The Scarlet Letter: The Power of a Single Act of Iniquity
The world of Puritan New England, like the world of today, was filled with evil temptations. Some people were able to withstand these temptations; unfortunately, many others fell victim to the evil. A single act of iniquity was sufficient to devastate a person's life. In The Scarlet Letter, Hester, Chillingworth, and Dimmesdale were each destroyed mentally and physically by one diabolical act that mushroomed to overcome their lives.
Hester's life was the one which most externally displayed the destruction inflicted upon it by wrong-doing. Physically, she "stood on the scaffold of pillory, an infant on her arm, and the letter 'A' in scarlet, fantastically embroidered with gold thread upon her bosom" (The Scarlet Letter 66). Because of the "A", the entire community knew she had sinned, and she became a social outcast. In her attempts to pay penance for her sins, she lived a life of poverty, donating most of her income to charity. However, even the most lowly and wretched of the creatures in Boston, which she helped, "not unfrequently insulted the hand that fed them" (87). Furthermore she left behind her beauty and elaborate dress for a dress of the "coarsest materials and the most sombre hue" (86).
Hester's sin also harmed her mind and soul. The joy she found in knitting, "like all other joys, she rejected it as a sin" (87). Also, she suffered each time she saw Dimmesdale. A mutual love remained between them, but they could not show the love. Even a brief encounter with Dimmesdale, the father of her daughter, would cause "a deeper throb of pain; for, in that brief interval, she had sinned anew" (89). Moreover, at one point, she had begun to lose faith in the fact that her daughter was human. She began to believe the sayings of townspeople who "had given out that poor little Pearl was a demon offspring" (100). Hence her body and mind suffered greatly for her sin of adultery.
Roger Chillingworth's life was also destroyed by his evil. The most noticeable of his changes was the degradation of his physical appearance. When he was first seen in the novel, "there was a remarkable intelligence in his features, as of a person who had so cultivated his mental part that it could not fail to mould the physical to itself and become manifest by unmistakable tokens" (67).