The Scarlet Letter Theme: Revenge

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Emma Minsinger
Mrs. Shaffer
Honors English
4 October 2012
Obsession for Revenge
Revenge is the defining theme in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. It is the driving force behind the actions of the main antagonist Roger Chillingworth. In the novel his obsession for revenge is seen as an uncontrollable desire that consumes the character. Chillingworth told his wife, Hester Prynne, that he would find the adulterer and have him punished. He wanted Hester’s partner to suffer the same humiliation she had to endure. Chillingworth wanted him to stand on the scaffold for three hours, wearing a letter “A” and become an outcast of the community. He witnessed the suffering of his wife and wanted the same for the man. He also made it clear to his wife that he will not take revenge on her or her newborn child. His revenge and hatred was saved solely for the man that defiled his wife. When Hester refuses to reveal the name of Pearl’s father Chillingworth promises to “destroy that man’s soul.” Roger Chillingworth uses his profession as the town doctor to discover the identity of Hester’s lover. He is called upon to attend the very sick Reverend Dimmesdale. Chillingworth discovers that Dimmesdale’s ailments are a direct result of his inner guilt and correctly deduces that he is the man who impregnated his wife. When Chillingworth makes this discovery something inside of him changes. He evolves from an angry spiteful person into a madman. He becomes obsessed with torturing Dimmesdale. Instead of treating his patient in an attempt to heal him, he inflicts more guilt and suffering. Chillingworth becomes good friends with Dimmesdale and moves into his house so he can remain close and torment him. Chillingworth causes misery by discussing secrets, and their power, which increases the painful guilt he has for his own sin. He makes it his sole purpose to torment Reverend Dimmesdale “Not the less, he shall be mine.” (Hawthorne 78) The physical effects of revenge begin to...
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