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The Worst Sinner in The Scarlet Letter In The Scarlet Letter there are three main sinners presented to the reader. Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale and Roger Chillingworth are all written with their own forms of sin, and each has a unique coping mechanism for their sins and guilt. Sin, at this time, was a hugely important part of daily life, and punishment for one’s sins was universally seen as not only a positive thing, but a necessary action to keep the people of the colony pure. Both Hester and Dimmesdale receive great punishments for their sin of adultry.
However, one character is portrayed as a true sinner, more so than the others. Roger Chillingworth is by far the worst sinner in The Scarlet Letter. This is made apparent by his many attempts to harm Dimmesdale mentally and spiritually, and more importantly his complete lack of remorse for his actions. It is this absence of guilt for his sin that shows that he is a sinner much worse than any other character in the book. Roger Chillingworth is Hester Prynne’s husband in the novel, though this is kept secret from the townspeople through the end of the book.
He, upon arriving and seeing his wife upon the scaffold, vows to take revenge on the man whom Hester committed her sin. Though he chooses to leave Hester to suffer the punishment given to her, his hatred towards her is never hidden. Chillingworth attaches himself to Dimmesdale upon seeing his grief, in hopes of discovering who the father of Hester’s child is. And once realizing it is Dimmesdale, Chillingworth proceeds to continually torment Dimmesdale as his personal revenge and punishment, to the point of making Dimmesdale ill even further beyond his original grief-stricken depleted health.
He does this with no regret or compassion towards the man he torments, nor any recognition for his actions as sinful. As the novel progresses, he takes on an almost evil nature, having no feelings whatsoever save for those of loathing towards Hester and Dimmesdale. Guilt is the thing left completely absent from Roger Chillingworth’s character, and it is this lack that defines him. (“Summary”) Biblically, guilt is defined in several ways. The Hebrew word asam is used biblically, and means both “guilt” and “guilt offering. The Bible says that asam is a part of debt unto one’s neighbor, which can be physical debt or, frequently, sins against others. This asam is a necessary part of sin, and in its absence is sin in itself. This is one of the largest pieces of evidence of Chillingworth’s sin, as he feels no guilt, nor gives any guilt offering unto those whom he has sinned against. Asam is a guilt which we must make amends for, which in Chillingworth’s case, no attempt to do so was made. “The legislation in Leviticus 5:14-6:7 and Numbers 5:5-10 makes this special quality of asam clear.
When someone incurs “guilt” toward a neighbor, full restitution must be made, plus an extra fifth. And then, in addition, a “guilt offering” must be made to the Lord, because when we sin against others and incur “indebtedness” to them, we violate the order that God prescribes for his world and his people, and have thus incurred a debt toward him also. ” (Motyer) Chillingworth’s sin is also worse than the others’ due simply to the nature of his sins. Adultery is a sin of passion, a lustful passion.
Though adultry is one of the biblical Ten Commandments (Bible), in the case of The Scarlet Letter it is a crime committed in a moment, and regretted thereafter by the two involved. Both Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale pay penance for their sin, in each their own form, from the day that it happens. Hester is pained with guilt for months, and once her child is visible she is imprisoned, and later forced to become a symbol of sin to the entire community for years to come, publicly putting her shame on display.
Dimmesdale is plagued by the same guilt as Hester, but because he is not discovered publicly is tormented spiritually and mentally. He begins to physically punish himself, and his regret and guilt weigh so heavily that they make his physically ill for years. Roger Chillingworth’s sin, however, was not in an instant. His was calculated, drawn out, and committed with malice towards both Dimmesdale and Hester for years on end.
He tormented Dimmesdale psychologically for years, and drained what little life Dimmesdale had in him out slowly and intentionally. He felt no guilt for these sins, nor was he ever punished for them in life. “Certainly, if the meteor kindled up the sky, and disclosed the earth, with an awfulness that admonished Hester Prynne and the clergyman of the day of judgment, then might Roger Chillingworth have passed with them for the arch-fiend, standing there, with a smile and scowl, to claim his own.
So vivid was the expression, or so intense the minister’s perception of it, that it seemed still to remain painted on the darkness, after the meteor had vanished, with an effect as if the street and all things else were at once annihilated” (Hawthorne. Chapter 12. ) This passage shows the reader the malevolent nature that Chillingworth begins to take on in the novel, seeming almost inhuman in his unwavering hatred for Dimmesdale, and the torture he inflicts upon him. Once again his lack of remorse is expressed plainly for the reader.
The themes of sin and revenge in The Scarlet Letter are made prominent and clear, as Hawthorne tends to express every theme in the novel. The two are closely tied together in the case of Roger Chillingworth. In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne shows that at the time of the novel, sin was an extremely important role in everyday life, especially in a Puritan society such as the one in the novel. Sin is something that everyone believes must be punished, in this life if at all possible, as well as in the next.
