Evil In The Scarlet Letter

This essay has a total of 1103 words and 4 pages.

Evil in the Scarlet Letter


One belief that people live by is that evil is the nature of mankind, yet there are others that feel man has good intentions but those intentions can be overrun by the devil. Nathaniel Hawthorne points out that the former is true of all people in the novel The Scarlet Letter. In this novel, there are three main characters who commit evil and sinful acts, but each act is at a different degree of sinfulness (i.e. the sins get worse as the story goes a-long). These three sinners, in the eyes of the Puritan community, are the beautiful Hester Prynne, the esteemed Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, and the cold-hearted doctor, Roger Chillingworth. Like Hawthorne, I believe that evil is the nature of man but that there are different magnitudes of evil; some choose to fight it, like Hester, and some choose to give in, like Chillingworth. Hester Prynne, a strong willed and brave woman, in respect to the two additional people, has committed the least amount of sin in the novel. In the eyes of the Puritan community, though, she has committed one of the worst possible sins that can be imagined: adultery. They feel she is horrendously corrupt, yet it is not truly her fault. Hester is the victim of her husband, Roger Chillingworth's (formerly Roger Prynne) stupidity by sending her to New England by herself, while he remained in Europe. Chillingworth even admitted that it was his fault when he voiced, "It was my folly! I have said it. But, up to that epoch of my life, I have lived in vain."(Ch.4, p. 68) Hester is also a victim of fate. She has no way of knowing if Chillingworth is dead or alive when the Indians capture him after he arrived in North America. She still goes against the strict Puritan rules, and breaks Commandment 7, which was often punished by death. Arthur Dimmesdale is a strong pillar of the community and a very devoted Puritan. What could he do that is worse than young Hester Prynne's appalling act of adultery? Well he goes a little further into the same sin. First of all, he commits adultery with the abandoned Hester. Then instead of admitting his sin to the public, he keeps his dark secret in his heart, knowing it will eat at him for the rest of his life until he reveals it. The only thing worse in the Puritans' eyes than committing a terrible sin is failing to admit to it. They believed it darkened the soul, and it did; it almost turned Dimmesdale into an evil shell of a man. The Puritans also wanted the sinning people of the congregation to admit their sin, so that they could punish that person, almost as if they were playing God. Dimmesdale did get punished, but it was in private. He first punishes himself by whipping himself. In addition he allows Chillingworth to torment him with comments that make him feel guilty until the point of going crazy. Dimmesdale is also an evil man because he is a man of God, but he cannot find the strength to admit openly that he has had an affair with Hester. His weakness is the reason he is more evil than Hester. Dimmesdale doesn't want to admit that he sinned against God because

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