Scarlet Letter Characterization

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The Scarlet Letter In the Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne introduces two male characters who play significant roles in the life of Hester Prynne, a Puritan woman who is sentenced with the lifelong embarrassment of wearing the scarlet letter of adultery during the early Boston era. Arthur Dimmesdale, who is the beloved minister of the Puritan community, is revealed as the man who committed the adulterous act with Hester. As Hester stands upon the scaffold for her public humiliation, Roger Chillingworth, her missing husband, appears in the crowd to Hester’s great horror to return from where he has been these past years. When Hester refuses to reveal her lover, the interaction between Dimmesdale and Chillingworth is set to begin. Throughout the…show more content…
Hawthorne describes Chillingworth as physically deformed and consistently refers to the man as the old physician. Chillingworth is misshapen by having one shoulder higher than the other. Hester describes her husband as having uglier features, darker complexion, and even more misshapen than when she married him. Chillingworth displayed outward calm but had inner malice. Hester sees the blackness and thought she saw a flicker of red glare in his eyes. Hawthorne describes Chillingworth as “permitting the whole evil within him to be written on his features” (Hawthorne 97). In contrast, Dimmesdale is described as being angelic in appearance and speech with celestial radiance. His eyes hold pain and understanding. Even though the minister has grown more sickly with a pale complexion and struggling walk, he still maintains a magnificent voice and moves as though his feet barely touch the…show more content…
God’s mercy and judgment battle within the souls of the characters. Since the Puritan community never fully grasps the mercy of the cross, Dimmesdale and Hester are forced to remain under the judgment of society and Chillingworth. The path of repentance moves Dimmesdale forward to God’s ultimate release of his anguish, but Chillingworth’s refusal to release his vengeance makes him an instrument of the Devil’s torture. Dimmesdale’s conscience urges him towards ultimate redemption by his public acknowledgement of sin, but Chillingworth never reveals his identity and nature. Hawthorne never suggests that Chillingworth repented to God. When faced with sin, a person should choose repentance with God’s mercy and grace. Jesus’ work on the cross provides hope, restoration, and liberty to those who accept its provisions. Similarly to Chillingworth and Dimmesdale, the individual chooses how God’s work will dictate his
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