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Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel, The Scarlet Letter, the character Roger Chillingworth is clearly the epitome of sin. In this regard, Chillingworth is more sinful than the other characters in the novel--notably Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale. Hester and Dimmesdale have had a secret, adulterous relationship with one another, and Dimmesdale further sins by trying to conceal his shame and guilt. However, the sins of Chillingworth are far more serious, because, unlike either Hester or Dimmesdale, he is incapable of love and is therefore driven to hate. His hatred causes him to commit the harshest sin of The Scarlet Letter, that of seeking revenge against Dimmesdale. The minister Dimmesdale deeply regrets his sin, even though he is afraid to confess it in public. Hester's sin is less severe in view of the fact that she is a victim of both her society and her obsessive ex-husband Chillingworth.

Chillingworth himself, however, intentionally commits the sin of seeking revenge against his fellow man. In addition, Chillingworth hides his feelings of anger and hatred in order to plot his revenge, thereby committing the further sin of deceit. As noted by the critic Daniel G. Hoffman, "neither the minister, on his way toward repentance, nor Hester, on hers toward stoical resignation and reintegration with society, can avail themselves of such slippery tricks" (349). In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne makes it clear that Chillingworth's sin is worse than either Dimmesdale's or Hester's, because he uses his intellectual abilities to manipulate people toward his own selfish and evil goals. Thus, whereas Dimmesdale and Hester may perhaps eventually be redeemed for their sins in the eyes of God, for Chillingworth, there is "no cessation in prospect since he has broken both the natural ties that bind and the natural barriers that separate men" (Hoffman 349).

Chillingworth can also be considered the epitome of sin in that Hawthorne t...

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Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 18:18, May 24, 2020, from