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The Transcendentalist Ideas Of Hypocrisy

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American Transcendentalism began as a protest against the general state of culture and society during the 1700s, and in particular, the state of intellectualism. Among the core beliefs of American Transcendentalists was an ideal spiritual state that 'transcends' the physical and empirical and is only realized through the individual's intuition, rather than through the doctrines of established religions. Transcendentalism is also largely about exposing the hypocrisy in our society. Transcendentalism is questioning societal norms, and it exposes these hypocrisies through its desire to spread broader ideas about, religion, education, literature, and philosophy. Transcendentalism is also largely about love and romanticism. Both hypocrisy and the concept of true love are heavily present in Hawthorne's novel.

In The Scarlet Letter hypocrisy is evident everywhere. The characters of Hester, Dimmesdale, Chillingworth, and the very society that the characters lived in, were steeped in hypocrisy. Hawthorne was not subtle in his portrayal of the terrible sin of hypocrisy; he made sure it was easy to see the sin at work, just as it is easy to see many of the sins at work in society. There are many parallels that can be drawn between the characters of The Scarlet Letter and those of today's society. Just because this book is set in colonial times, does not mean its lessons are not applicable to the world we live in.

The first character, Hester Prynne, is guilty of adultery as well as hypocrisy. She "loves" Dimmesdale yet she says nothing and for seven years Dimmesdale is slowly tortured. This love she felt that was so strong, it caused her break sacred vows. Why else would she condemn her supposed love to the hands of her vengeful husband? Dimmesdale is continually tortured by his inner demons of guilt that gnaw at his soul, and Chillingworth makes sure these demons never go away. Hester allows this to happen. Physically and mentally the minister begins to weaken and he punishes himself constantly. Only when Hester knows that if Chillingworth is allowed to continue, that Dimmesdale will surely go insane if she does not reveal her secret. Hester waited so long because she had not revealed who her lover was on the scaffolding when she had the perfect opportunity to. Also, she did not tell her husband who her lover was.

Why did Hester Prynne keep secrets that ended up hurting not only herself, but everyone? Hester can make up for her sin of adultery, but every day that she keeps the secret of her lover, and the true identity of Rodger Chillingworth a secret she is continuing to commit a sin. If Hester would have "Take heed how thou deniest to him---who, perchance, hath not the courage to grasp it for himself---the bitter, but wholesome, cup that is now presented to thy lips!"(Dimmesdale 47) things would have been infinitely better for everyone. Everyone Hester Prynne loves, she does so in a hypocritical way. She loves Pearl enough to sacrifice to feed and clothe her, but she does not love Pearl enough to give her a father. Hester loves Dimmesdale, but she does not love him enough to expose his sin publicly, and she conceals her knowledge of Chillingworth. You either love something whole-heartedly, or you don't truly love it at all. Hawthorne might have portrayed Hester in a more favorable light then the other characters, but still she should have to wear a scarlet H in addition to her A.

The second character, Arthur Dimmesdale is the epitome of hypocrisy. Hawthorne intended his name to have symbolic meaning, Dimmesdale, which implies the meaning of being dim or not very bright. Arthur might be bright in the areas of theology, but when it comes to avoiding hypocrisy, he is a fool. Dimmesdale says very near the beginning of the book "What can thy silence do for him, except to tempt him---yea, compel him, as it were---to add hypocrisy to sin?"(Dimmesdale 47) He knows what the outcome will be for him if he endures his sin in private, but he is too weak at this point in the book to admit it. The tapestries of biblical adultery, which are found in Arthur's room, are hypocritical. These are supposed to help him make up for the misdeeds of his sins by making him feel guilty, but it doesn't make him feel better at all. Arthur goes and preaches every week on how bad sin is, and how he is the worst sinner of them all. These partial confessions just make him more of a hypocrite; they do not rid him of his sin. Dimmesdale knows how the parishioners will interpret these confessions; he is not blind to their looks of adoration. Dimmesdale enjoys being viewed as a saint, but he knows he is a truly a sinner.

The years of torture the minister receives, are brought on by his own doings. If his supposed commitment to the community hadn't stopped him from admitting his sin, he would have not been tortured. His love of the community is very similar to Hester Prynne's love of Pearl. Dimmesdale only loves his community enough to preach in it, but he is a preacher harboring a great sin, and so he cannot truly guide his community spiritually. Dimmesdale's and Hester's love are alike in their limitations. While Dimmesdale does speak up for Hester keeping Pearl, he also says, "Truth in what Hester says, and in the feeling which inspires her! God gave her the child, and gave her, too, an instinctive knowledge of its nature and requirements, ---both seemingly so peculiar, ---which no other moral being can posses. And, moreover, is there not a quality of awful sacredness in the relation between this mother and this child."(Dimmesdale 78) but he also cannot love her enough to be her husband.

The scene at the scaffolding at night is a truly sickening scene of hypocrisy. Arthur seizes the opportunity to go up on the scaffolding and relieve the guilt of his sin, but when he sees a fellow man of the cloth walking by, he cowers. Would it not have been better to have his sin revealed? Then when Hester and Pearl stand with him Pearl asks, "Wilt thou stand here with mother and me, to-morrow noontide?"(Pearl 105) The minister is given another chance to redeem himself, but he cowers yet again.

Dimmesdale is selfish, he tries to redeem his sins in private, by whipping himself and fasting. This accomplishes nothing; he knows in his heart that no punishment in private will get him forgiveness from the lord. Yet he continues his practices of private punishment, so he feels temporary relief of guilt from his sins. Another occurrence of hypocrisy was when Hester finally revealed the true identity of Rodger Chillingworth. Dimmesdale was overcome with anger, how could Arthur be mad? Hester had finally conquered her weakness of character, and told him the truth. Dimmesdale could see that she had been harboring a terrible secret in her heart. After

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