How Do I Love Thee

… (Comparing Love In The Scarl Essay, Research Paper

How Do I Love Thee… “. . . I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach . . .” (Browning, Sonnets From the Portuguese) For Abigail Williams of Arthur Miller s The Crucible and Roger Chillingworth of Nathaniel Hawthorne s The Scarlet Letter, they love too much and it eventually leads to obsession and seeking vengeance. For couples such as Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale, and Elizabeth and John Proctor, the love between them is pure and true, but due to their situations, that love is never given a chance to fully blossom. Sometimes people mistake passionate feelings for love, such as Abby did with John, or their love for a person clouds their vision and they never see that the one they love does not feel the same way, such as Chillingworth felt with Hester. Because those strong emotions are not reciprocated, an unwavering fixation results ultimately leading to them retaliating out of pain. True love is slower to develop and when it happens, it takes time and a personal tribulation, such as an illicit affair, for them to realize it. The Puritans were a religious group in the early 1600 s who moved to New England to escape persecution in England. They wanted nothing more than to practice the most pure form of Christianity. Where love between a man and a woman was concerned, the Puritans did not have a very complex view on the subject. Most marriages were made out of convenience and the spouses had to learn to adjust to one another; perhaps even grow to love each other one day. Love was not in their control; it was in God s hands. Whatever happened to them, they were predestined to follow the path that God had chosen for them. In fact, predestination was one of the six basic tenets that the Puritans believed in. They did not have any free will because everything in their lives was decided by God, including whom they loved and whom they married. “I know you, John. I know you. I cannot sleep for dreamin ; I cannot dream but I wake and walk about the house as though I d find you comin through some door.” (Miller 23) So says Abigail Williams from The Crucible; a seventeen-year-old girl who is so in love with John Proctor that she goes so far as to accuse innocent people of witchcraft people who are later hanged because of her false accusations. Her extreme dislike of Elizabeth Proctor (John s wife) is so evident that Abby even falsely accuses Elizabeth of witchcraft. Abby is driven to do anything to be with John, even if that means killing Elizabeth. Similarly, Roger Chillingworth of The Scarlet Letter had fallen in love with Hester Prynne and marries her even though the love is completely one-sided. After returning from a long trip at sea, he comes home to discover that Hester has cheated on him with the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale. Chillingworth never does anything as heinous as Abby does for vengeance, but he seeks revenge on Dimmesdale by befriending the young minister and then playing mind games with him. Both Abby and Chillingworth are driven by the need to lash out at the person who, from their point of view, “took” their loved one away from them. Also, Abby and Chillingworth are unable to freely express their feelings for their ones they love. Abby s sinful relationship with John is completely inappropriate in Puritan times, which is most likely why they attempted to hide it. Their relationship is implied as sexual, yet brief because Elizabeth admits that she had a feeling that John “fancied” Abby, and John confesses to lechery in front of Dansforth and his council. Chillingworth s relationship with Hester is rather obsolete by the time he returns from his extended voyage. However, none of the townspeople ever know that Chillingworth is Hester s husband. Because of the Puritanical societies, Abby and Chillingworth are never allowed to freely express what they feel for their loved one, which may have also been the reason as to why they want to seek revenge. ” Do I feel joy again! cried he, wondering at himself. Methought the germ of it was dead in me! O Hester, thou art my better angel! ” (Hawthorne 198) Like Abby and Chillingworth, Reverend Dimmesdale is unable to publicly express his love for Hester; to do so would not only mean humiliation and ostracizing, but losing his career as a minister. However, unlike Abby and Chillingworth, Dimmesdale s love for Hester is returned and they thrive on that forbidden love. Unfortunately, although their love is strong and true, being together in public can never be an option for them since the Puritanical society would never have accepted it. Because of this, their love is never allowed to flourish. Without the acceptance of the society, their love could possibly be looked upon as sinful or evil. As for the Proctors, John only realizes how much he truly needs Elizabeth in his life after they are both arrested and he is sentenced to hang unless he confesses to seeing the Devil, which is a complete lie. In a way, John s affair with Abby only helps to strengthen the bond between him and his wife. Only after what happens with Abby, the affair specifically, is John able to realize how much he loves Elizabeth and cares for her. John sees how compassionate and understanding Elizabeth is when he asks her if he should confess himself to save his life. Ironically, both couples, Hester and Dimmesdale and John and Elizabeth Proctor, would never have been able to realize the potential of their love had it not been for the immoral and adulterous affair that was first committed.

If the Puritans had a simple view of love, it was most likely that love is strong and ever-lasting. Marriages created from love were expected to stay together for a long period of time. In The Crucible, evidence of long-lasting marriages is in the form of Francis and Rebecca Nurse and Giles and Martha Corey. The same could be said for relationships formed from love. In Abby s case, the love is purely one-sided but, because of her love for John, the very notion of an unwavering kind of love in a person may lead her to hope that there may possibly be a future in their relationship. This kind of hope may be what fueled Abby s obsession with revenge. For Chillingworth, the hope of being reunited with Hester was not what fueled his desire for vengeance. He most likely believed in the idea that loving, married couples remained together for a long time, albeit that the love between him and his wife is also mainly one-sided. However, when he returns from his long absence, he finds out the hard way that this is not true. His own marriage did not last for long, mainly because of the fact that Hester does not love him, but loves another instead. Chillingworth s desire for revenge may stem from that. In view of the fact that the relationships that Abby and Chillingworth had did not last for very long, it may prove difficult for them to free themselves of their strong obsessions and their search for retribution. Love was never an important topic of discussion or contemplation among the Puritans. The ministers would only preach about Hell and how the people would be able to save themselves and other such subjects. While the Puritans did consider love to be an important element, it would never be as important as repenting your sins, working hard, and praying. Things have changed greatly during those three centuries. Society today, especially the domestic society, view love as a very important subject matter. It has been made clear that true love takes time and experience but is certainly worth the wait. It is interesting to note how both Hawthorne and Miller chose to kill off two similar characters within their stories. Both Dimmesdale and Proctor are pillars of their respective communities, yet Proctor commits the sin of adultery and Dimmesdale commits the sin of sleeping with a married woman, two very similar immoralities. For John, it is most likely a passion that caused him to have an affair with Abigail, but could the same be said for Dimmesdale? Was Hester a mere passion for him? It seems that Dimmesdale and Hester do experience true love. Unfortunately, in both situations, their lives end much too soon and they are never able to fulfill that love. “. . . and if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death . . .” (Browning, Sonnets From The Portuguese)



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