The Symbol of Guilt in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter

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The scarlet letter is a symbol of guilt with the power to transform not only its wearer, but everyone involved in its inaugural scandal. Pearl and the letter share a certain relationship, and at times seem to mirror each other, as they exhibit similar tendencies. As children of indignity alike, they unconsciously serve as emotional grim reapers, and together, they unwillingly carry out the supernatural mandate of punishment rationed to them through sadistic and demoniac means. Because the two chosen are but unwilling situational puppets strewn by fate, it is impossible for self proclaimed vigilantes of the paranormal to come out unscathed. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s thusly named romantic novel of 1850, the scarlet letter, its identity, and …show more content…
“The exception indicated the ever relentless vigor with which society frowned upon her sin (70).” Surely, to such a fickle, and self righteous sect of faux wholesomeness the only earthen dwellers worth putting any trust in were ministers, and by chapter 23, no priest was held higher than Dimmesdale, who was “the very proudest eminence of superiority, to which the gifts of intellect, rich lore, prevailing eloquence, and a reputation of whitest sanctity, could exalt a clergyman in New England’s earliest days, when the professional character was of itself a lofty pedestal (204).” Bearing all this in mind, and knowing that he had then fulfilled the dreams of every parishioner in his New England town, and in all reality, he himself had become their God, how difficult it must have been to go through with his final decision.
As the main devotee to finding and punishing the male adulterer, Chillingworth displays the most violent initial change. By attempting to fulfill a diabolical task that he was not selected for, he stains his soul with the tea of malice. Because he is so intent on punishing Dimmesdale, his outward appearance becomes as dark as the modified souls of the very children of shame he emulates. This is best explained in chapter 9 which states, “his laboratory had been brought from the lower regions, and was fed with infernal fuel; and so…his visage was getting sooty from the smoke (Hawthorne 106).” It is because he tries to take the
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