the beginning of the novel. The doublespeak that Dimmesdale gives allows the reader, without extended exposition, to understand what he is going through and what is in his mind.


Pimple, Kenneth. "'Subtle, but remorseful hypocrite': Dimmesdale's Moral Character." Studies in the Novel. 3.3 (1993) 257-71. Print. 


Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael McCullough published on October 18, 2010 3:53 PM.

The integration of Shakespeare into American society was the previous entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.