Showing posts with label The Scarlet Letter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Scarlet Letter. Show all posts

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Roger Chillingworth and Hester Prynne Relationship in Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'The Scarlet Letter '

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, little Pearl assesses Roger Chillingworth as a black man. She calls him the Black Man who has got hold of minister and who may catch Hester. Undoubtedly Pearl is right. The primary and deadly evil of Roger Chillingworth has evil effects on the other three characters.

Roger Chillingworth married Hester into an unnatural and "pseudo" relationship. He did not love her and she did not love him. He married a wife a generation younger than he. Hester's unhappiness, due to a mismatched matrimony, leads her to become an adulteress. Chillingworth makes Hester to be unhappy. Her initial sadness, along with the three year absence of her husband, resulted in adultery. After his discovery, "Chillingworth moves closer to the scaffold and imperiously bids her to name the father of her child" (Martin 113). Chillingworth repressed his instinctive emotional response to the situation. He was disappointed that his hope of gaining his wife's affection upon arrival was destroyed and he hated the man who had gained that affection.

Chillingworth’s indifference to Hester is responsible for the birth of the illegitimate child, Pearl. The rigid Puritan society doesn’t welcome her. Usually a child is treated as an angel. But instead of it, she becomes the symbol of a sin. She has to face some uncommon questions like who is her father, from where she comes. Other children don’t play with her. She has no place in gentleman’s society. No one welcome them. Instead of love there is agony and abhorrence in everyone’s eye. Hostile environment surrounds her. Moreover Chillingworth reveals as the threat to her mother’s life which makes Pearl more unsecured. So, Chillingworth is the devil in Pearl’s life.

Chillingworth begins to suspect that Dimmesdale is Pearl's father when Reverend Wilson and Governor Billingham are trying to take Pearl away from Hester. Dimmesdale gives an eloquent representation for Hester, and Chillingworth says "You speak, my friend, with a strange earnestness" (1217). It is with this suspicion that Chillingworth begins to show "special interest" in Dimmesdale.

When Chillingworth first appears in the community he is well received. The town needs a doctor and the members of the town feel that it is an act of God that he arrives when Reverend Dimmesdale is becoming ill. The fact that Chillingworth shows a special interest in Dimmesdale helps his acceptance in the community, but the community did not know his intentions.

Chillingworth's quest is to find out if his suspicion is, in fact, reality. In order to find this out, he must get closer to Dimmesdale: "The mysterious illness of Dimmesdale--mysterious to the town-- is something he says he can treat, and so he becomes the minister's physician; he even lives with him" (Doren 150). While living together, Chillingworth constantly digs for Dimmesdale to release his secret, but he will not reveal it, and his condition becomes worse. Finally, Chillingworth catches Dimmesdale sleeping and thrust aside the vestment to discover the letter "A" upon his chest.

With no doubt in Chillingworth's mind about Dimmesdale's relation to Pearl, his torment toward him increases. Chillingworth is now in complete control of Dimmesdale, whose health is deteriorating.

Hester notices the deterioration of Dimmesdale's health, and she thinks that her faithfulness, in keeping Chillingworth's identity a secret, is to blame. When she goes to Chillingworth and speaks to him about revealing his identity, he neither condones nor condemns her decision. While listening to the old man, she noticed how much he had changed over the past seven years.

“Roger Chillingworth was a striking evidence of man's faculty of transforming himself into a devil.”

Hester finally tells Dimmesdale about Chillingworth's true identity. This new knowledge does not free Dimmesdale of Chillingworth's control. Constantly spying on the minister’s movements and on those of Hester, he has come to know of their plans to flee from Bosto by ship, and he succeeds in thwarting this plan. But he need not have taken the trouble of doing so because the minister has in the meanwhile made up his mind to make a public confession of his guilt. When he tries to restrain the minister from making his intended confession, it is certainly not for a good that he means towards the priest but to prevent him from slipping from his hands. Eventually when the minister has made his confession, Chillingworth says to him more than once, “thou hast escaped me! Thou hast escaped me!” There is no mercy in Chillingworth's heart even at this stage.

Ultimately, Chillingworth represents true evil who affects the other three characters. He is interested in revenge, not justice, and he seeks the deliberate destruction of others rather than a redress of wrongs. His desire to hurt others stands in contrast to Hester and Dimmesdale’s sin, which had love, not hate, as its intent.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Use of Symbols in Hawthrone’s 'The Scarlet Letter'

The use of symbols is a distinctive feature of American literature. In this regard, Hawthrone’s The Scarlet Letter is a pioneer novel for the use of symbols. In Hawthrone’s use of symbol in The Scarlet Letter we observe the author’s making one of his most distinctive and significant contribution to the growth of American fiction. This novel is usually regarded as the first symbolic novel to e published in the United States.

Moreover the use of symbols makes his narrative more convincing. In this novel the writer depicts the early colonial society dominated by the Puritans. The Puritans had a tendency to see everything allegorically. They looked also ever simple matter from allegorical point of view. Hawthrone vividly portrays this puritan tendency to look for a symbolic meaning in everything.


Several of Hawthrone’s symbols in “The Scarlet Letter” are obvious. In the first chapter, for example, he descries the prison as “The black flower of civilized society” by using the building of the prison to represent the crime and punishment which were aspects of early Boston’s civilized life.

