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Nathaniel Hawthorne, in the novel The Scarlet Letter, touches upon the nature of humanity to be motivated by rationalizing self-interest. Just as “no man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true” (189), humankind would rather believe they are someone who they are not, in order to emulate or fool others. It is not possible to demonstrate to be someone else publicly and on the inside exist as different person. Sometimes this disposition can deceive individuals and in turn deceive others. Ultimately, honesty always prevails, so principally people need to first live truthfully if they want others to truly believe and understand them.
The Scarlet Letter introduces this recurring theme through Reverend Dimmesdale the young scholarly minister, who immigrated to the small New England town as a theologian. Publicly, his congregation revered him as “a miracle of holiness [and] fancied him the mouth-piece of wisdom, and rebuke, and love” (124). However, he lived in agony calling himself “altogether vile, a viler companion of the vilest, the worst of sinners” (125). As a genuine devoted clergyman, he wanted to relish in the truth, thus “he longed to speak out from his own pulpit at the full height of his voice, and tell the people what he was” (172). This constant internalization of his guilt and self-punishment led to more deterioration in Dimmesdale’s physical and spiritual condition. Until at last, he could not tolerate his inner conflict and decided to finally resolve it on Election Day. Ironically, instead of the town accepting Dimmesdale as “the one sinner of the world” (224), their idolization of him reached a new level. Once Dimmesdale finally admitted his awful sin to the community, he found peace and “a spell was broken” (226); the bewilderment of his soul now vanished.
In the 21st century, many elements of human nature, particularly this one, still hold true. If the reader thinks of today’s political world in reference to The Scarlet Letter and Hawthorne’s quote, popularity can replace the religious passion Dimmesdale had for his puritanical society.