Essay Death and Decay: the Dangers of Obsession

Submitted By nol403780
Words: 870
Pages: 4

By developing the increasingly obsessive relationship between Chillingworth and Dimmesdale in his novel “The Scarlet Letter” Nathaniel Hawthorne uses similes and metaphors to emphasize the demonic qualities that eventually subjugate both men. These analogies underscore how this obsession has destroyed the physical and spiritual states of both men, thus revealing how humans have a tendency to allow the wounds of an insignificant conflict to linger and fester into a dangerous obsession that will ultimately destroy them. Hawthorne establishes the vengeful, obsessive nature of Chillingworth in the beginning of the novel, using analogies that foreshadow how his quest may evolve into more of an infatuation than a simple plot of revenge. When Chillingworth visits Hester in jail, he reveals his intentions to seek the lover of Hester as he has “sought truth in books” and “sought gold in alchemy” (52). This shows very early in the book that Chillingworth’s search for the truth may take over his life. The extent he is willing to seek revenge becomes evident when Hester asks Chillingworth if he is like the Black Man that haunts the forest surrounding them and if he intends on ruining her soul; Chillingworth replies “Not thy soul…No, not thine!”(53). This indicates that Chillingworth has a demonic quality growing inside of him and that he is intent on torturing the soul of the lover of Hester who is eventually discovered to be Mr. Dimmesdale. Hawthorne describes the relationship between Chillingworth and Dimmesdale as being “For the sake of the minister’s health, and to enable the leech to gather plants with healing balm in them” (84). This passage uses a metaphor to expose the increasing obsession Chillingworth has with Dimmesdale. By calling Chillingworth a leech, while at the same time saying that he is attempting to heal Dimmesdale, Hawthorne reveals that Chillingworth is only attempting to heal him, so that he can enjoy the suffering of Dimmesdale for a longer time. Chillingworth’s obsession has caused him to lose sight of his original goal of revenge, and to now attempt to relive that revenge repeatedly. Hawthorne continues to develop the decay and destruction caused by the intense obsession between Dimmesdale and Chillingworth, highlighting the physical decay of both “The Leech and his Patient”(88). Hawthorne first notes the physical decay of Chillingworth by reminding the reader of his former expression which, “had been calm, meditative, scholar-like” and then describing his face as “ugly and evil”(87). Hawthorne then continues to explain that, “his [Chillingworth] visage was getting sooty with the smoke…[because] the fire in his laboratory had been brought from the lower regions, and was fed with infernal fuel”(87). This shows how Chillingworth is being destroyed from the inside out and the destruction of his spirit has already occurred, but it is only at this point that the evil inside him “grew more obvious to the sight, the oftener they looked upon him”(87). Chillingworth’s “remarkable change” occurred as a result of “his abode with Mr. Dimmesdale”(87). Although the physical changes in Chillingworth are remarkable, they hardly compare to the complete physical transformation of Dimmesdale from a godly saint who has a “freshness, and fragrance, and dewy purity of thought…which affected them like the speech of an angel”(46), into a weak, pain-stricken old man who can barely walk. Dimmesdale’s demise is expressed by Hawthorne when he suggests “his dawning light would be extinguished”(82). This indicates the decay has taken take