A psychological analysis of dimmesdale

October 25, 2017 Religion

Dimmesdale is the chief male character in the universe celebrated novel The Scarlet Letter, which is the chef-d’oeuvre of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Although Dimmesdale commits adultery, it is non until the concluding portion of the novel that he confesses his offense. From the clip he commits criminal conversation to the clip he confesses his offense, everyday, he is tortured mentally. The struggles of superego and Idaho are best manifested in Dimmesdale. The intent of this paper is to analyse the psychological state of affairs of Arthur Dimmesdale based on Freud ‘s psychological theory, particularly the theory of Idaho, self-importance and superego.

a…? . Illustration of Id, Ego and Superego

Freud is a celebrated psychologist, whose theory of psychological science is a great part to the analysis of literature.[ 1 ]Harmonizing to Freud, the mental procedures can be assigned to three psychic zones: the Idaho, the self-importance, and the superego.

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The Idaho as defined by Freud is indistinguishable in many respects to the Devil as defined by theologists. Consequently, it is can be seen from this definition that the Idaho is every bit dark as Devil. It is the dark facet of human nature that can non be touched by others. What is the Idaho? Id, in short, is what people want. It is people ‘s desire of all kinds-desire for power, for sex, for amusement, for good. But this is merely one facet of Idaho. Every one wants these things. There is no 1 in the universe who does non desire power, sex or amusement. So it can be said that Idaho is in the human nature. Another facet of Idaho is that it is characterized by a enormous and formless order. Its order is to fulfill its desire, without an oculus to the effects. In other words, Idaho is anarchic, asocial and amoral. Its map is to satisfy our inherent aptitudes for pleasance without respect for societal conventions, legal regulations, or moral restraint.[ 2 ]If one merely wants to fulfill his or her urges for pleasances, ignoring societal regulations and moral standards, he or she will come to his or her self-deconstruction or make harm to other people, even the society.

As it is stated above, Idaho has unsafe potencies. Consequently, there must be something that can forestall the Idaho from making unsafe things. In the book: A enchiridion of Critical Approaches in Literature, which is written by John K. Willingham, it is written that “ in position of the Idaho ‘s unsafe potencies, it is necessary that other psychic bureaus protect the person and society. The first of these regulation bureaus which protects the person is the self-importance. This is the rational government agent of the mind. It regulates the instinctual thrusts of the Idaho so that they may be releases in nondestructive behavioural forms. In popular linguistic communication, we may state that the self-importance stands for ground and discretion, while the Idaho stands for the wild passions. Whereas the Idaho is governed entirely by the pleasance rule, the self-importance is governed by the world rule.[ 3 ]While Idaho is the dark facet of human being ‘s personality, self-importance is the rational, logical, waking portion of the air current.

As above has mentioned, ego is one of these modulating bureaus that protect the person and society, there is another psychic bureau, superego. While self-importance is the rational, logical, waking portion of the head of each individual, superego is the cultural tabu, such as societal regulations and moral standards. In the book, A enchiridion of Critical Approaches in Literature, John K. Willingham besides mentions that: “ The superego serves to quash or suppress the thrusts of the Idaho, to barricade off and thrust back into the unconscious those urges toward pleasance that society respects as unacceptable, such as open aggression, sexual passions, and the Oedipal inherent aptitude. Freud attributes the development of the superego to the parental influence that manifests itself in footings of penalty for what society considers being bad behaviour and wages for what society considers good behaviour. An hyperactive superego creates an unconscious sense of guilt ”[ 4 ]. If one merely follows societal tabus and neglects his or her ain feeling and desire, likely he or she becomes a machine which is runned by regulations.

Therefore, the superego is in direct resistance to the Idaho. The superego determines which desire the Idaho contains can be fulfilled. And the self-importance, or the witting ego that experience the external universe through the senses, between Idaho and superego, and all three are defined by their relationship ; no Acts of the Apostless independently of the others ; a alteration in one ever involves alterations in the other two. Then if can be concluded that the self-importance is the balance between the Idaho and the superego. In this manner, the self-importance is, to a big grade, the merchandise of struggles between what the society says we can non hold and what we want to hold.

a…? . Historical Background

As superego is what the society says, historical background must be introduced so that a better apprehension of the mental battle of Dimmesdale can be achieved. Puritans came to New England to pattern their faith, which is their main inducement when they came to the new universe. In this new universe, they established a little civilized community out of the wilderness. At the beginning, they had to contend against nature ; here the nature refers to the environment that had non been intruded by human being, in order to populate. But subsequently, they combated human nature — -suppressing natural joys and pleasance, contradicting all passion, which they considered as wilderness. Puritans pretended that their ain civilisation had non and should non hold any of the elements of the wilderness in it. They are, in fact, the enemies of nature and make-believe to incarnate everything that is the antonym of the wilderness and nature. They focus on society and civilisation highly. All that they embrace is portion of civilisation: the church, spiritual instruction, intellect instead than emotion ; stiff signifiers and regulations instead than freedom.[ 5 ]Because Puritans believe that God will penalize the whole community if merely one member of the community did bad behaviour. So that is why Puritans are so aggressive in penalizing moral misdemeanor.

