Free College Essays - The Greatest Sinner in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

Free College Essays - The Greatest Sinner in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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The Scarlet Letter - Chillingworth and the Greatest Sin

When asked to describe Roger Chillingworth, peers say he was an upstanding, respectful, concerned citizen. They would have been right, but he didn’t let anyone know just how much he cared. With the loss of Hester, he became filled with anger and jealousy and eventually let his emotions overtake him. At the close of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, the malevolent state of Roger Chillingworth’s heart made him the guiltiest.

Throughout the entire novel, every character except for Roger Chillingworth learned to forgive and cleared his or her heart of guilt. When the reverend showed his concern for the doctor just before his death he said, “may God forgive thee. Thou hast deeply sinned” (251). For example, Dimmesdale used some of his last words to forgive the doctor of his wrongdoing. Even though Chillingworth tortured and haunted him until the very end of his life, the reverend had strong enough character to want God to show mercy on the evildoer’s soul. Moreover, Dimmesdale was able to forgive Hester when he told her, “I do forgive you Hester” (191). Because of his high position of authority, Dimmesdale set high standards for his life, and that reflected in the way he handled personal relationships. Also, if Chillingworth had been more understanding towards Hester’s problem, he had a better chance at winning her love back. Finally, both Hester and her lover admitted their sin on the scaffold and sought forgiveness for their transgressions while Chillingworth never could admit he sinned.

Secondly, Chillingworth’s actions were motivated by hate and a lust for revenge that overpowered him in the end. Therefore an awful change must have taken place in the doctor since “human nature loves more readily than it hates” (156). The actions of Hester, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth were all motivated by a deep passion for one thing or another. However, the difference in their actions was that the adulteress and the minister acted out of love for each other while her husband acted out of anger and jealousy. Also, the physician underwent such a change that “there came a glare of red light out of his eyes; as if the old man’s soul were on fire, and kept smoldering duskily within his breast” (166). Eventually Chillingworth’s heart became so twisted and contorted that there were very noticeable differences in his personality.

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In this case, guilt is not determined by actions, but by the state of the heart committing them, and Roger Chillingworth possessed greater evil than Hester and Dimmesdale. With all this in mind, the torturer’s suffering was greater than the other two main characters, so if he had accepted everything and moved on, everyone would have been spared the trouble.

Each character created the situations they were put into. However, some chose to benefit from it. Hester’s trials gave her insight, compassion, and made her a good mother. Dimmesdale never stopped trying to please and honor his God throughout the whole ordeal. Knowing when sin happens and being able to come out of situations even stronger are two of the lessons taught by The Scarlet Letter.
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