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The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a novel about a young Puritan woman guilty of sin. This story goes through the time in which she was tried for sin, how she copes with it, and how her life ended. Hester Prynne was guilty of adultery but she doesn’t feel guilty as she admitted that she had sinned. Although Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale had committed the adultery with her, he feels extremely guilty of it and keeps it secret. Yet the one who bears no guilt of sinning, Rogers Chillingsworth, became guilty of it because he sought revenge by violating Dimmesdale’s heart. These three people who were different in many ways find themselves very alike through sin, guilt, and revenge.

Hester Prynne didn’t feel guilty for committing adultery but she admits she had sinned and seeks to repent unlike Arthur Dimmesdale and the revenge seeker, Rogers Chillingsworth. When Hester was on the scaffold, she was described as follows “…hair that threw off the sunshine with a gleam, by a certain state and dignity and indescribable grace.” [60-61]. But like Dimmesdale and Chillingsworth, after her trial, Hester’s appearance was no longer what it used to be. Hester “sought not to acquire anything beyond subsistence, of the plainest and most ascetic description for herself…” [86]. Hester was also shunned after the trial as “the poor reviled the hand that stretched forth, dames of elevated rank distil drops of bitterness, women through bitter malice” [88] unlike Dimmesdale who the people loved and respected, and Chillingsworth who they needed. Though to be ignored, living to support herself, and without any support; Hester was not the only one suffering alone.

Though Dimmesdale didn’t confess, he always wanted to but his position restricted him and results in his heart constantly in pain. After the trial Dimmesdale’s appearance and health started to fade from what it used to be “the young minister at once came forward, pale, and holding his hand over his heart, as was his custom whenever his peculiar nervous temperament was thrown into agitation. He looked now more careworn and emaciated than as we described him…and whether it were his failing health or whatever the cause might be, his large dark eyes had a world on pain in their troubled and melancholy depth.”(113). Just like Hester who made herself plain, and Chillingsworth who made himself into a devil, Dimmesdale’s no longer held his angelic aura as well because of his guilty conscience. But unlike Hester, Dimmesdale wallowed in guilt of his sin and “In Dimmesdale’s secret closet, under lock and key, there was a bloody scourge.” (141); Dimmesdale sought forgiveness and relief through the old ways of hurting himself. Though Dimmesdale didn’t need to go through such measures as someone else was already by his side always finding opportunity to make his revenge successful.

Chillingsworth was supposed to be the ones readers sympathized with as his wife cheated on him, but he became a subordinate of the Devil and made it his goal to haunt Dimmesdale. Chillingsworth like Hester and Dimmesdale had a change in appearance change into something even Hester was unable to recognize as “a change had come over his features-how much uglier they were-how his dark complexion seemed to have grown duskier, and his figure more misshapen-since the days when she had familiarly known him.” (112). But because he only had revenge in his eyes, it made him clouded and do sinister things. Though he didn’t commit a sin, according to Dimmesdale after knowing Chillingsworth’s intensions said “We are not, Hester, the worst sinners in the world. There is one worse than even the polluted priest! That old man’s revenge had been blacker than my sin. He has violated in cold blood, the sanctity of a human heart.” (185-186). So in a sense, Chillingsworth had committed a sin so he is the same as Hester and Dimmesdale, but was worst because they did not hurt anyone but he had to Dimmesdale. Fortunately near the end, Hester’s scarlet letter began to change into a better meaning, and Dimmesdale was able to confess before his last breath but Chillingsworth was unable to extract his full revenged as Dimmesdale died and Chillingsworth screamed, “’Thou hast escaped me!’”(238). As the minister had died, Chillingsworth no longer had goal and was left wandering through life without meaning and eventually died within the same year.

So as Hester and Dimmesdale had sinned in the beginning, Chillingsworth also sinned along the way to his revenge. But in the end Hester was able to live with her sin and found forgiveness. Dimmesdale was able to finally relief himself of his guilt and confessed in public. But Chillingsworth had gotten nothing out of his revenge except for despair. But at least through sin, guilt, and revenge they were able to cross path and though they had a rough clash, hopefully they all left life with without much negative thought and found peace. So even though Hester, Dimmesdale, and Chillingsworth were pretty different from each other in status and how they dealt with situations, they were essentially walking the same rough path of sin, guilt, and revenge.

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