The Scarlet Letter Sin Debate
In Nathanial Hawthorne’s famous standard of American literature, The Scarlett Letter, Hawthorne examines individual cases of sin occurring within society known for its intolerance of sin and strict religious principles, the Puritans. In The Scarlet Letter , each of the main characters, whether protagonist or antagonist, are guilty of a sin or form of “evil”. However, one character stands out from the rest. This character is guilty of the worst form of malice and evil in the entire book. His name is Roger Chillingworth. By reviewing his sinful actions, motivations and personality, as well as the different symbols Hawthorne creates to represent him, the true extent of Chillingworth's evil becomes apparent.
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He is “cold-hearted” as is the nature of the sin he committed. Physically, Chillingworth is described as being partially disfigured with a hump in his back and twisted mutilated shoulders “A writhing horror twisted itself across his features, like a snake gliding swiftly over them.”(page 45). these attributes related to his twisted personality and the corruption of his mind and soul. A significant symbol in the novel for Chillingworth is that of the devil. The Puritan’s believe that wilderness was evil and it was the place of the devil’s work. When Chillingworth first arrives in the Puritan town, he was studying natural remedies with the Native Americans in the woods. In addition, Pearl, who is highly intuitive, asks Hester at a point in the novel if Chillingworth is the “Black Man”, The “Black Man” referrers directly to the devil. These symbols reinforce that Chillingworth is evil by nature and of evil origins. While other characters are depicted as more human in their failed decision making and motivations, the symbolic representation of Chillingworth is all evil. Even Pearl, by her very name, is characterized as something lovely, pure and even “other worldly”. It was Hawthorne’s intention to have Chillingworth be the representation of evil.
In conclusion the character of Roger Chillingworth is indeed the representation of true evil as defined by his intentionally harmful sin, his sadistic personality, and the