Duality Of Opposition In The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Opposition is prominent in literature and is often used to portray ideas that are completely different from each other. Such opposition can even be used to enforce both duality and paradoxical tones in a novel. In “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, he also uses this duality to describe the relationship between the two main male characters. Hawthorne focuses on the public and private lives of Dimmesdale and Chillingworth, and the paradoxical connection that they share. Dimmesdale, the town’s most loved preacher and most eligible bachelor, hides behind this mask of good by also being wrought by the guilt of being an adulterer. Chillingworth, a strange doctor who is thought to be helping Dimmesdale, is secretly the adulteress’ lost husband,…show more content…
When he arrived in the town when Hester was first shamed on the scaffold for her adultery, Chillingworth was an unknown doctor who happened to be able to help Hester. He remained as a helpful physician, and eventually learned of Dimmesdale’s sins. Rather than publicly exposing Dimmesdale for what he had done, Chillingworth used his newfound knowledge to his advantage, exploiting Dimmesdale’s guilt to further shame him. “Chillingworth had now a sufficiently plain path before it. It was not, indeed, precisely that which he had laid out for himself to tread… To make himself the one trusted friend, to whom should be confided all the fear, the remorse, the agony, the ineffectual repentance, the backward rush of sinful thoughts, expelled in vain!” (92-93). Chillingworth was cunning in how he hurt Dimmesdale, and was sure his public portrayal did not threaten him in the least as a suspect of Dimmesdale’s troubles. He became a “trusted friend”, so he was able to get very close to Dimmesdale and even move in with him, further increasing his ability to hurt Dimmesdale more and more. But rather than being a doctor to aid Dimmesdale with his health as everyone thought him to be, Chillingworth instead turned darker and darker in his ways, paradoxically turning to hurt Dimmesdale rather than help him. He was virtually doing the opposite of what the…show more content…
A normal man would be expected to feel the guilt of bringing pain to another person, but Chillingworth’s ideals were so far warped by his need to evil satisfaction that this greed turned to be almost satanic. He twisted his conversations with Dimmesdale in their home in order to further dig Dimmesdale’s pain and guilt into him. Chillingworth would poke and prod on sensitive topics in order to reinforce to Dimmesdale the bad aspects of the sin that he committed. Chillingworth would say horrible things about sinners like Dimmesdale saying that “ ‘These men deceive themselves… They fear to take up the shame that rightfully belongs to them… holy impulses may or may not coexist in their hearts with the evil inmates to which their guilt has unbarred the door, and which must needs propagate a hellish breed within them’ ” (88-89). Chillingworth directly criticizes Dimmesdale for what he has done, and theoretically is driving this knife of guilt deeper and deeper into Dimmesdale’s heart. Dimmesdale is already ashamed of his actions, and Chillingworth knows this, but sees that he should further hurt Dimmesdale for the sin that he committed against him. Chillingworth criticizes Dimmesdale for virtually his entire way of life, and shames him for his actions even when he knowns the suffering that Dimmesdale already goes through. This evil and
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