In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Romantic Era novel The Scarlet Letter, both relate to the quote “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” (205-6; ch.20). In nature, there’s a duality in man of good and evil that can often lead to the downfall of an individual if they were to be overcome by it. Throughout The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne emphasizes the duality of good and evil by addressing Dimmesdale’s internal struggles.
Dimmesdale finds himself caught in a difficult situation where he values both his reputation in front of society and his morals, but he cannot have both and must sacrifice one to gain the other.
His internal torture within himself roots from his religious morals, and “his effort to serve two masters leads him into continual doubletalk and makes his life an ongoing deception” (Pimple). The internal conflicts that Dimmesdale struggles with results in his psychological and physical torture, and eventually his death.
Dimmesdale is a highly respected figure and a leader in Puritan society. He is able to keep a good face in front of the community, but in secret he struggles with the sin he commits. He finds himself living a dual life with the public and with himself. Puritan society and even Dimmesdale himself expects that he is to live a pure life as a moral figure for Puritans. Dimmesdale let this idea take over himself which leads to the heavy weight of guilt and shame eating away his life until he finally confesses right before his death.
Granger says that Dimmesdale “knows himself to be a sinner and never mistakes penance done on earth for penitence” (Granger).
Before confession, Dimmesdale tortures himself to try to relieve himself from the guilt by “purifying the body” or whipping himself with a scourge (Hawthorne 136). The author explains how Dimmesdale did all of these methods to punish himself rather than going up to confess his sins to the public in order to protect his respected reputation. Every man possesses these qualities of good and evil within himself, but Dimmesdale could not forgive himself of his evil sin because of the standards that Puritan society has set for him, and what he also sets for himself. Dimmesdale was seen as a minister that “achieved a brilliant popularity in his sacred office. He won it, indeed, in great part, by his sorrows” (Hawthorne 133). This connects with my quote because Dimmesdale is a highly respected preacher and is a model for the Puritan society.
He is loved by everyone because of the charitable works he does. However, Dimmesdale hates himself for his sin and lets the guilt eat him up. These are two different perspectives of how him, as an individual can be viewed. Trying to conceal his sin built up shame in himself that it hurt him even more than it would if he only confessed. Both Dimmesdale and Jekyll face conflicts within themselves in the inability of accepting the duality of good and evil. Both characters attempt to hide the darker side of themselves and try to uphold a good face in public. Similar to Dimmesdale, Jekyll finds himself living a dual life as well, in which his “good” side felt guilty from his actions of his “bad” side.
Not one man can live a life only on the good side of man because good and evil become one man. Jekyll’s goal was to be able to separate the duality of man for he said “man is not truly one, but truly two” (Stevenson 108). Stevenson’s quote is to say that every man is born with both sides of good and evil. An individual is not just pure evil or good, humans consist of both qualities. Dimmesdale struggles with the idea that good coexists with bad. It is in human nature that good cannot be separate from evil. This is addressed in dr jekyll towards the end of the novel when his attempt to divide the two natures failed. In both novels, no one in the public suspects that jekyll and hyde are even related.
Just like in scarlet letter, no one would ever assume that Dimmesdale was the father of Hester Prynne’s baby. Dimmesdale hides his scarlet letter from the public and is a growing burden for him until he confesses. Jekyll hides his darker side from the public to protect himself from being turned in from the crimes Hyde has committed. Both novels hold similar themes of the nature of man that the authors emphasize. No man lives without the coexistence of good and evil within themselves. This is a message that Hawthorne and Stevenson convey through their works. It is in nature, that humans are born with the duality of good and evil as qualities within ourselves.