Theme Of Evil In The Scarlet Letter

Superior Essays
The Scarlet Letter provides a thought provoking insight into the world of the Puritans back during the 17th century. The novel emphasizes the importance of original sin and the presence of evil in the lives of the Puritans, especially the three main characters. Hester Prynne can be described as a strong-willed, independent woman who is put to shame due to her sinful actions with the town 's minister. Arthur Dimmesdale is the town 's minister who preaches about purity and distinguishing all evil through confession of one 's sins, yet he is unable to follow his own preaching. Roger Chillingworth is a piece from Hester 's past, who comes back into her life, seeking revenge on the one with whom she has mutually sinned. These three characters allow …show more content…
"I charge thee to speak out the name of thy fellow-sinner and fellow-sufferer!" (Hawthorne p.44) He is vastly admired by the townspeople, which makes it extremely difficult for him to confess his horrific sin. He preaches against sin and encourages his people to confess all their sins and evil thoughts, although he fails to do so himself. Through his words and actions, he can be considered as a hypocritical coward, who is too weak to admit the truth to those who look up to him so dearly. "Be not silent from any mistaken pity and tenderness for him; for, believe me, Hester, though he were to step down from a high place, and stand there beside thee, on thy pedestal of shame, yet better were it so, than to hide a guilty heart through life." (Hawthorne p.45) He displays his weakness and failure by indirectly telling Hester to reveal his sin, rather than revealing it himself. "Else, I should long ago have thrown off these garments of mock holiness, and have shown myself to mankind as they will see me at the judgment-seat. Happy are you, Hester, that wear the scarlet letter openly upon your bosom! Mine burns in secret! (Hawthorne p.128) He is, indeed, ashamed of his sin and the fact that it remains in secret, while Hester is strong …show more content…
“Better had he died at once! Never did mortal suffer what this man has suffered. And all, all, in the sight of his worst enemy! He has been conscious of me. He has felt an influence dwelling always upon him like a curse." (Hawthorne p.113) Chillingworth understands how much pain he has caused the minister, yet he feels that he is justified in his actions. He felt that it would have been too easy to simply kill the minister, so he arranged to torture him through guilty thoughts and making sure that he never forgot his transgression. “And what am I now?” demanded he, looking into her face, and permitting the whole evil within him to be written on his features. “I have already told thee what I am! A fiend! Who made me so?” (Hawthorne p.114) He blames both Hester and Dimmesdale for what he has become, but Hester 's punishment is the Scarlet Letter, whereas Dimmesdale must pay for his sins through constant suffering. Dimmesdale, in Chillingworth 's eyes, has wronged him in several ways, including the violation from his affair with Hester, and turning Chillingworth, himself, into a demon. His intentions are later more evident as he plots and schemes for Dimmesdale 's suffering. Chillingworth does not want Dimmesdale to simply feel ashamed but to become more sinful and hypocritical as proof of his deserved damnation. His secret intentions reveals that he is the

Related Documents

  • Improved Essays

    People viewed the A as “ inflicting a hideous torture on himself.” (228). This makes sense because he has been known to hold his heart with a sign of pain. Hester can even see the inner conflicting morals of Dimmesdale and how they are mentally tearing him down. She starts to realize that the punishment of guilt may be worse than keeping his secret after all. Seeing him this way she couldn’t help but to think “whether there had not originally been a defect of truth, courage, and loyalty, on her own part, in allowing the minister to be thrown into a position where so much evil was to be forboded, and nothing auspicious to be hoped.”(145).…

    • 1374 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    With Chillingworth, Hawthorne depicts him as an evil, wicked, malignant being which shows the audience how negative the Puritan society can be and shows how much revenge/sin can reshape a man’s life. Finally with Pearl; Hawthorne depicts her as an innocent, dramatic, neutral character who develops over the book in order to represent the concept of growth and transformation with people as a whole. You are trapped in an overwhelming unpoppable bubble surrounded by others who point, poke and mock you for past mistakes. In The Scarlet Letter everyone is viewed by the spiteful acts they commit and I Hawthorne intended to do this because it connects to the real world. We live in judgmental filled world, with men and women who love to make fun of others who seem to not be like themselves.…

