In protestant times, sin was considered to be part of breaking the law. Sin not only hurts one in the church’s eyes but also in the townspeople’s eyes. Sin can lead to guilt and guilt can tear away at the body both physically and mentally. Both sin and guilt are represented in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter which reveals the disintegration of the individual psyche: a tendency for the life of the body, the mind and the soul to fall apart due to sin, like the broken and isolated lives of both Chillingworth and Dimmesdale.
The body deteriorates in both Dimmesdale and Chillingworth because of the secrets and lies that each character holds. One way Dimmesdale’s body deteriorates is when he starts his acts of penance. “He fasts and keeps vigils, night after night” (Hawthorne 135). Dimmesdale refuses to eat or sleep as an act of penance for his wrongdoings with Hester. Dimmesdale thinks his penance will purify his soul but he never feels better about what he has done. Dimmesdale’s body also deteriorates when he becomes sick. “Mr. Dimmesdale’s health was beginning to fail. He began to look pail and ghostly” (Hawthorne 107). Because Dimmesdale refused to eat or sleep, he began to look and feel sick and was ordered to stay with Chillingworth so that the doctor could help with his health. His death is the ultimate deterioration of Dimmesdale. After Dimmesdale’s confession of his sins to the townspeople he said farewell, “That final word came forth with the minister’s expiring breath” (Hawthorne 234). It was to late for any confession from Dimmesdale, for he was already dying from the horrible condition he put upon himself from guilt of his wrongdoings with Hester. Chillingworth is also a perfect example for the deterioration of the body because of the way he ages and also because of the nickname he gets from Pearl. Chillingworth’s deterioration of his body begins when he ages and looks old. After seeking revenge on both Hester and the unknown lover,...
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