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Excerpt from Understanding The Scarlet Letter: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents by Claudia Johnson

Excerpt from Understanding The Scarlet Letter: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents by Claudia Johnson (courtesy of Greenwood Press)

Claudia Johnson makes it clear that Dimmesdale's "dishonorable half-measure at attempting to confess" are in the end simply more cause for the devil to rejoice in his fall.

 

"One of his most dishonorable half-measures at attempting to confess the truth of his passionate nature as well as his passionate act comes when he tells his congregation from the pulpit-in comfortably save and general terms-that he is a sinner. At the same time, he also-in secret-attempts to literally beat his passion out of himself in his closet. Even his midnight vigil on the scaffold is a way of trying to give himself peace without showing the public his scarlet letter. The narrator says: 'Was it but a mockery of penitence? A mockery, indeed, but in which his soul trifled with itself! A mockery at which angels blushed and wept, while fiends rejoiced with jeering laughter!'"(13)




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