Essay, Research Paper
In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne the reader gains insight into the background and personalities of the characters through Roger Chillingworth and Arthur Dimmesdale. These two characters show us the evil in the novel, the unfolding sin, and add a special romance to the novel
Arthur Dimmesdale is the preacher in the Puritan settlement. He becomes involved with Hester Pyrnne, the wife of Roger Chillingworth. Pearl, Hester s daughter comes to her from Reverend Dimmesdale. Hester is forced to stand on the scaffold in front of the community to confess whom she committed adultery with. However, Hester does not divulge any information. Therefore, her husband changes his name and the issue remains at ease for 7 years until her husband observes the condition of Arthur Dimmesdale. Arthur is described as having a white, lofty, and impending brow (Hawthorne 46), which suggests that he knows what is right and he has large, brown, melancholy eyes (46) that are the window to his soul. His eyes allow Roger Chillingworth to see through him later in the novel. Arthur keeps his great sin inside of him for 7 long years and Hester is forced to wear the letter A as a symbol of adultery. Throughout the 7 years Arthur has been suffering continually, and he always keeps his hand over his heart as a symbol of his love towards Hester and Pearl. Dimmesdale knows intellectually what the moral thing is to do, and he even tries good works, but the darkness in his soul supercedes the goodness in his head.
Roger Chillingworth, shunning his wife for the crime she committed becomes a respected individual and a physician to Arthur Dimmesdale, whose health is failing. During the treatment Chillingworth sees some wound or trouble in Dimmesdale s soul that is contributing to his declining health. One morning Chillingworth pushes aside Dimmesdale s shirt and reads the secret upon his heart. Had a man seen old Roger Chillingworth, at that moment of his ectasty, he would have no need to ask how Satan comforts himself, when a precious human soul is lost to heaven, and won into his kingdom (95). This is the climax point, where these two men become enemies and the secret unfolds. Chillingworth is described as a leech, because he is sucking the life out of Dimmesdale. He dug into the poor clergyman s heart, like a miner searching for gold; or, rather, like a sexton delving a grave, possibly in quest of a jewel that had been buried on the dead man s bosom, but likely to find nothing save morality and corruption (88). Chillingworth remains quiet about what he has found out. He sees Pearl, Hester, and Dimmesdale together at the scaffold where Hester made her statement at the beginning of the book. Dimmesdale express much hate towards Chillingworth for all of the tormenting. Hester tries to go talk to her husband to stop the tormenting, but Chillingworth refuses to stop. The truth must unfold. Election Day comes and Dimmesdale must make a speech. He can no longer keep the sin inside of him. He comes before the community on the scaffold and confesses his sin. But there stood one in the midst of you, at whose brand of sin and infamy ye have not shuddered (174). At this point Dimmesdale reveals the scarlet letter on his chest. The grave minister dies on the scaffold, reminding Hester that he may not see her in heaven, due to the gravity of their sin.
Though most typical readers refer to The Scarlet Letter as a novel, it is written to be a romance. The definition of a romantic novel is one that deals with internal truths, or truths of the human heart. It is almost impossible to not accept the feelings that the human heart casts upon a human. As for Arthur Dimmesdale, the sickness of his heart led to the deterioration of his health. Though Dimmesdale commits a great sin with Hester, Chillingworth also commits a great sin. He exploits the heart of Dimmesdale, and shows no compassion or understanding to his feelings. The romance allows a relationship between humans and nature. The A shaped meteor which appears the night Governor Winthrop dies and Dimmesdale stands on the scaffold is a sign from heaven denouncing Dimmesdale as an adulterer and also stand for Angel as the soul of a magistrate that ascends into heaven. Also, the babbling brook in the forest scene sympathizes with Hester and Dimmesdale and adds another tale of mystery.
The truths of the human heart are inevitable. Through characterization of Arthur Dimmesdale and Roger Chillingworth we see the sin of 7 years, the evil, and the romance. They portray the effects of sin on human life and the strength of love. Love can cause sin, evil, and in this romance, death.