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Who is the Guiltiest Sinner? The Scarlet Letter

Updated on August 17, 2008

In the Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, there are three main sinners. They are Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth. These three people all commit terrible sins including revenge, adultery, and murder. Of these sinners, Roger Chillingworth is the guiltiest of them all, and this is because he never felt remorse for the terrible things he did throughout the novel. Chillingworth sins were aimed to bring pain and suffering to others whereas Hester's and Dimmesdale's sin was a sin of passion, and was never meant to hurt anyone.

All throughout the novel Hawthorne discusses the idea of sin and redemption. Hester is shown to be the least sinful of the three people because she is redeemed by the fact that she must wear the scarlet letter for the rest of her life if she is to remain in the Puritan town because she committed the sin of adultery. Dimmesdale is more sinful than Hester because it takes him so long to confess his sin to the town. Dimmesdale is cowardly because he is afraid of the townspeople and of what they may do to him for his sin. He is also naïve because he fears the town more than he fears God even though he is a minister in Puritan times. Although Dimmesdale is a coward for not confessing his sin until he is close to the end he still shows remorse by lashing himself for his sin of adultery, and by helping Hester and Pearl by aiding Hester in persuading the Governor to let her keep Pearl. In addition, both Hester and Dimmesdale have the constant reminder of their sin because of Pearl who forces the issue upon them by always asking questions like what the scarlet letter stands for and if Dimmesdale will ever stand on the scaffold with her and her mother during the day in front of the town. Dimmesdale believes he has a reason to hide his sin; if he were to confess his sin the town may lose all hope of good, and may have became overrun by sin and evil.

Chillingworth, however, comes into the town and from the moment that he sees his wife has cheated on him he declares that he will seek revenge on the man that shares her sin. When Chillingworth suspects Dimmesdale he moves in with him, under the pretense of being his physician, and begins giving Dimmesdale different herbs and "medicines" to "help" with Dimmesdale's health. While Chillingworth is living with Dimmesdale, he asks many personal questions to try to find out if Dimmesdale is the one that he is seeking. Chillingworth becomes a "leech" and begins sucking the life out of the poor minister. At one point in the novel Chillingworth looks at Dimmesdale's chest and does a devilish dance at the sight. Chillingworth's vengeance becomes an obsession and drives him to make Dimmesdale's health get worse faster by giving him the so-called medicine, and by making Dimmesdale feel so guilty that it drives him insane. Chillingworth tries to play God by deciding who should be punished, and ends up turning into the "Black Man," or the Devil.

Hester and Dimmesdale committed a sin that did not intentionally hurt anyone but their own souls, but Chillingworth committed a sin that was purposefully hurting another human being physically and emotionally. Sins of passion are not on the same magnitude as sins of vengeance. Murder and adultery are not on the same level. Hester and Dimmesdale both showed remorse for their sins. Hester and Dimmesdale were both punished by society and both punished themselves. Chillingworth did not feel that he ever did anything wrong even though his sins were worse that those of the person he sought revenge upon. Chillingworth was never punished by society or and he never sought repentance. Chillingworth was the guiltiest sinner in the Scarlet Letter.


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      Benjaman 4 years ago

      Yuhhhhh mah Allah bless you

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      yameni 5 years ago

      thanks a lot for the valuable essay

      i really like it and it will be helpful n my tomorrow's exam

      May Allah bless you