Possession of Evil Scarlet Letter Essay

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The Possession of Evil Jean- Jacques Rousseau once said, “Our greatest evils flow from ourselves.” Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter intermittently argues over the manifestation of evil. Throughout the novel, evil is exemplified through Chillingworth, Dimmesdale, and Pearl as Puritan values influence their ideas of evil in the world. First, this evil is displayed through Chillingworth’s carefully schemed revenge when Hester abandons his love. Second, Dimmesdale neglects his family through denial of the truth, which is a further infliction of evil. Lastly, Pearl’s abandonment from her father and isolation from society brings about the evil she demonstrates. Arguably, the Puritanical conception of sin confuses these main characters’ knowledge of the nature of evil. Hester and Dimmesdale’s adultery leads to Chillingworth’s transformation into a sinister being as he attempts to impose Puritanical evil on them. For example, Chillingworth’s idea of evil, influenced by the Puritans, helps him decide how to punish the lovers explaining, "I [will leave] thee to the scarlet letter. If that [has] not avenged me, I can do no more!" (Hawthorne 122). Chillingworth is obsessed with taking personal revenge on Dimmesdale, but lets the community revenge itself on Hester. Puritan society persuades Chillingworth into evil, making him do anything to punish the couple who have sinned. Nonetheless, the revenge takes over Chillingworth’s life describing, "…That old man's revenge [is] blacker than my sin. He [violates], in cold blood, the sanctity of a human heart…" (141). Chillingworth is an example of the darkness Puritans possess as they punish others for not following the laws of society. Just like the Puritan community, Chillingworth wants to make Dimmesdale and Hester regret the sin they have committed and go back on a path of religious devotion to God. Subsequently, not
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