The Romantic movement in American literature greatly expanded the love story genre. In Hawthorne's novel The
Scarlet Letter he writes of adultery in a Puritan village. The story deals with the relationship between Hester Prynne,
a young bride awaiting her husband, and Arthur Dimmsdale, an inspired Puritan minister who is beloved by the
populace. Do Hester and Dimmsdale truly love each other? Hester does indeed love Dimmsdale, but the love is not
returned by the preacher.
It is obvious from the beginning that Hester loves Dimmsdale. When she is being grilled for the identity of the father
of her child in front of the entire villiage, she cares for him enough to refuse to reveal his identity. When offered the
chance to remove the scarlet letter "A" if she will but speak his name and repent, she stands up to the crowd and
refuses to give in to its pressure. Another telling feature of her love for Dimmsdale is that she remains in the village
as an outcast rather than fleeing to a more accepting environment, where she might possibly live a normal life.
According to the narrator, she could not leave this place because "there trode the feet of one with whom she deemed
herself connected in a union, that, unrecognized on earth, would bring them together before the bar of final
judgement" (74). She realizes that she cannot lead a normal life in this community with Dimmsdale, but even so she
cannot bring herself to leave him. This is telling evidence of!
her love for him.
She endures pain and torment alone, without even the support of her partner in sin. Even so, she still feels more
anguish over being the cause of Dimmsdale's pain than she does for the humiliation of being branded impure before
her community. As she states herself, under questioning by the ministers before the town "and would that I might
endure his agony, as well as mine!" (64). That she should feel guilt for causing him pain when he was as much
involved as she was proves how deeply she does love him.
Hester would love to escape her punishment, but only if she can still be with Dimmsdale. While conversing with
Dimmsdale alone in the forest where no one can overhear, she brings up the idea of fleeing with him, and living a
life full of love with him in another land. She says "So brief a journey would bring thee from a world where thou
hast been most wretched, to one where thou mayest still be happy" (181). The world she is talking about here is a
world deeper along the forest track where they can freely express their love for one another. When he seems hesitant
to take that path, she suggests another route of escape. "Then there is the broad pathway of the sea!...It brought thee
hither. If thou so choose, it will bear thee back again" (181). She is willing to give up her newfound acceptance as
healer, from the villagers in a moment to win a chance to live in happiness with a man who has thus far shown her
Hester also shows her love for Dimmsdale with her courage in onfronting Roger Chillingworth with her intent to
warn Dimmsdale of the threat Chillingworth poses him. She is willing to break the vow of secrecy she has made to
Chillingworth, saying "I must reveal the secret...He must discern thee in thy true character...this long debt of
confidence, due from me to him, whose bane and ruin I have been, shall at length be paid" (158). She knows that
Chillingworth is a plotting, malevolent man, whose physical deformity reflects the deformity and evil content of his
heart. Again she is standing up for the man she loves. In the same conversation, she tries to shift Chillingworth's
malevolence off the man she loves and onto herself. She asks him "It was I, not less than he. Why hast thou not
avenged thyself on me?" (158).
Other examples of Hester's undying devotion include the description of what a loving person Hester is, when the
narrator states "Hester's nature showed itself warm and rich; a well-spring of human tenderness" (148). With her
nature thus revealed as naturally loving, it is easy to see why she is so devoted to Dimmsdale. Later, just before she
tells Dimmsdale about the threat living in his own house, the narrator refers to
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The Scarlet Letter
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