Arthur Dimmesdale: Tragic Hero Or Merely Tragic?

Arthur: Tragic Hero or Merely Tragic?
In Nathaniel Hawthorne\'s torrid tale of The Scarlet Letter, Arthur Dimmesdale, a main character, is confronted with a number of circumstances, both in and out of his control, that lead to his ultimate demise. While it can be argued that Arthur is a tragic hero, he lacks the underlying goodness and strength essential for him to fulfill this role. Otherwise, it may be demonstrated that Arthur meets all the criteria as a tragic hero, though there are other discrepancies to be noted.
Arthur Dimmesdale, a minister, lives his life under the watchful yet admiring eye of the townspeople of Boston and, as a result, becomes a slave to the public opinion. His sin against Hester and Pearl is that he will not acknowledge them as his wife and daughter in the daylight. He keeps his dreadful secret from all those under his care in the church for seven years for fear that he will lose their love and they will not forgive him. He is too weak to admit his sins openly and in their entirety. Instead, he allows his parishioners to lift him in their esteem by confessing, in all humility, that he is a sinner: "The minister well knew--subtle but remorseful hypocrite that he was!--the light in which his vague confession would be viewed." (127) They love him all the more for his honest and humble character, and this is Arthur\'s intent. Even as he plans to run away with Hester four days after their meeting in the forest, he comforts himself with the knowledge that he will give his sermon on predestination on the third day, and thus will leave his community with fond memories of his final exhortation. Arthur\'s flaw can be found in the fact that he chooses to value the public view above those of Hester, his love, and God, his master.
Arthur, punishing himself for his ugly secret, which his need for public affirmation will not let him reveal, gradually kills himself through guilt and masochistic ritual.
His inward trouble drove him more in accordance with the old, corrupted faith of Rome, than with the better light of the church in which he had been born and bred. In Mr. Dimmesdale\'s secret closet, under lock and key, there was a bloody scourge. Oftentimes, this Protestant and Puritan divine had plied it on his own shoulders; laughing bitterly at himself all the while...It was his custom, too, as it had been that of many other pious Puritans, to fast,--not, however, like them, in order to purify the body and render it the fitter medium of celestial illumination,--but rigorously, and until his knees trembled beneath him, as an act of penance. He kept vigils, likewise, night after night, sometimes in utter darkness; sometimes with a glimmering lamp; and sometimes, viewing his own face in a looking-glass, by the most powerful light which he could throw upon it. He thus typified the constant introspection wherewith he tortured, but could not purify, himself. (127)

Arthur allows his guilt and self-hatred to destroy his heart and soul, but he still refuses to confess and repent publicly his great transgression. Instead, he is often seen with his hand covering his heart, looking pained and repentant. Arthur allows himself to think the worst of himself, and does not guard his heart against the evil of Roger Chillingworth, which he senses, but chooses not to detect and eliminate.
Along with having a tragic flaw that destroys his life, a tragic hero must recognize this destruction, invoking awe and pity in the reader. This Arthur does only half-way, making his recognition and repentance incomplete. He confesses openly that he sinned, but he doesn\'t confess that he has, for all these years, been oppressed by his need for acceptance. He instead accepts Hester and Pearl, a positive though final step. Arthur recognizes that he should have put aside his desire for public worship when he says: "‘People of New England!...ye, that have loved me!--ye, that have deemed me holy!--behold me here, the one sinner of the world! At last!--at last!--I stand upon the spot where, seven years since, I should have stood; here, with this woman, whose arm, more than the little strength wherewith I