Books and Movies Reviews

Effects of Sin in Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter was Nathaniel Hawthorne’s greatest literary masterpiece. Because of his Puritan heritage, he is able to tell the story of the effects of an adulterous affair on a small Puritan community like no one else could. Hawthorne clearly used this story to teach several moral lessons. Throughout this book he spends much of his time concentrating on how sin affects the life of his characters. Each of his characters’ lives are shaped by how they confront their sins.
Chillingworth is the embodiment of how sins can shape a person. He committed two major sins. Thefirst occurs before the book even begins when he marries Hester although he knows that she does not return his love. Chillingworth acknowledges that it was wrong for him to marry her and because of this, he is not mad at Hester for her infidelity. He says to Hester in the jail cell, ” 'Mine was thefirst wrong, when I betrayed thy budding youth into this false and unnatural relation'” (69). Chillingworth’s second sin was far more grave than thefirst. For seven long years, Chillingworth relentlessly tried to drive the sanity out of Dimmesdale. He poses as Dimmesdale’s friend and personal doctor and exploits his position by purposely asking questions that make him feel guilty and tortures his conscience. This becomes Chillingworth’s obsession, his one purpose for life and as a result of his evil actions, he slowly transforms into a dark, almost devilish character. This transition bec!
ame apparent to many people in Boston but Dimmesdale thought that Chillingworth was sent by God to torture him because of his sin and did not realize his true intentions.
A large number . . . affirmed that Roger Chillingworth’s aspect had undergone a remarkable change while he had dwelt in town, and especially since his abode with Mr. Dimmesdale. Atfirst, his expression had been calm, meditative, scholar-like. Now, there was something ugly and evil in his face, which they had not p…

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