Nathaniel Hawthorne uses a multitude of imagery and symbolism to serve as metaphors for different themes in his novel The Scarlet Letter. The theme sin versus guilt, appears often throughout the novel. It is often accompanied by the symbol of the scarlet letter, serving as a constant reminder of the guilt each of the main characters carry, as a result of the sins they have committed. Hester Prynne, Roger Chillingworth and Arthur Dimmesdale each carry the burden of living a tainted life, being that they have all committed a sin. Hester and Dimmesdale both committed the ultimate sin of adultery.
The Scarlet Letter In The Scarlet Letter by Daniel Hawthorne many villainous acts occur that contribute to the plot and direction of the text. One antagonist in the novel is Chillingworth, the “departed” husband of Hester Prynne. Chillingworth and his constant mission to gain his wife's love and to reveal the father with whom Hester's baby was conceived by leads him to take some villainous actions. Chillingworth took many actions to obtain his goals, examples of this are constantly exemplified throughout the novel, one example is Chillingworth’s unrelenting hatred towards Dimmesdale.
Following Dimmesdale’s death, “all [of Chillingworth 's] strength and energy… and intellectual force seemed at once to desert him… and almost vanished from mortal sight” (Hawthorne 212), as his own death quickly proceeds within a year. When the source of evil that he leeches off of disappears, Chillingworth’s life begins to disintegrate, as he lacks further purpose to survive due to his loss of humanity. His obsession with obtaining revenge eventually forces him to lose control of his own fate, as it becomes dependent on Dimmesdale’s actions. Since Chillingworth devoted his life to seeking revenge on Dimmesdale, without a mortal target, his existence becomes meaningless. In an effort to assert control and prolong his own life, Chillingworth tries to terminate Dimmesdale’s public confession.
These traits both directly and indirectly affect the protagonists in The Scarlet Letter. Chillingsworth actions contribute to the scarlet letters theme of “suffering in silence” because of his relentless and vengeful attacks that promote despair. Chillingworth directly attacks Dimmesdale psychologically by “[p]rying into his recollections,
The Scarlet Letter Essay Roger Chillingworth and Arthur Dimmesdale were two of the main sinners in The Scarlet Letter. Both characters kept their sins secrete throughout the story. These sins included adultery, revenge, and even murder. Out of the two sinners, Chillingworth was the worst, because he never felt guilt for the terrible things he was doing. Dimmesdale spent his entire life in guilt and remorse for the sins he had committed (“Who”).
Dimmesdale is the minister of the Puritans which devours him alive because of the shame and guilt of his true identity as Pearl’s father. He is so ruined that his health becomes putrid and he begins to decay in a sense. Hawthorne describes his looks, “...the health of Mr. Dimmesdale had evidently begun to fail…the paleness of the young minister’s cheek was accounted for...his form grew emaciated… his hand over his heart, with first a flush and then a paleness, indicative of pain” (92 Hawthorne). The reverend decays more and more as the guilt of his true identity lingers in his heart. Chillingworth, mostly referred as ‘The Leech’, is in a similar situation where identity tests his well being.
The reader is especially made aware of Dimmesdale's mental state in the eleventh chapter, “His inward trouble drove him to practices 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” . This suggests that he is racked with immense guilt and shame at the falsehood he is living and suggests that he is physically abusing himself as a result of this guilt. This directly contradicts Chillingworth's mental state of fury and vengeance that he falls deeper into as the story progresses. These two characters also hold striking incongruities as to what drives them onward as the account
At first Chillingworth is portrayed through the introduction as a civil man, almost feel sorry for him for the fact that his wife cheated on him, and that she is now imprisoned, Hester even calls him, “the Black Man that haunts the forest round about [the town],”(Hawthorne 94), however, these words foreshadow the dive to insanity Chillingworth later takes after he sets his sights on revenge. Although Chillingworth’s arrival to Massachusetts is not a happy one, the reader can’t feel bad for Chillingworth because during his conversation with Hester, Chillingworth didn’t approach Hester with the intent on being a good husband, but rather as a physician. The lack of love Chillingworth displays to Hester, sheds light onto the how riddled with guilt Chillingworth really is, the mere opposition to comfort her, provides Chillingworth’s first step towards his mental downfall. Some people may argue that Chillingworth never saw a downfall into his own mental state, and that he was passing the punishment that Dimmesdale had deserved. However, the punishments that Dimmesdale was receiving was more torture than anything else, which exemplifies the civility he has lost.
It is as intertwined as yin and yang. Chillingworth and Dimmesdale need each other almost. Chillingworth makes him or the alleged father of Pearl his life 's ambition. He goes as far as to change his name and pose as a friendly doctor.
Dimmesdale and Chillingworth both have secrets that make them look and act differently, their secrets affect their character and how they do their job. Dimmesdale is the father of Pearl but he doesn 't want to face the same humiliation as Hester did for his sins. Because of his secret he self punishes and fasts, he also preaches better than he did before although his health is failing. Chillingworth’s secret is that he was the husband of Hester while he was away, before she cheated on him. Chillingworth gets uglier and uglier driven by the need to get revenge on Pearl’s father.
Chillingworth seeks revenge but doesn't quite know how to go about it. The minister feels something negative is coming his way, but does not suspect it to come from a trusted colleague. One gesture that I believe foreshadows the presence of something beneath Dimmesdale’s vestment is when he would often grab his chest in stressful experiences would arise. One example from the text
Everyone, at some point in his or her life, has wanted to take revenge on someone. However, revenge is an obsessive, overwhelming response that is ultimately dissatisfying. In the Scarlet Letter, Chillingworth became completely preoccupied with taking revenge on Dimmesdale because he fathered a child with his wife, and through imagery, the gradual change from unpleasant physician to vengeful husband is shown. People say, “revenge is a dish best served cold.”
Another statement that Hawthorne makes in this section is that Chillingworth will not find anything except for mortality and corruption, but these were the things that he sought (125). This is giving the reader more insight on Chillingworth and his obsession. Chillingworth’s plan to infiltrate Dimmesdale’s home as his personal caretaker was to search for the truth. The once wise man had transformed once his obsession took control of him. Chillingworth’s
Chillingsworth works day in and day out making Dimmesdale sick with work that people will find out what he had done. It's so bad that Dimmesdale starts to do self harm. Chillingworth even goes about so that hester knows what she had done was wrong too and he makes her life like she is walking on
He was the last person that people would think as a sinner. Dimmesdale was sin when he was committed adultery with Hester. He broke the law of church, but he was afraid to face the punishment and indifferent attitude from he masses. As a faithful follower, Dimmesdale also afraid the punishment of God, so he flog himself with a whip. The physical and spiral torture and the control of Chillingworth stranded him in a world that he cannot contact with others.