a…? . Conflicts manifested in Dimmesdale

As has mentioned above, the Idaho is people ‘s desire of all sorts, such as the sexual desire, passion and aspiration. All these three are possessed by Dimmesdale. Although these are in the nature of human being, they are considered as wilderness and suppressed by the Puritans ‘ society. Dimmesdale, in the eyes of local governors, his co-workers and the state members, is a holy curate. But first of all, he is a human being and a healthy immature adult male, therefore he possesses sexual desire, passion and aspiration which is suppressed by the society. Dimmesdale is in a quandary, on one manus, his id orders him to carry through his pleasance, ignoring the societal regulations and moral standards ; on the other manus, his consciousness, ground and morality prevents him from making bad things. Consequently, Dimmesdale is ever in struggles which can be explained by many illustrations in the novel.

As stated above, the Idaho is our desire of all sort such as sexual desire, which is in the nature of human being. But the sexual passion is repressed by the superego. The vermilion missive A stands for criminal conversation, which is the consequence from sexual passion of Hester and Dimmesdale. Thus, Dimmesdale does hold. In order to fulfill his sexual desire, he slept with a adult female who is already married to person else. As it is said before, the Puritan society established barbarous penalty for these who had committed offense and the penalty for criminal conversation in that clip was decease sentence. If a adult female commits adultery, one can easy see from her physical signifier. For illustration, people can easy see that Hester has slept with other adult male because of the absence of her hubby, in that she gave birth to a kid. Consequently, she is punished by the society. Dimmesdale is a adult male, one can non state whether he has committed criminal conversation or non from his physical signifier. But does this mean that he is free from the societal Torahs? No. Superego manifests itself in penalty. Besides, an hyperactive superego creates guilty feeling. Although Dimmesdale by hiding his secret is n’t punished, mundane he is tortured by his guilty feeling. The guilty feeling manifests itself in the physical diminution of Dimmesdale: “ His signifier grew emaciated ; his voice, though still rich and sweet, had a certain melancholic prognostication of decay in it ; he was frequently observed, on any little dismay or other sudden accident, to set his manus over his bosom with first a flower and so a lividness, declarative mood of hurting. ”[ 6 ]In Hawthorne ‘s point of position: “ evil educated ” . The criminal conversation committed by Dimmesdale is evil, because it non merely breaks the jurisprudence but besides the moral moralss. Dimmesdale learns from the immorality. And afterwards he obeys societal regulations. This can be explained by one illustration, that is when he returns from the wood where he and Hester held a long talk, he meets “ the youngest sister of them all. It was a inaugural newly-won-and won by the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale ‘s ain discourse, on the Sabbath after his vigil-to swap the transitory pleasances of the universe for the celestial hope that was to presume brighter substance as life grew dark around her, and which would gild the arrant somberness with concluding glorification. She was just and pure as a lily that had bloomed in Paradise. The curate knew good that he was himself enshrined within the unstained holiness of her bosom, which hung its snowy drapes about his image, leaving to religion the heat of love, and to love a spiritual pureness. Satan, that afternoon, had certainly led the hapless immature girl off from her female parent ‘s side, and thrown her into the tract of this sorely tempted, or-shall we non instead state? -this lost and despairing adult male. As she drew near, the arch-fiend whispered him to distill into little compass, and bead into her stamp bosom a source of immorality that would be certain to bloom in darkness shortly, and bear black fruit betimes. ”[ 7 ]He wants to take advantage of her to fulfill his sexual desire, but the consciousness, the self-importance, stops him from making incorrect thing once more. Then the consequence is that: “ So-with a mightier battle than he had yet sustained-he held his Geneva cloak before his face, and hurried onward, doing no mark of acknowledgment, and go forthing the immature sister to digest his discourtesy as she might. ”[ 8 ]This illustration can outdo explain that Dimmesdale learns from his misdoing and now he can equilibrate the Idaho and superego better. While superego is one of the psychic bureaus that can quash or suppress the thrusts of the Idaho, such as sexual desire, if one merely follows societal regulations, he might go something that is unnatural. For illustration, Dimmesdale leads the community to believe that he is excessively pure to see a sexual brotherhood even in matrimony by declining others ‘ suggestion that he should acquire married for the interest of his wellness.