In the case of old Roger Chillingworth, his sin was not punished in his worldly life, which leads us to believe that divine retribution in the next will be even greater for him than the book’s other sinners. The Black man is used in this book to mean the devil, and it is made clear that doing the bidding of the Black Man, or essentially doing things against God’s bidding, puts a mark on one’s soul that carries into the next life. (“Sin”) Here is where the concept ties into revenge.
This implied mark on the soul is expressed in the theme of revenge in the book. Roger Chillingworth, in his pursuit of revenge on Arthur Dimmesdale, receives a mark on his soul which twists him into a force of evil- a more serious effect than the sins of any other character in the book. Hawthorne expresses here both his own views, as well as the popular view of the time, that a sin committed out of the type of hatred which Chillingworth exhibits, is a tool of the devil, and in itself causes a change in humans into something more sinister.
It is this sentiment which is so clearly shown in Chillingworth’s increasingly hideous appearance, and the dehumanization of his character into an instrument solely of spiteful revenge. (“Revenge”) Throughout The Scarlet Letter, it is made abundantly clear what view the reader is intended to take of Roger Chillingworth. Consumed by his sin, he is permanently altered into an evil spirit for the acts of vengeance he has pursued. This condemnation Hawthorne describes expresses without a doubt to the reader that Chillingworth’s sin is far worse than that of the remorseful and solemn Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale.
Who, though sinned greatly and were punished, were in the end favored in the eyes of the Puritan community and quite possibly in the eyes of God as people who knew and repented their sins, and were therefore forgiven. It is clear that Roger Chillingworth is the only character deeply changed enough for the worse to be considered a sinner of any damning proportion, and is made out to be the worst sinner of any character in The Scarlet Letter. Work Cited: Nathaniel Hawthorne. , and DeMaiolo, James F.
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The Scarlet Letter. New York: Applause, 1996. Print. Motyer, Stephen. “Guilt. ” BibleStudyTools. com. Salem Communications Corporations, 1997. Web. 19 Nov. 2012. “The Scarlet Letter Theme of Sin. ” Shmoop. Shmoop University, Inc. , 2012. Web. 19 Nov. “The Scarlet Letter Theme of Revenge. ” Shmoop. Shmoop University, Inc. , 2012. Web. 19 Nov. “The Scarlet Letter Summary. ” Shmoop. Shmoop University, Inc. , 2012. Web. 19 Nov. 2012. The Holy Bible. 2nd ed. New York: American Bible Society, 1992. Print.
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The Worst Sinner in the Scarlet Letter
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Scarlet Letter, Chillingworth A Man Of Evil
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Chillingworth: a Man of Evil
In the novel the Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne’s character Roger Chillingworth is supposed to represent the evil in the story. Hawthorne shows Chillingworth to be evil by several means. The physical description of Chillingworth shows him as an evil character. Statements are also made by Hawthorne referring to the inner content of Chillingworth that would lead the reader to feelings of his evilness. Another good way Hawthorne expresses that Chillingworth is evil is his name. There are many methods Hawthorne uses to demonstrate the evil qualities of Chillingworth.
When Chillingworth first enters the novel he is seen in a crowd. Hester notices him because he stands out. Chillingworth is dressed all in black. Black is a color often used to represent evil, other famous characters that demonstrate this are Captain Ahab and Darth Vader. Chillingworth is also said to have a hump on the left side of his back. The left or “sinister” side is used to represent evil. Chillingworth is also gnarled and ugly. Hawthorne writes characters to appear on the outside the way he wants the reader to see them on the inside. Chillingworth appears to be an ugly person on the outside therefore he must be one on the inside. Chillingworth is shown as a dark, evil, ugly character.
The first thin one usually notices about the man in question is his eyes. These eyes have the power to read deep into a human soul. He can see whatever hangs heavy on the heart of the person and bring it to light; for example Chillingworth could use this to bring out a person’s sins. Hawthorne sees this act to be the greatest sin of all, making Chillingworth evil.
Chillingworth is a name that has a strong connotation of evil. The word chill has meanings similar to that of the word cold. Having the suffix worth makes his name mean of cold value. Cold is usually associated with evil. This can be seen in expressions like cold hearted. Chillingworth is a human being of cold value therefore he is a man of evil.
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Chillingworth Scarlet Letter Good Way Evil Character Roger Chillingworth Human Soul Captain Ahab Evilness Inside
Chillingworth is also the supreme intellect in the novel. When intellect is not kept in check by the three other components of a human being, spirit, emotion, and physical body, it becomes evil. Chillingworth lacks the other components henceforth he is evil.
Through the way Chillingworth is described, named, and discussed he is shown as an evil character. This is Hawthorne’s intention and succeeds well in his goal. He comes across as being evil and is continually shown in the novel as such.