The Scarlet Letter Sin Debate
In Nathanial Hawthorne’s famous standard of American literature, The Scarlett Letter, Hawthorne examines individual cases of sin occurring within society known for its intolerance of sin and strict religious principles, the Puritans. In The Scarlet Letter , each of the main characters, whether protagonist or antagonist, are guilty of a sin or form of “evil”. However, one character stands out from the rest. This character is guilty of the worst form of malice and evil in the entire book. His name is Roger Chillingworth. By reviewing his sinful actions, motivations and personality, as well as the different symbols Hawthorne creates to represent him, the true extent of Chillingworth's evil becomes apparent. Even though all four characters are considered to be guilty of sin Chillingworth’s actions are different. Dimmesdale and Hester are guilty of adultery and Pearl is considered evil because she was born from an impure relationship. Chillingworth’s sin is his continuous and intentional torture of Dimmesdale “ the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, was haunted either by satan himself, or satan’s emissary, in the guise of old Roger Chillingworth.”(page86). His sin is more maleficent than the others for a variety of reasons. His sin is on going and persistent as opposed to a single action. Hawthorne gives credit to this particular style of sin by nicknaming Chillingworth, “the Leech”. This name states that, like a leech, Chillingworth will stick to Dimmesdale, slowly and subtly sucking the life from him by pressuring for a confession. Like a leech, Chillingworth is dependent on Dimmesdale’s suffering “Necessity seized the old man within its gripe, and never set him free again, until he had done all its bidding” (page86). A leech feeds on the blood of the host as Chillingworth feeds on the pain and suffering of Dimmesdale. This approach to “evil” clearly hints at the nature of Chillingsworth’s personality. Evil cannot merely be measured by...
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