The Price of Revenge in the Scarlet Letter

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Nineteenth century writer Nathaniel Hawthorne is considered to be one of the greatest

authors of American literature. His writings continue to be integral parts of the literary

curriculum of today. A major theme of Hawthorne's writings is pride and it's consequence. He

viewed pride as real evil. In The Scarlet Letter, Roger Chillingworth is the embodiment of this

fatal flaw.

Throughout the tale, Chillingworth is described as the leech. This is interesting, because

at one time leeches were thought to be a medical necessity in the treatment of mysterious

ailments. Like a leech, Chillingworth was seen as a medical marvel. He was looked to as a

learned man. "As his studies, at a previous period of his life, had made him extensively

acquainted with the medical science of the day, it was as a physician that he presented

himself . . . "(104). However, Chillingworth attached himself the young minister Dimmesdale

with the purpose of sucking the life out of him. "Your clutch is on his life, and you cause him to

die daily a living death."(149).

Chillingworth's revenge had negative implications, both physical and mental, on his life as

well. He "was a striking evidence of a man's faculty of transforming himself into a devil, if he

will only, for a reasonable space of time, undertake a devil's office." (148). The life of the

physician was entirely devoted and consumed with the destruction of his wife's paramour. He

"had made the very principle of his life to consist in the pursuit and systematic exercise of

revenge." (225). This obsession proved to be Chillingworth's downfall. He did not trust God to

provide retribution for Dimmesdale's infidelity with Hester; he became determined to punish the

minister, himself. His actions imply that he believed that he was wiser and more capable than

God, to punish the offenders of God's law. This foolish pride can, in some form, be seen in...
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