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The Bearer Of The Fruits Of Sin Essay, Research Paper
The world of Puritan New England, like the world of today, was filled with many evil influences. Many people were able to withstand the temptations of this darker side of the spiritual world, but still some fell victim to the supposed Satan?s will. Such offences against God, in thought, word, deed, desire or neglect, are what we define as sin (Schuler 14).
In Nathaniel Hawthorne?s The Scarlet Letter, the reader is able to observe how one sin devastates three lives. Hester, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth are all guilty of succumbing to temptation, anger, and desire, causing all to fit the definition of a sinner. Yet, Chillingworth?s iniquities raise him up above Hester and Dimmesdale on the level of diabolic acts.
From the very moment Chillingworth is introduced, he is deceitful towards the Puritan society. Chillingworth appears in the novel, seeming to know nothing of the scene at the scaffold. He asks of a townsperson: ??who is this woman? ? and wherefore is she here to set up to public shame?? (Hawhtorne 67). Yet, we find in the next chapter that he indeed knows who Hester is, because Chillingworth is the lawful husband of her. He decieves the people of Boston to avoid the humiliation his wife brought upon him. In this respect, Chillingworth sins against the eight commandment, ?You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour? (Schuler 26).
Now, one could state that Hester also sins against the eighth commandment. She never reveals the name of her daughter?s father. And it is stated that one must always tell the truth. Yet, it also states that one must keep a secret whenever asked to do so, and not say anything to damage another?s reputation (Schuler 27). So Hester, in fact, did not sin. She never denies that Dimmesdale was the father of Pearl. She also could not admit the truth because she would break a promise to Dimmesdale and damage his reputation. Dimmesdale also may be accused of this crime, but likewise, he never outwardly states that he was not the father of this child, he merely chooses to remain silent on the matter.
While Chillingworth is guilty of breaking the eighth commandment, he also breaks the fifth commandment ?You shall not kill? (Schuler 24). It fact that Chillingworth did not directly kill anyone in the novel. Nevertheless, a serious act of anger or hatred is considered a sin under this commandment (Schuler 25). Chillingworth takes up residence with the Reverend Dimmesdale to care for his sickly heart. However, he uses this opportunity to punish the minister. Chillingworth becomes ?a chief actor in the poor minister?s interior world? (Hawthorne 137). This gives him the ability to make the minister suffer both mental and physical agony. Is the intention to punish another in anger not an act of hatred? Is causing a man to suffer emotionally and physically not a way of killing his spirit? Furthermore, is aggravating a man?s illness until it kills him not murder? Chillingworth is guilty of all these offences.
To be fair, Hester and Dimmesdale also commit another crime. Specifically, Hester breaks the sixth commandment ?You shall not commit adultery? (Schuler 25). Similarly, Dimmesdale sins against the ninth commandment ? You shall not covet your neighbour?s wife? (Schuler 27). Clearly, the star-crossed lovers of this work are not without fault. But, consider for a moment the circumstances under which this affair takes place. Hester is in a new and untamed world, her husband no where to be found. Dimmesdale is an unmarried minister in the same world. Love enters into both their hearts in the isolated universe. If Hester has no idea where her lawful husband was and hasn?t seen him in two years, why should she be expected to leave her heart empty for the remainder of her time on earth? In addition, how is it proven that Dimmesdale knew that Hester was married at the time of their affair?
Another way to look at the degree of sin the characters commit is to look at the extent at which each attempted to repent his or her own sins. Hester cares for the poor and meticulously evaluates her daily activities to ensure she does no further insult to her community. Dimmesdale faithfully pleads in prayer for his soul to be cleansed of his wrongdoing to be forgiven. Yet, there is no point in the novel where Chillingworth attempts to repent himself for his actions; in prayer or in service. Surely, the actions which shows Hester?s and Dimmesdale?s remorse for their sins brings them closer to spiritual purity than Chillingworth.
Indeed, Hester, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth are all guilty of certain degrees of sin. Yet, it is clear that Chillingworth is the greatest sinner among them. Not only does he commit the most serious offences against God, but he shows no remorse or attempts to seek forgiveness. In this respect, Chillingworth?s crimes against the Lord are more malevolent than those committed by Hester and Reverend Dimmesdale. Chillingworth?s quest for revenge and truth leads him down a path of sin, and in the Puritan perspective, down the path to Hell.
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