Honors American Literature
10 December 2018
Arthur Dimmesdale and John Proctor
During the seventeenth century, many different beliefs abounded through America. There were some that believed one should be sinless, often hanging those who were found dealing with any form of witchcraft or publicly displaying those who wronged against the culture. In comparing The Crucible and The Scarlet Letter, one can see many parallels between the both, as well as many differences between the cultures. Both main characters, John Proctor and Arthur Dimmesdale, are similar in that sin interferes with their lives, confessing them at the end, yet they contrast because of their relationships with Hester and Abigail.
The sin of adultery was a controversial topic that occurred in both novels. Moreover, John Proctor and Arthur Dimmesdale we’re subject to it, as they were involved with girls who were outcasts. John was a very holy man overall, and Arthur was actually a minister, so he had to exhume holiness. However, even though they were holy didn’t mean that they didn’t make mistakes, because they messed up a bit on both ends. They kept to themselves their sin for a while, as they didn’t know how to bring it about to the world. Both Proctor and Dimmesdale dealt with this same sin for a while, but they had different ways of dealing with it.
In The Crucible within a conversation between Elizabeth and John Proctor, Elizabeth brings up Abigail and he gets a bit flustered. She says that when he’s near Abigail, he “blushes,” yet he will not tell her why, as he tries to avoid the question (Miller 33). John had been trying to hide his secret for a while, but Elizabeth knew that he still has some sort of feeling to her, even if it may be small. It did indeed affect his everyday, but he also could hide it very well. Arthur, on the other hand, physically tortured himself and had trouble dealing with and hiding it. The book says, “…when poor Mr. Dimmesdale was thinking of his grave, he questioned with himself whether the grass would ever grow on it, because an accursed thing must there be buried!” In this quote, it’s obvious that it wasn’t easy for Arthur to let go of grudges with himself. This sin caused a great weight on him and he thought he should suffer, so he did. John suffered in a less extreme way because the sin still weighed on his conscience, yet both had struggled within themselves over it.
Along with the sins, both Arthur and John waited till the end of the story to confess them. It took a lot, especially for Dimmesdale, to reveal his troubles. He actually self-harmed himself because of this. For John, he just kept it a secret from his wife, Elizabeth Proctor, even though she had suspected it from the start. A bit after John confessed what he had done, he was hung soon after for not confessing to witchery. In the first place, he hadn’t had anything to do with witchery and he wouldn’t lie to get out of getting hung. He wanted to have a clear conscience before dying. Arthur also died soon after showing his sin. Overall, Arthur’s way of revealing his sin took longer to convey and was very dramatic. Again, he self-tortured himself and couldn’t bring his conscience to the right state of mind to reveal to others what he had been hiding.
Once they both finally uncovered their sins to the world and accept it, they felt at peace with themselves, like a weight lifted off their chests. At the end of The Crucible, John had accepted that the world was against him, even after revealing his sin. He chose not to lie to the public and say he saw or did any type of witchcraft. He was content with this, and even Elizabeth saw how much it helped him in the end. She said to Reverend Hale, “He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him” (Miller 87). John was at peace with coming to the truth, and so it also seemed for Arthur the same. “Had the forest still kept its gloom, it would have been bright it Hester’s eyes, and bright in Arthur Dimmesdale’s!” (Hawthorne 305). After years of suffering, Arthur had a gleam from him that hadn’t been there for about seven years in total. He had been drowning in misery and he had finally been able to return to himself again. It took a while for them to actually confess and be at peace with everything, but once they did, it boosted their self-esteem and self-worth.
Arthur Dimmesdale and John Proctor are also differ greatly in both stories. In one way, they had different views of their partners. Arthur overall viewed Hester Prynne as his love and really wanted to be with her in the end, which unfortunately didn’t happen because he died. As he self-harmed himself for having this sin, he was able to recover himself to be with Hester. He realized, after talking with her, that there was more to life and she was able to give him a glimmer of hope. John Proctor was very different from this. He did not want any relations with Abigail Williams, unlike Hester and Arthur. John frowned upon Abigail and didn’t want to see her face ever again, because he really ruined his relationship with his wife through her. This sin weighed on him and he could never forgive Abigail.
Again, John wanted nothing to do with Abby. In a conversation between them, Abby says “John—I am waitin’ for you every night. “ John replied, “Abby, you’ll put it out of mind. I’ll not be comin’ for you more” (Miller 13). He conveys to her other times as well, that he wants no relations with her whatsoever. He doesn’t want to reminisce on the past, just focus on the future. In that sense, it’s sort of similar to Arthur Dimmesdale. He too, wants to move forward in his life. Arthur exclaims that Hester has renewed him, as Hester says to not look back for the future (Hawthorne 303). At the same time, Proctor and Dimmesdale have different views on their partners, but they both look ahead into their future. Proctor wants nothing to do with Abigail, as she was bad for him, and Dimmesdale’s heart turned over for Hester because he still loved her.
Both John Proctor and Arthur Dimmesdale are similar in their interference with sin and how long it took to confess it, but are different in the way they express themselves with their adulteresses. John was able to withhold his sin within him and put on a tough exterior to hide it. He suffered differently than Arthur, as Arthur tortured himself over it. John instead had suffered through his conscience, while Arthur suffered physically and mentally. In The Scarlet Letter, the Puritan society frowned upon any type of sin, especially adultery. Arthur Dimmesdale was a minister, so he had to keep it a secret until the end because he’d be greatly punished for being unfaithful to the church. In The Crucible, John Proctor also had to not expose himself since he had a good reputation of himself to uphold as a holy and lawful man. During this seventeenth century era, scandals like this happened often, which led to government changes, disputes over land and hatred for each other. This hatred eventually became more than just a simple dispute, but people started to cry witchery on one another so they could have their way, as shown in The Crucible. In The Scarlet Letter, they would just publicity display and humiliate any who went against the law, which was tied into religion. From both novels, one can see the harshness of the law which affected most of the people who committed sins. However, as everyone is human, people make mistakes and will sin, which is inevitable. This eventually would lead to changes in the world to come and set the expectations of being a human being for the time to come.
Miller, Arthur. The Crucible: a Play in Four Acts. Penguin Books, 2016.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. Om Books International, 2018.
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