While he represses his sexual passion and make-believes to be saintly, he attempts to squeal the truth of his passionate nature every bit good as his act, of class in comfortably safe and general footings. At the same clip, he besides attempts to squeal his immorality. And this can be seen in his midnight vigil. He stands on the scaffold, and speaks out the secret which he dare non state in the wide daytime.

Dimmesdale non merely possesses sexual passion, but besides the passion of another sort, choler. Dimmesdale, a picket and inactive curate in others ‘ eyes, possesses choler, which is a distinct portion of his basic nature, which is the Idaho of Dimmesdale. But it is non similar sexual passion which he suppresses and refuses to admit to the remainder of the community, Dimmesdale loses his temper twice in the novel. The first clip he loses his pique in when Chillingworth asks him to squeal his secret to him, but Dimmesdale garbages and walks out of the room. And the old physician observes: “ But see, now, how passion takes hold upon this adult male, and hurrieth him out of himself! As with one passion so with another. He hath done a wild thing ere now, this pious Master Dimmesdale, in the hot passion of his bosom. ”[ 9 ]

Another illustration is when in the wood, Hester tells Dimmesdale the individuality of Chillingworth, Dimmesdale ‘s rage is described as “ the force of passion ” .[ 10 ]


The Idaho refers non merely to sexual desire and passion, but besides aspiration, which is besides, lies in human being. Ambition, on one manus, is the content of the Idaho, which is the nature of human being ; on the other manus, it relates to the society, relates to what the society thinks and says. Dimmesdale, as described in the novel, is “ immature reverend, who had come from one of the great English universities, conveying all the acquisition of the age into our wild forest land. His fluency and spiritual excitement had already given the earnest of high distinction in his profession. He was a individual of really dramatic facet, with a white, exalted, and impending forehead ; big, brown, melancholic eyes, and a oral cavity which, unless when he forcibly compressed it, was apt to be quavering, showing both nervous esthesia and a huge power of ego restraint. Notwithstanding his high native gifts and scholar-like attainments, there was an air about this immature minister-an apprehensive, a startled, a half-frightened look-as of a being who felt himself rather astray, and at a loss in the tract of human being, and could merely be at easiness in some privacy of his ain. Therefore, so far as his responsibilities would allow, he trod in the shady by-paths, and therefore kept himself simple and childly, coming Forth, when juncture was, with a freshness, and aroma, and bedewed pureness of idea, which, as many people said, affected them like tile address of an angel. ”[ 11 ]He comes to the new universe to the new universe to carry through his aspiration that is his desire to be a great and sublime curate in the Puritan universe. What Dimmesdale concerns most is non his lover Hester nor his kid Pearl, but what other people think about him and how it will impact his calling. In the governor ‘s hall, when the governor and others want to take Pearl off from Hester, Dimmesdale does non stand out to assist Hester until she asks for aid. He helps Hester non because his love for her, but he is afraid that Hester may non maintain the secret any longer. It is for his ain interest the he speaks for Hester.

In the wood, when Hester reveals the individuality of Chillingworth to him, he merely thinks of his secret being exposed. He confesses to Hester that he has lived with horror that person might calculate out that Pearl looks like him and surmise that he is her male parent. When Dimmesdale returns to the town from his meeting with Hester, he feels relieved that she has non planned to go forth Boston instantly. This can outdo exemplify his base aspiration.

“ The curate had inquired of Hester, with no small involvement, the precise clip at which the vas might be expected to go. It would likely be on the 4th twenty-four hours from the present. ‘This is most fortunate! ‘ he had so said to himself. Now, why the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale considered it so really fortunate we hesitate to uncover. Nevertheless-to clasp nil back from the reader-it was because, on the 3rd twenty-four hours from the present, he was to prophesy the Election Sermon ; and, as such an juncture formed an honest era in the life of a New England Clergyman, he could non hold chanced upon a more suited manner and clip of ending his professional calling. ‘At least, they shall state of me, ‘ thought this model adult male, ‘that I leave no public responsibility unperformed or ill-performed! ”[ 12 ]


It can be concluded that, the vermilion missive A on the bosom of Dimmesdale may stands for criminal conversation, which is his sexual desire ; anguish, his strong passion ; and besides aspiration, his desire to success. Thus the vermilion missive A is the Idaho of Dimmesdale, which is besides his basic nature. But the society in which he lives fight against all these human nature, Dimmesdale on one manus wants to fulfill all his desire ; on the other manus, he is cognizant of societal regulations and moral moralss and attentions about what the society says. Consequently Dimmesdale is in a quandary.


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