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Vengeance is a corrupter of both persons and societies. When a

society is based on religion, it will find vengeance on its wrongdoers

or outcasts in a way that is justified by its creed. Societies such as

this will also destroy or deeply hurt the people that their vengeance is

directed toward. Furthermore, when a person lives in a society that is

based on religion and wishes to find an outlet for feelings of hatred

or jealousy, he will find an outlet that can justify his actions. A

person such as this can also corrupt his society and others around him. The

Crucible and The Scarlet Letter are helpful novels in demonstrating

this because they are both set in communities of devout faith, and each

displays corruption through vengeance.

A more in-depth example of vengeance affecting a society is provided in

The Scarlet Letter. This revenge consists in publishing the sinner’s

ignominy by public confession and physical branding. Hester is first

forced to stand in front of the town to bear her shame. She is then made to

wear the scarlet ?A? for the rest of her life. The people of this

puritan settlement take obvious pleasure in watching her humiliation, and

the gossiping women that speak as Hester first leaves the jail show this.

?It would be greatly for the public behoof, if we women, being of

mature age and church-members in good repute, should have the handling of

such malefactresses as this Hester Prynne?? (Hawthorne 48). They find

obvious justification of this righteous and vengeful sentiment in their

religion. The gossips not only prove this, but also reflect how eager

this society is to punish people. Such vengeance that is found in

societies has a devastating effect on the individuals to whom it is directed;

Hester soon loses all of her womanly charm and enthusiasm for life.

In an observation of persons in the same religious societies, one may

find that the same conjecture can apply. The cry of witchcraft started

in The Crucible by a group of young girls that merely wished not to be

punished. When hysteria spread like wildfire, it soon became clear that

people could cry witchery on others they were jealous of or who had

wronged them in the past. They could get away with this form of revenge,

too, because they could justify it both in their own eyes and in

society?s; it would appear that they were doing the world a favor by ridding

it of the devil?s instrument, and they could take comfort in this by convincing

themselves that it was true. The bitter Ann Putnam, wife of Thomas in The

Crucible, is a striking example. She gave birth to eight children and only

one survived, but Rebecca Nurse had numerous and healthy children as well

as many grandchildren. Ann Putnam was jealous because of this and took

much pleasure when Goody Nurse was condemned as a witch under the

charge of murdering Ann?s seven babies with her spirit. Abigail of this

novel also used religion as a vice for her vengeance. She hoped to have

John Proctor?s wife, who had cast Abigail out of her house, condemned of

witchcraft so that she could continue her affair with him. Abigail

justifies accusing Elizabeth by feeding off of what Salem had depicted the

child as being; a holy spirit sent to deliver them from evil. John

Proctor sees through this guise, and notes: ?I?ll tell you what?s walking

Salem- vengeance is walking Salem. We are what we always were in Salem,

but now? common vengeance writes the law!? (Miller 77). Because of these

vengeful individuals, the entire community of Salem was disturbed.

To take characters of The Scarlet Letter into consideration, Roger

Chillingworth, former husband of Hester, serves as an excellent example of how

vengeance corrupts people. His way of achieving the perfect revenge is

not immediate or physical harm to Reverend Dimmesdale but rather a slow

and deceitful process. Chillingworth feels that the real agony of sin

is not in its commission or in relieving it publicly, but rather living

in dread that it should be discovered. He spends seven years secretly

needling the priest and breaking him down. In the end, Chillingworth is

perceived as a ruined and evil man. He spent so much time concentrating

on the impairing of another that he was corrupted both morally and


Vengeance is proven to be an appalling and ruinous thing throughout

these two novels, The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible. Its effects can be

shown both on a whole society and on a single person. The vengeance

sought by devoutly religious persons or societies tends to be disguised as

righteous or even necessary, and damages other citizens as well as the

whole of the society. It would be sound advice to observe and study

these effects and avoid becoming victims of vengeance for envy and

personal gain in one?s society today.


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