Chillingworth is the Greatest Sinner in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

analytical Essay
935 words
935 words

Chillingworth is the Greatest Sinner in The Scarlet Letter

The world of Puritan New England, like the world of today, was filled with many evil influences. Many people were able to withstand temptation, but some fell victim to the dark side. Such offences against God, in thought, word, deed, desire or neglect, are what we define as sin (Gerber 14).

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, the reader is able to observe how one sin devastates three lives. Hester, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth are all guilty of succumbing to temptation, anger, and desire, causing all to fit the definition of a sinner. Yet, Chillingworth's iniquities raise him up above Hester and Dimmesdale on the level of diabolic acts.

From the very moment Chillingworth is introduced, he is deceitful towards the Puritan society. Chillingworth appears in the novel, seeming to know nothing of the scene at the scaffold. He asks of a townsperson: "...who is this woman? - and wherefore is she here to set up to public shame?" (Hawhtorne 67). Yet, we find in the next chapter that he indeed knows who Hester is, because Chillingworth is the lawful husband of her. He decieves the people of Boston to avoid the humiliation his wife brought upon him. In this respect, Chillingworth sins against the eight commandment, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour" (Gerber 26).

Now, one could state that Hester also sins against the eighth commandment. She never reveals the name of her daughter's father. And it is stated that one must always tell the truth. Yet, it also states that one must keep a secret whenever asked to do so, and not say anything to damage another's reputation (Gerber 27). So Hester, in fact, did not sin. She n...

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...rth's crimes against the Lord are more malevolent than those committed by Hester and Reverend Dimmesdale. Chillingworth's quest for revenge and truth leads him down a path of sin, and in the Puritan perspective, down the path to Hell.

Works Cited and Consulted:

Baym, Nina. Introduction. The Scarlet Letter. By Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York City: Penguin Books USA, Inc. 1986.

Gerber, John C. "Form and Content in The Scarlet Letter." The Scarlet Letter: A Norton Critical Edition. Eds. Seymour Gross, Sculley Bradley, Richmond Croom Beatty, and E. Hudson Long. New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1988.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. Boston: Ticknor, 1850. 3 Nov. 1999

Smiles, Samuel. ""The Scarlet Letter."" The Critical Temper. Ed. Martin Tucker. New York City: Frederick Ungar Publishing Company, 1962. 266.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how chillingworth's iniquities raise him above hester and dimmesdale on the level of diabolic acts.
  • Analyzes how chillingworth is deceitful towards the puritan society from the moment he is introduced.
  • Explains that hester, in fact, did not sin against the eighth commandment. she never denies that dimmesdale was the father of pearl.
  • Analyzes how chillingworth breaks the eighth commandment, but also the fifth, "you shall not kill." he takes up residence with the reverend dimmesdale to care for his sickly heart and punishes the minister.
  • Analyzes how hester and dimmesdale commit another crime, namely, breaking the sixth commandment "you shall not commit adultery" and sinning against the nine commandments. the star-crossed lovers are not without fault.
  • Analyzes how hester cares for the poor and meticulously evaluates her daily activities to ensure she does no further insult to her community. chillingworth faithfully pleads in prayer for his soul to be cleansed of his wrongdoing.
  • Analyzes how chillingworth's crimes against god are more malevolent than those committed by hester and reverend dimmesdale. his quest for revenge leads him down a path of sin and in the puritan perspective, down the path to hell.
  • Introduces the scarlet letter by nathaniel hawthorne.
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