Sympathy for the Devil in Nathaniel Hawthrone´s The Scarlet Letter

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Although not commonly associated with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, the devil is mentioned the classic American novel. Hawthorne describes Satan as a tall, black man who lives in the woods, interacting with humans and witches to corrupt their souls. Portrayals of Satan throughout history have given him many different associations, one of the most well-known displays of him being in Dante Alighieri’s epic poem, Inferno and Peter Cook’s comedic film, Bedazzled. In these two depictions, the devil is shown malicious yet tragic figure, although his reaction his punishments vary. Satan, as in most pieces of literature and media, is depicted as a root of evil in the Inferno and Bedazzled. In Dante’s Inferno, the deepest circle of the…show more content…
Dante describes the devil as trapped in a frozen lake, endlessly flapping his wings in an attempt to escape his prison, only to further solidify the ice that encases him. Although it seems that Satan’s place in Hell seems just, Dante notes that the devil is crying, “With six eyes he wept, The while a sinner in each mouth he kept… tears and foam unite with dribbling blood, that spurts from every bite Down his three chins,” (Dante). Dante demonstrates that Satan is not the ruler of Hell, but rather suffering in it as well. While many depictions of Satan view him as the ruler of all suffering, Dante suggests that Satan himself also suffers in Hell, sobbing for all eternity at his harsh punishment. Peter Cook’s devil is much less sympathetic, as he roams the earth free to rein torment on all of humanity. However, George Spiggott’s resentment toward God inspires sympathy in viewers as Spiggott describes God’s omnipotence and unjust power. Spiggott explains to Stanley, “All God has to do is raise his finger and he has a million sycophantic little angels to do his bidding; all I have is anger and sloth,” (Cook). Although George Spiggott is a terror to all who cross his path, it is still possible to view him as a tragic figure inspired to rebel against God, as is Dante’s Satan. The devil is not typically viewed as a tragic figure, though Dante’s Inferno and Cook’s Bedazzled has Satan react differently to this. As stated
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