Essays on The Scarlet Letter

Essay About The Scarlet Letter

In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne uses the characters of Hester, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth to relate the different themes. “Adultery” is the primary substance in this story. People in modern society consider it as an inappropriate action and look down on it, but they do not see it as a big deal which was a huge sin in the 17th century. Each of the three main characters holds a different theme based on the event of committing adultery. Hester suffered from the pain of shame, and Dimmesdale suffered from the pain of guilt while Chillingworth devoted his life to revenge on Dimmesdale who stole his wife, Hester.

From the beginning of the story, Hawthorne used Hester Prynne to relate the theme of sin and alienation as a result of it. She was considered as a great sinner through the eyes of people in the Puritan community because she went against the Puritan law by committing adultery. Wearing the scarlet letter A on her chest which is the symbol of sin and shame, she spent the rest of her life. One might think just a small letter on her body would not affect her that much, but it became the main symbol that identify who she is. “She saw that owing to the peculiar effect of this convex mirror, the scarlet letter was represented in exaggerated and gigantic proportions, so as to be greatly the most prominent feature of her appearance.”(7) This shows that people can identify her just by looking at the scarlet letter on her chest rather than seeing her as an individual. Also, Hester went through public embarrassment alone because she wanted to protect his lover, Dimmesdale, from suffering which she had already gone through. Since she was considered as a sinful woman, nobody wanted to talk to her, yet she didn’t battle with them when they were gossiping about her. She was just alienated from the public and lived her life for raising her daughter.

In addition, Hawthorne uses Dimmesdale to represent the theme of guilt and hypocrisy by telling readers that the pain of guilt is far greater than the pain of shame and the pain that he suffered from being a hypocrite is what he made his own. Dimmesdale, a true lover of Hester, had a great reputation as a respected minister in the Puritan community, yet shared a great sin with Hester by being in an inappropriate relationship. However, he was afraid of the consequences of committing the sin with Hester and was too weak to control himself and confess the truth and that personality actually led him to his own downfall. “Happy are you, Hester, that wear the scarlet letter openly upon your bosom! Mine burns in secret!”(17) It shows that Dimmesdale had great envy of Hester’s revelation which reminds readers that Hester is not the only one who suffers from the sin but also Dimmesdale. By going through the courses of three scaffolds, however, he realized that he would hurt more once he tried to hide from the truth.

Finally, Hawthorne uses Chillingworth as the theme of revenge. Chillingworth, Hester’s real husband, is often described as a cold-hearted and devil in The Scarlet Letter. He was an old man who married a woman named Hester who had an affair with the other man. One can say that there is nothing more tragic than finding his wife on the scaffold with another man’s baby in her arms when he came back to his settlement. It’s very heart-rending and he definitely felt a sense of betrayal which made him fall into a desire for revenge. One can understand his feeling, yet the things he had done were too much. For example, he pretended to be a nice physician by caring for Dimmesdale but actually tortured him at the same time by reminding the secret that Dim had hidden so far. At this point, he not only lost his morality as a human being but also abused his position as a skilled man. However, the more he tormented Dims, the more his mind, spirit, and physical health had been weakened. ‘What evil have I done the man?’ asked Roger Chillingworth again. (14) This is what Chillingworth told Hester that he is the reason Dim alive. He was so revengeful that he couldn’t aware of the wrong things he had done by rationalizing.

According to the evidence above, Hawthorne uses three main characters to represent the theme of sin, hypocrisy, and revenge in the scarlet letter. Hawthorne gives readers a chance to think about the impact of visibility and invisibility of sin. Whether the sin is visible or not, both Hester and Dimmesdale suffered from different reasons and the pain of the suffering cannot be compared to each other. Also, he suggests that going on revenge can bring back more suffering on oneself if it goes too much. Even if all those three characters held different roles and themes, they all let readers feel their pain.   

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