In "The Scarlet Letter", describe the sins of Hester, Dimmesdale, and Chilllingworth.How do they deal with guilt? What is the broader effect of sin? Any quotations that are related to...

In "The Scarlet Letter", describe the sins of Hester, Dimmesdale, and Chilllingworth.

How do they deal with guilt? What is the broader effect of sin? Any quotations that are related to this would also be helpful.

Asked on by zach9191

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mrs-campbell's profile pic

mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Hester's sin:  adultery.  Dimmesdale's sin:  adultery, but more significantly, not confessing to it and letting Hester bear the brunt of it alone.  Chillingsworth's sin:  pride-he couldn't let go of needing to know who his wife had been with.  This pride morphs into extreme manipulation and cruelty.

Hester faces her guilt, lives her life, and turns her situation into being productive and helping others.  Dimmesdale is tormented by guilt, finding non-redemptive methods of purging his guilt, including self-mutilation.  Eventually, his guilt kills him. 

The broader effect of sin is represented differently depending on how the person deals with it.  As we see with Dimmesdale, not facing up to it, being open about his weakness, kills him.  Hester ends up better off; she faces initial hardships but works hard and lives a good life, in the end.  Chillingsworth's obsession takes over his entire life; once fulfilled, he dies.

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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In the Puritan Theocracy, a sin, or a violation of law, was both a religious and civil infraction.  All three characters commit a sin of passion -- Dimmesdale and Hester in their illicit sexual liaison, and Chillingworth in long term revenge.  Both Hester and Dimmesdale pay dearly for their actions.  Chillingworth does not--to all others outside the  love triangle, he has violated no law; quite the contrary, he is seen a virtuous in his aiding Dimmesdale!  Thus his revenge and hypocrisy remain disguised.  When at last Dimmesdale publicly accepts Hester and Pearl, he dies, not before addressing Chillingworth --"Thou too, hath deeply sinned!"

One can argue Chillingworth's premeditation and obsession with Dimmesdale surpasses any infraction the lovers committed. His sin is the most grievous sin in the novel, (revenge-one of the Seven Deadlys) and the one that goes unpunished.  But not quite -- having fully invested himself in another's destruction,  there's nothing left of himself when Dimmesdale dies; his life purpose has concluded. "Thou hast escaped me!" he states, and he privately pays the price for those actions by fading away and dying, but publicly, nothing is acknowledged.

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