Guilt and Shame in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

1098 Words Jun 21st, 2018 5 Pages
Guilt and shame haunt all three of the main characters in The Scarlet Letter, but how they each handle their sin will change their lives forever. Hester Prynne’s guilt is publicly exploited. She has to live with her shame for the rest of her life by wearing a scarlet letter on the breast of her gown. Arthur Dimmesdale, on the other hand, is just as guilty of adultery as Hester, but he allows his guilt to remain a secret. Instead of telling the people of his vile sin, the Reverend allows it to eat away at his rotting soul. The shame of what he has done slowly kills him. The last sinner in this guilty trio is Rodger Chillingworth. This evil man not only hides his true identity as Hester’s husband, but also mentally torments …show more content…
However, Hester and Arthur are not the only people in The Scarlet Letter guilty of a wicked sin.
Roger Chillingworth is a vile man who hides his disgrace of having a disloyal wife and finds pleasure in tormenting the poor Arthur Dimmesdale. When he comes to town at the beginning of The Scarlet Letter, Chillingworth makes Hester promise not to tell anyone that he is her real husband.“ ‘Breath not, to any human soul, that thou didst ever call me husband!’…’because I will not encounter the dishonor that besmirches the husband of a faithless woman…’”(Hawthorne 52-53).
Chillingworth will not bear the shame in regards to his unfaithful wife, nor be burdened with supporting and providing for her. He is truly a cruel and twisted man. This unfaithfulness to his wife is not his only shame; he also is responsible for the daily, mental torture of Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale. “She doubted not, that the continual presence of Roger Chillingworth, –the secret poison of his malignity, infecting all the air about him, –and his authorized interference, as a physician, with the minister’s physical and spiritual infirmities, –that these bad opportunities had been turned into a cruel purpose” (Hawthorne132).
Wickedly, Chillingworth eats away at the Reverend’s very being, always searching Arthur’s mind for a hint at his suspected, adulterous transgression. Rodger Chillingworth enjoys torturing the sickly man for seven long
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