Moral Ambiguity in the Scarlet Letter

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Moral ambiguity is a state of character in which the subject is unable to be indentified as purely good or purely evil. Roger Chillingworth, the main antagonist is often considered to be purely evil. Although, contrary to what some critics may contend, a close reading of The Scarlett Letter reveals that Chillingworth is, in fact, morally ambiguous, rather than purely evil. There are many points in the story where this becomes clear, but they are often overlooked or misunderstood. In the novel, Chillingworth displays malevolence and iniquity. However, he also can be seen to portray innocence and good moral character. Roger Chillingworth can be seen as good character when he says, Dost thou remember me, Hester, as I was nine years agone? Even then, I was in the autumn of my days, nor was it the early autumn. But all my life had been made up of earnest, studious, thoughtful, quiet years, bestowed faithfully for the increase of mine own knowledge, and faithfully, too, though this latter object was but casual to the other,—faithfully for the advancement of human welfare. No life had been more peaceful and innocent than mine; few lives so rich with benefits conferred. Dost thou remember me? Was I not, though you might deem cold, nevertheless a man thoughtful for others, craving little for himself,—kind, true, just, and of constant, if not warm affections? Was I not all this? (Hawthorne 142). In this quotation, he is asking Hester if she remembers Chillingworth as he was nine years ago. He claims to have been a good man, amongst other things, and Hester agrees with him. Hester is the one who primarily hates Chillingworth, so, her admission to Chillingworth can be seen as a bad character when he says, “Thou wilt not reveal his name? Not the less he is mine," resumed he, with a look of confidence, as if destiny were at one with him. "He bears no letter of infamy

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