Cruelty In The Scarlet Letter

826 Words 4 Pages
Arjun Srivatsa

Chad Hayden

12 October 2015

The Scarlet Letter Essay (2015 FRQ 3)

The Scarlet Letter is a novel centered on contrasts. Contrasts between outward reputation and inner guilt, puritanical law and true sin, and intentions and actions, create a dynamic of hypocrisy, a hypocrisy that infects and slowly debilitates all those involved. Specifically, acts of cruelty are used as vehicles through which Hawthorne delivers his indictment of duplicity and hypocrisy. In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne uses Chillingworth’s acts of cruelty towards Dimmesdale to reveal the moral decay of Chillingworth and the cowardice of a guilt-ridden Reverend Dimmesdale; all in all, Hawthorne’s usage of cruelty serves to demonstrate the deleterious effects
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Chillingworth’s cruel actions had a duplicitous purpose and thus end up perverting his character to a wicked temperament. Chillingworth is able to defend his association with the minister, “What evil have I done the man? ... That he now breathes and creeps about on earth, is owing all to me”(Hawthorne 160). While Chillingworth’s medical aid may have saved Dimmesdale’s life, his aid came at a great price. Dimmesdale is slowly corroded by the probing remarks of Roger Chillingworth. Hence, Chillingworth’s hypocritical and cruel actions are harmful in two ways. Firstly, these actions prolong the suffering of the minister rather than provide him quick relief. Secondly, Roger’s actions further allow him to manipulate Dimmesdale and fuel his sadistic personality. In short, the actions intended to provide a positive effect end up fueling a negative character change. Hawthorne continues to censure hypocrisy as shown by Dimmesdale’s reaction towards the cruelty and malice Chillingworth delivers. “While thus suffering under bodily disease, and gnawed and tortured by some black trouble of the soul… Dimmesdale had achieved great popularity in his sacred office” (Hawthorne 131). The character of Dimmesdale is a living hypocrisy. Considered a holy man by the majority of the town, Dimmesdale is rather in fact a sinner. Even with Chillingworth’s …show more content…
Hester Prynne represents the true victory over hypocrisy, as she faces the punishment for her sin and comes out stronger for it. As the ancient proverb goes, “Better be known as sinner than a

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