Wild rose Bush

In the same chapter, he uses the grass plot “much overgrown with burdock, pigweed, apple-peru and such unsightly vegetation” as another symbol of civilization corrupted by the elements which make prisons necessary. He also points out another symbol that is the wild rose bush. He says that “it may serve to symbolize some sweet moral blossom” to relieve the gloom of a tragic story


Shortly afterward, in chapter 2, Hawthrone uses the “Beadle” as a symbol of Puritanism.

These symbols are easy to find. Moreover impressive, however are the symbols which Hawthrone sustains throughout the novel, allowing each of them, to develop and take on various appearances and meanings as the book progresses. Among such symbols is the letter “A” itself. In its initial form it is a red cloth letter which is a literal symbol of the sin of adultery. Hester is doomed to wear it throughout her life. But Hawthrone makes the “A” much more richly symbolic before the novel ends.
The letter A appears in a variety of forms and places. It is the elaborately gold embroidered A on Hester’s heart, at which Pearl throws the wild flowers. On the night of his vigil on the scaffold Dimmesdale sees an immense red A in the sky. While Hester is conferring with Chillingworth near the a shore, Pearl arranges eel-grass to form a green “A’ on her own breast. One of the most dramatic of the several A’s in the book is the A so frequently hinted at earlier and which is finally revealed to be an A on Dimmesdale’s chest by “most of the spectators” who witnesses his confession ad death. At the very end of the novel, as a kid of summary symbol there is the reference to the scarlet A against the black background on Hester and Dimmesdale’s tombstone.

Different Meanings of A

Not only the A appears in various forms, but is also acquires a variety of meanings. Even as the original mark of adultery, the scarlet letter has different personal meanings to the various characters. To the Puritan community, it is a mark of just punishment. To Hester, the A is a symbol of unjust humiliation. To Dimmesdale the A is a piercing reminder of his own guilt. To Chillingworth, the A is a spur to the quest for revenge. To Pearl, the A is a bright and mysterious curiosity. In addition, the A also symbolizes things other than adultery. For example, it symbolizes “Angel” when it appears in the sky on the night of Governor Winthrop’s death, and it symbolizes “Able” when years after her humiliation on the scaffold, Hester has won some respect from the Puritans.


Many of the other sustained or important symbol in the novel lie either in the setting or in the characters. The scaffold, for instance, is not only a symbol of the stern Puritan code, but it also becomes a symbol for the open acknowledgement of personal sin.

Night Day

Night is used as a symbol for concealment, and day is a symbol for exposure Dimmesdale’s mounting the scaffold and standing with Hester ad Pearl at night will not suffice. He knows that his symbolic acceptance of his guilt must take place in the day light.

The sun

The sun is also used as a symbol of untroubled guilt free happiness or perhaps the approval of god and nature. The sun shines on Pearl, even in the forest; she seems to absorb and retain the sunshine. But the sun flees from Hester and from the mark of sin on her breast.

The Forest

The forest itself is symbolic on a variety of ways. It is a symbol of the world of darkness and evil. In addition, it also symbolizes a place where Pearl can run and play freely, a friend of the animals and the wild flowers, and where even Hester can throw away her scarlet “A” let down her hair, and feel like a woman again. It is also symbolic of a natural world governed by natural laws-as opposed to the artificial, strict community with its man made Puritan laws.

The Brook

The brook in the forest is also symbolic in several ways. First, it is suggestive of Pearl- because of its unknown source and because it travels through gloom. Because of its mournful babble, it becomes a kind of history of sorrow, to which one more story is added. And when Pearl refuses to cross the brook to join Hester and Dimmesdale, the brook becomes to Dimmesdale “a boundary between two worlds”. The natural setting, then, provides many of the most striking symbols in the novel.


But perhaps the most revealing display of Hawthrone’s symbolism lies in his use of characters. His minor characters are almost wholly symbolic. The Puritan notions of Church, Sate, and witchcraft are personified in the figures of the Reverend Mr. Wilson, Governor Bellingham, and Mistress Hibbins. It is interesting to note that Hawthorne mentions all three of them in connection with each of the scaffold scenes. The groups of unnamed somber and self righteous Puritans in the marketplace (chap 21-23) are clearly representative of Puritanism generally, even down to the detail of the gentle young wife who saves Hawtrone’s condemnation of the Puritans from being a complete one.

Four major characters

It is however, in the four major characters that Hawthrone’s powers as a symbolist are brought into fullest play. Each of his major characters symbolizes a certain view of sin and its effects to the human heart. And one of them, Pearl is almost a self contained symbol perhaps the most striking symbol that Hawthrone ever created.


Pearl is almost as important as the scarlet letter, because she is herself the scarlet letter in another form. Pearl is “the scarlet letter endowed with life” when Arthur Dimmesdale, Hester Prynne ad Pearl stand together on the scaffold one night. The author refers to Pearl as a symbol, as the connecting link between the other two. Pearl is not only an innocent child of nature, she is at the same time an agent if retribution.

Symbol enlarges and deepens a writers meaning. Hawthrone’s principal device for developing meaning is the symbol.