Spitefulness, Sin, and Self-reproach Essay

Submitted By admcclain
Words: 1276
Pages: 6

Spitefulness, Sin, and Self-reproach
“… Your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;… though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;…” (Isaiah 1:15-18 King James Version). Throughout his novel, The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne uses multiple symbols to stand for the beliefs of the Puritans and their way of life. Hawthorne uses Roger Chillingworth to symbolize the degradation caused by revenge, Arthur Dimmesdale to symbolize fatal hidden sins, and Hester Prynne to symbolize the greatness of repentance. Chillingworth’s goal for getting revenge on Hester and Dimmesdale symbolizes the way revenge causes a person’s morals to shift, Dimmesdale’s failing health symbolizes the destruction to his personal well being due to hidden sin, and Hester’s acts of kindness and charity symbolize the deep relief found when exposing sinful actions.
The bitter feelings that accompany revenge cause Chillingworth to shift from being kind and thoughtful to corrupt and hateful. When the reader first encounters Chillingworth his broken heart forces him to apologize to Hester for betraying her “budding youth into a false and unnatural relation with [his] decay” (Hawthorne 79). Chillingworth devotes himself entirely to Hester and loves her with all his heart. When faced with the fact that Hester committed adultery with someone in his absence his grief was overwhelming. Chillingworth makes it his goal to find Hester’s lover and reveal the secret to the public eye for all to see. The process of Chillingworth’s corrupting state of mind “was a striking evidence” towards human’s aptitude of “transforming [themselves] into a devil” as long as they are willing to spend time in “a devil’s office” (Hawthorne 163). Seeking revenge caused Chillingworth to sway from his compassionate and selfless status into a new one of ruthlessness and animosity. After suffering form a wrongdoing, revenge is an unconscious place that human behavior automatically rushes to. Chillingworth’s aversion to Dimmesdale, Hester’s lover, made his actions towards Dimmesdale more lethal than they would be to any other person. Anger and hate caused Chillingworth to morally decay and stop seeing anything great in the people around him. After Dimmesdale’s quick and unexpected death, Chillingworth lost “all his strength and energy” which seemed to “[wither] up, [shrivel] away, and almost [vanish] from sight” (Hawthorne 242). The dramatic shift in Chillingworth’s morals had caused him to acquire needed strength from the pain he caused to Dimmesdale. Revenge deteriorates the mind and body, creating a black hole that once entered cannot be escaped. When his life support was extinguished Chillingworth realized the unnatural way he had been living his life. In a last attempt to atone for his wrongdoings he leaves Pearl, Hester’s daughter, all his earthly possessions. Over time the unnatural buildup of vicious feelings caused Chillingworth to change his entire identity.
Dimmesdale’s habit of clutching his hand to his chest directly over his heart displays the physical pain he feels over his transgression. When Hester refuses to reveal Dimmesdale, her lover, while she is upon the scaffold, Dimmesdale “drew back with a long respiration” standing “with his hand upon his heart” (Hawthorne 74). Even in the beginning before Dimmesdale reveals his true identity, the reader is shown the gesture that marks Dimmesdale as the hidden sinner. When he clutches his chest, he grabs the area where scarlet letter is embroidered on Hester’s chest implying a deeper meaning to the gesture. The reader is shown Dimmesdale’s cowardliness when he stands on the scaffold and reveals his true identity to open air in the cover of the night, a time when he is unlikely to be scrutinized. Human cowardliness is the cause for so many ‘Dimmesdale’ characters in the world; fear stops humans from embracing punishment for their…