The Price Is High
“No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true” Hawthorne (197–8).
This piece of the work is in the instance in which Dimmesdale was asking Hester when she planned to depart on the ship. The entire chapter is interesting because this section details the inner conflict occurring inside of his heart. He seems the most concerned with the way in which his congregation would perceive him, especially since this was the occasion of the Election Sermon.
The language of the excerpt contains some words that are very common in the modern English dictionary, but they have interesting meaning when some definitions from the OED are applied. I found the usage of “face” different from most understandings of the word. One definition is the countenance of having particular qualities or attributes. This seems to hint towards the idea of Dimmesdale having a separate personality, depending on his audience. The word bewilder also has the definition of causing mental aberration.
The minister planned to tell of his sin when he preached the sermon, perfectly ahead of Hester’s departure. He was so infused with his duty to the audience that confessing to them was also important. Despite what he did, I think it’s sincere, at best.
But however, I think the effects of that contrary action to his faith had consequences that involved tough wrestling, and certainly being “bewildered.” The actions and results of his relationship with Hester relate to the preceding sentence that the sin was “of a subtle disease, that had long since begun to eat in to the real substance of his character.” I think the latter of the excerpt got the best of Dimmesdale. He was finally shocked (to death) by the real face, since it was the one to be true. In this case, sincerity came with a high price. A person can certainly wear both faces, but for no considerable amount of time can that continue to be suppressed.