Essay on Hawthorne's The Scarlett Letter

Essay on Hawthorne's The Scarlett Letter

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Hawthorne's The Scarlett Letter
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"He is the complete type of man of the world, the social ideal,--courteous, quiet, well informed, imperturbably. Nevertheless, his moral nature is a poisonous and irreclaimable wilderness, in which blooms not a single flower of heavenly parentage." (J. Hawthorne) Over the course of seven years, Roger Chillingworth changes from a calm, scholarly, and kind person to an evil, corrupt, and satanic being.

Roger Chillingworth's life in England with Hester was happy. He studied alchemy, and was scholarly and well learned. Although Hester and Chillingworth did not share love, they were happy together. "…he used to emerge at eventide from the seclusion of his study and sit down in the firelight of their home, and in the light of her nuptial smile." (N. Hawthorne 172) Chillingworth needed Hester's genuine warm smile to bring him happiness after so many hours of studying. Roger Chillingworth was a calm, kind man while living in England.

Similar to his calm, studious nature in England, Chillingworth still possesses these positive attributes upon his arrival to Boston. He is startled to see his wife, Hester, displayed in ignominy on a scaffold before a large crowd. Hester saw Chillingworth in the crowd, a small man with a slightly wrinkled appearance. He wasn't old, but he had a look of intelligence. He also possessed a deformity that could only be seen to Hester, one of his shoulders was higher than the other. He was clothed in a disarray of savage and civilized clothing and appeared travel worn. He questioned members of the crowd on Hester's crime and when he found it to be adultery was outraged. He then vowed to find the father of her child. "...he will be known!--he will be known!--he will be known!" (61) This is Chillingworth's first turn from good to the evils lying latent in his soul. Following Hester's time on the scaffold, Chillingworth aided both Hester and her baby while they were at the jail. He admits that Hester did not stand by herself in this wrongdoing. "It was my folly, and they weakness. I--a man of thought, the bookworm of great libraries...men call me wise...I might have foreseen all this...I might have beheld the bale-fire of that scarlet letter blazing at the end of our path!" (71-72) He believed they were evenly balanced in their wrong doing and sought no vengeance against her. Chil...


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... a human heart, has become a fiend for his especial torment!" For the first time Chillingworth is able to see himself for the devil he is truly becoming; nevertheless, he continues with his fiendish torture. Over seven years, Chillingworth changes greatly.

Chillingworth's final state of change occurs at the confession of Dimsdale's sin. "The real agony of sin, as Chillingworth perceived, lies not in its commission…nor in its punishment,…but in the dread of its disco. The revenge which he plans, therefore, depends above all things upon keeping his victim's secret." (J. Hawthorne) After Dimsdale revealed his sin, he died of weakness that had been long accumulating. Chillingworth now found himself lost in life. Without a reason to live, Chillingworth died within a year of Dimsdale's death. This only proves that his soul revolving around evil could produce no good. The original calm, studious, kind picture of Chillingworth is much different than the one of fierceness and corruption. "The Puritan System was selfish and brutal, merely; Chillingworth's was satanically malignant; but both alike are impotent to do anything but inflame the evils they pretend to assuage." (J. Hawthorne)

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