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The Conflicts in the Scarlet Letter

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The Scarlet Letter is a book that centralizes on the importance of being true to one’s feelings. Because the main characters of the novel were not true to their feelings, a long series of conflicts arise from the situation. Internal conflicts of admitting guilt or sin trouble most of the characters, as they all have a sin in which they must decide whether or not to profess. External conflicts like fate and pressures of society oppose the will of the characters. The Scarlet Letter contains both internal and external conflicts, which hamper the well being of the main characters.

Internal conflicts exist only in one’s mind or conscience. Such as is the case of Reverend Dimmesdale. Reverend Dimmesdale finds himself torn between his lover and his congregation. The Reverend torments himself daily on whether or not to admit his sins with Hester. On the one hand, Dimmesdale has an obligation to be with his lover, but on the other hand, he does not want to face the judgment of his peers and his congregation. Similarly is his conflict of whether to continue his sin. He asks himself whether he should say, “Forgive me. It will never happen again” or, “Forgive me, but I must stay with her.” Like the Reverend’s internal conflict, Hester also questions herself on whether or not to admit not only who the father of Pearl is, but also who her real husband is. What troubles the real husband of Hester (Chillingworth) is why did an old deformed man like himself try to marry a young, vibrant, beautiful woman like Hester. Also, the young Pearl caught in between the messy relationships must decide if she will accept Dimmesdale as her father. Not only did these internal conflicts slow the resolution of their problem, but external conflicts also compounded their problem.

External conflicts are those of fate, society, or sometimes other characters. Chillingworth is constantly torturing the Reverend Dimmesdale. In addition to being tortured by an outside foe, Dimmesdale insists on torturing himself by starving himself, depriving himself of sleep, or even beating himself. At the end of the novel, Dimmesdale faces the pressure of the people who judge him after he does indeed confess his sin. Hester also has conflicts. Her conflicts come from the villagers and their harsh judgment as she stands on the scaffold to be ridiculed for her infidelity. Because of her mother’s unfaithfulness, Pearl is ridiculed by her own peers for being a child of sin and a demon child.

One setting that reoccurs throughout he novel is the “scaffold scene.” This scaffold represents the judgment from others in plain sight instead of being whispered in the shadows. This is the scene where Hester is first ridiculed. It represents progression in the novel. At first when Hester is alone, the complications have just arisen. At the second scaffold scene, Dimmesdale has progressed in his character. He is now willing to claim Pearl and Hester privately to himself and to Hester and Pearl. At the second scene, the problems are resolved. Dimmesdale admits his sin and dies.

The conflicts of this novel intertwine the characters in which none of the characters fully understand. Each of the character’s problems somehow intertwines with the others preventing them from being resolved without the fall or humiliation of the other. The Scarlet Letter contains conflicts both internal and external that prevent a solution that benefits all.

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