    • 1146 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Montresor believe that he has been wronged to the point of no return, and as a result, vows revenge on Fortunato. Throughout the story, Montresor is painted as having very minimal emotions in enacting his revenge; however, I would argue that Montresor actually exemplifies a myriad of emotions that drive his lust…

    • 1249 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    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.…

    • 826 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    By remaining hidden, he could get revenge by burdening Dimmesdale with guilt, while never being stopped, which in turn, corrupted his own heart. Chillingworth looked for revenge, and was never completely content with his results, attempting to break Dimmesdale even more. Once Dimmesdale confesses, and there is no more revenge left for Chillingworth to seek, he shouts “Thou hast escaped me!” twice, and dies. It shows that seeking revenge instead of forgiving is more evil than any “sin of passion”, for it led to his ultimate demise, as well as the destruction…

    • 1436 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Great Essays

    Sin In The Scarlet Letter

    • 1848 Words
    • 8 Pages

    He quickly finds himself becoming corrupt over the idea of having his revenge on Hester and Dimmesdale for committing adultery. This idea of revenge soon becomes the concept of pure torture causing him to drive Dimmesdale to the point of insanity and in the process causing him to become insane. The beginning of chapter eleven is a perfect example of this philosophical torture that is put on Dimmesdale at the point in which the narrator statesnovel reads, “The intellect of Roger Chillingworth had now a sufficiently plain path before it. It was not, indeed, precisely that which he had laid out for himself to tread. Calm, gentle, passionless, as he appeared, there was yet, we fear, a quiet depth of malice, hitherto latent, but active now, in this unfortunate old man, which led him to imagine a more intimate revenge than any mortal had ever wreaked upon an enemy.”.…

    • 1848 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Great Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Chillingworth’s thoughts of revenge and evilness turns him into a representation of his thoughts. By comparing him to the devil, Hawthorne reveals Chillingworth’s deterioration as a human being while he hurts Dimmesdale, confirming that he cannot escape the consequences of his own sin. Chillingworth may be punishing Dimmesdale for sin of adultery, but at the same time, he is punishing himself by…

    • 1070 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Scarlet Letter Sin

    • 1134 Words
    • 5 Pages

    Sin is presented as a recurring theme throughout the novel, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The plot focuses on the protagonists Hester Prynne and Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale’s sin of adultery within the Puritan community of Boston. This outrageous wrongdoing deeply upsets the Puritans. To serve her punishment, the community forces Hester to wear a “letter A” on her chest wherever she goes. Dimmesdale faces less of a public punishment but internally harms himself for the sin as well, feeling regretful about his past action.…

    • 1134 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    God knows; and He is merciful!” (383). By publicly confessing, Dimmesdale is relieving himself from his pain, and finding forgiveness. He has found forgiveness in this narrow-minded, sin punishing society, and thus showing the puritans that there is no need to be react like this toward sin. Lying and upholding the facade of the Puritan society is a sin, unlike Hester who has told the truth all along. Hester is not afraid of the Scarlet Letter, and knows that by covering it, she is hiding a portion of her life, thereby lying.…

    • 1110 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    While Hester could openly admit to the sin she has committed and deal with her punishment, Dimmesdale had to put on a face and uphold his religious position in society. Out of all the characters in the novel dealing with sin had the greatest toll on Dimmesdale, causing him to go insane and physically ill. Because of this the Hawthorne portrays Dimmesdale as one of the most conflicted characters in the book. Dimmesdale cowardice and selfishness certainly influence the reader’s perspective on him, especially when he could come forth about his sin in other situations. “Believe me, Hester, though he were to step down from a high place, and stand there beside thee, on thy pedestal of shame, yet better were it so, than to hide a guilty heart through life." (65) In this scene, Dimmesdale has an opportunity to finally admit to his sin, but instead he encourages Hester to do the admitting for him.…

    • 1061 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays