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A Comparison of the Similar Situations of Arthur Dimmesdale in the "Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne and of Ethan Frome in "Ethan Frome" by Edith Wharton
Word Count: 2,017
Arthur Dimmesdale of Hawthornes Scarlet Letter and Ethan Frome the main character of Whartons classic Ethan Frome though separated by over a century of time find themselves in remarkably similar situations--a bleak existence punctuated only be intermittent glimpses into a life that might have been However a difference in character leads each to ultimately confront their respective situation in opposing ways Ironically the one seeking a new clean life is met by death and the one seeking a conclusive death receives instead a hellish life Essentially both Dimmesdale and Frome have weak and selfish characters but Dimmesdale triumphs over Frome with a stronger heart and a more decisive mind in the end Dimmesdale acquires these characteristics through a harsh penance and a lengthy repentance Frome however hardly feels remorseful for his actions Occasionally a wisp of guilt enters into his mind but it is driven out by defensive justifications of his actions Dimmesdale lives as a Puritan in 18th century Salem Massachusetts while Frome exists in a stark austerity that symbolized the Puritan world in 20th century Starkfield Massachusetts An uneducated farmer Ethan lives because he has to There are obligations to fulfill and duties to perform and all of this Ethan takes upon himself But Ethans life matters little in Starkfield Most people were either indifferent to his troubles or disposed to think it natural that a young fellow of his age should have carried without repining the burden of three crippled lives Wharton 102 It seems that no one sympathizes with him in his plight Dimmesdale is a revered minister of the Puritan town He appears so innocent so eloquent and so faithful his followers proclaim him to come from God Himself They the people deemed the young clergyman a miracle of holiness They fancied him the mouth-piece of Heavens messages of wisdom and rebuke and love In their eyes the very ground on which he trod was sanctified Hawthorne 125 As
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