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INTRODUCTION TO AMERICAN LITERATURE

(I.A.L)

Semester 3 : Harmattan

WITH REFERENCE TO NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, DISCUSS THE


IMPACT OF REVENGE ON ROGER CHILLINGWORTH.

In The Scarlett Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne focuses his writing on many


themes. The principle themes are: women and feminity, compassion and
forgiveness, Sin, Hypocrisy, Guilt and blame, Justice and judgment, Isolation,
The supernatural, Fate and free will, Man and the natural world and Revenge.

The latter theme, in occurrence, the theme of revenge will be discussed in


this work, based on the character of Roger Chillingworth, who is one of the
main characters involve in The Scarlett Letter.

I. INTRODUCTION TO A CHARACTER: ROGER CHILLINGWORTH

Originally born Roger Prynne, he lived in England as an old and lonely


scholar dehumanized by a life of abstruse studying. He makes the mistake of
marrying a young wife, a generation younger that he is. He sends her to
America, to the Puritan colony of Massachusetts, with instructions to live
quietly until he arrives. Due to “…grievous mishaps by sea and land” (Chapter III)

The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne


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and over a year's captivity by Indians, his intended arrival was delayed. When he
finally arrives, he finds Hester Prynne, his wife, being publicly exposed as an
adulteress. He sees Hester holding the child of another man. After his discovery,
"Chillingworth moves closer to the scaffold and imperiously bids her to name
the father of her child" (Chapter III). Disappointed that his hope of gaining
Hester's affection upon arrival was destroyed, he also hated the man that gained
that affection. He decided, with the fake name Roger Chillingworth, to have his
revenge. But this revenge as describe in The Scarlett Letter by M. Hawthorne,
shifted the formal calm and studious Roger Prynne into the new devilish and
merciless Roger Chillingworth.

II. THE SCARLETT LETTER AND THE THEME OF REVENGE

Nathaniel Hawthorne presents revenge as an unnatural act that twists a


person’s soul into something evil. Like in the case of Chillingworth, not only
does revenge alter a person’s basic personality, but it never satisfies.

His quest of revenge seems to be the most important thing in the world,
forgetting about his interest for studying. When he started his acts of vengeance,
he slowly transforms his life into an endless obsession with sinful actions till his
death. The theme, within each person exists the capability for both good and
evil, is illustrated through Roger Chillingworth.

Although his appearance and demeanor are deformed by his quest for
revenge, it could be possible to argue that he redeems himself with his final act,
bequeathing all his possessions to his wife’s daughter, Pearl. His action releases
both mother and child, allowing them to escape the shame that has been thrust
upon them by the legalistic, judgmental Puritan community.

CONCLUSION

The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne


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Even though it is natural to seek punishment through revenge, Nathaniel


Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter suggests that revenge is an otherworldly,
spiritual concern, and better left to God. When individuals dare to pursue their
own revenge, they end up finding punishment for their presumption, as Roger
Chillingworth discovers at the end of the book.

The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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