A Tale of Three Sinners
In the classic novel, The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne utilizes the extraordinary power of description and word choice to illustrate the tragically harsh lives and expectations of 19th century Puritans. The story begins with the ostracization of Ms. Hester Prynne, and quickly escalates toward a much deeper and darker focus: sin. Sin can be defined as the deliberate disobedience of Puritan morals and man-made law. To sin will always be bittersweet: the immediate effects enjoyable, but the long-term effects should lead to suffering. Evil corresponds directly to sin. Being the “biggest” sinner means not only enjoying and accepting sin, but also feeling no remorse or guilt and not even having to suffer. For that reason, Chillingworth is not only the biggest sinner but genuinely evil. And for the same reason, neither Hester nor Dimmesdale fit as the biggest sinner, due to the guilt they each endure, the amount they suffer, and the attempts made towards repentance. Throughout the story, Chillingworth’s thirst for revenge drives him mad, his personality progressively souring to the point of pure evil, making him the biggest sinner. From the moment he pleads with Hester for the father’s identity, the demise of his sanity begins. Because the scarlet letter gives her the ability to read souls, Hester immediately detects a negative energy as Chillingworth looks at her with “a gaze that made her heart shrink and shudder, because familiar, and yet so strange” (50). After the gaze, his outer appearance and frequent smirks begin to reflect his evil tendencies and how genuinely he enjoys causing pain. Merely three chapters later, Chillingworth’s vengeance on Dimmesdale starts to take a toll physically: “Old Roger Chillingworth, with a smile on his face, whispered something in the young clergyman’s ear. Hester Prynne looked at the man of skill and was started to perceive what a change had come over his...
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