Essay, Research Paper: Scarlet Letter And Revenge

Literature: Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Revenge is the act of retaliating in order to get even with
someone for the wrongs they have done. In the novel “The Scarlet Letter,”
the author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, uses Roger Chillingworth to reap revenge on
Arthur Dimmesdale for his affair with his wife, Hester Prynne. Chillingworth
becomes so devoted to revenge that is all his life revolves around.
Chillingworth then devotes the rest of his life to taking revenge on Dimmesdale.
As the novel progressed, Chillingworth fits the profile of vengeance destroys
the avenger. When Roger Chillingworth is first introduced to the reader, we see
a kind old man, who just has planted the seeds for revenge. Although he did
speak of getting his revenge, when Hester first met her husband in her jail
cell, she did not see any evil in him. Because Hester would not tell him, who
she had slept with, Chillingworth vowed that he would spend the rest of his life
having his revenge and that he would eventually suck the soul out of the man,
whom she had the affair with. “There is a sympathy that will make me conscious
of him. I shall see him tremble. I shall feel myself shudder, suddenly and
unawares” (Hawthorne, 101) As the novel develops, Roger Chillingworth has
centered himself on Arthur Dimmesdale, but he cannot prove that he is the
“one.” Chillingworth has become friends with Dimmesdale, because he has a
“strange disease,” that needed to be cured; Chillingworth suspects something
and begins to drill Dimmesdale. “… The disorder is a strange one…hath all
the operation of this disorder been fairly laid open to me and recounted to
me” (Hawthorne, 156). As Chillingworth continues to drill Dimmesdale, he
strikes a nerve. “You deal not, I take it, in medicine for the soul! … With
a frantic gesture, he rushed out of the room” (Hawthorne, 157). As
Chillingworth continued to harp on Dimmesdale, he has become the devil, who has
found out that he is the one who had sinned against him. He,(Dimmesdale), is
“a rare case…I must search this matter to the bottom” (Hawthorne, 158).
When Chillingworth overheard Dimmesdale having a bad dream, he entered his
quarters and “laid his hand upon his bosom, and thrust aside the vestment,
that, … had always covered it even from the professional eye” (Hawthorne,
159). What Chillingworth had saw there, no one knows, but we know that he saw
Dimmesdale’s sin on his chest. “… With a wild look of wonder, joy, and
horror … (with) the extravagant gestures with which he threw up his arms
towards the ceiling, and stamped his foot upon the floor” (Hawthorne, 159).
When Chillingworth becomes the Devil, he is doing many strange things.
Chillingworth is keeping himself secluded, and is seen lurking around town in a
creepy manner. Roger secluded himself from everyday life to keep his plot for
revenge focused. His plot is working too, Dimmesdale’s “… soul shivers …
at the sight of the man” (Hawthorne, 240). Chillingworth is also spending a
great deal of time in the “forest trees … searching for roots and twigs, for
his strange medicines” (Hawthorne, 145). The townspeople even see that Roger
Chillingworth is pure evil. When the town first meets Chillingworth, they think
he is a kind old doctor that would not harm a soul. “ At first, his expression
had been meditative, scholar like” (Hawthorne, 149). While Chillingworth was
acting out his revenge plan, the public view of him changed. “Now there was
something ugly and evil in his face, which they had not previously noticed, and
which still grew the more obvious to sight, the oftener they looked upon him.
According to vulgar idea, the fire in his laboratory had been brought from the
lower regions, and was fed with internal fuel; and so, as might be expected, his
visage was getting sooty with the smoke. Hester Prynne, Roger Chillingworth’s
wife, sees that Roger Chillingworth is not the man whom she once knew; he has
now become a fiend. “ … There came a red glare out of his eyes; as the
man’s soul were on fire, and kept smoldering duskily within his breast”
(Hawthorne, 187). “And thee, answered Hester Prynne, for the hatred that has
transformed a wise and just man to a fiend! Wilt thou yet purge it out of thee,
and once more be human” (Hawthorne, 191). In addition, Chillingworth said in
reply, “… I (am) fiend like, who have snatched a fiend’s office from his
hands. It is our fate. Let the black flower blossom as it may! Now go thy ways,
and deal as thou wilt with yonder man” (Hawthorne, 192). Chillingworth’s
plan for revenge is based on Dimmesdale not confessing to his crime. When
Dimmesdale confessed to the crowd on Election Day, Chillingworth pleaded with
him not to tell. “Old Roger Chillingworth knelt down beside him, with a blank,
dull countenance, out of which life seemed to have departed. Thou hast escaped
me…thou hast escaped me! He repeated more than once.” (Hawthorne, 268). Once
Dimmesdale had confessed and died, Chillingworth had nothing to live for. “At
old Roger Chillingworth’s decrease (which took place within the year).”
(Hawthorne, 272). Revenge destroys the avenger, fits the life of Roger
Chillingworth. He devoted his entire life to revenge, and what happiness did he
have to show for it? Had Chillingworth not been so jealous, he maybe might have
had a better life to live.
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