I have to write a paper on Roger Chillingworth from The Scarlet Letter, but what is there to say about him? He’s the devil. Hawthorne tells the reader that like a million times. How am I supposed to fill up four pages talking about how satanic he is? Help! –P.A. USA
Roger Chillingworth definitely comes with his own soundtrack of scary music and evil laughter. And you’re right: Hawthorne is pretty direct about his demonic intentions. Shortly after his arrival, when Chillingworth goes to visit his estranged wife, Hester, in prison, Hawthorne gives Hester this telling line of dialogue:
“Art thou like the Black Man that haunts the forest round about us?”
Yep. She pretty much called Chillingworth out on being the devil. But there’s more to Chillingworth’s character than that. In fact, Chillingworth is not just a one-dimensional evil villain; he’s the embodiment of Hawthorne’s theme about identity.
Think a little bit about Chillingworth’s arrival at the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He’s a stranger to everyone but Hester. And when he finally confronts Hester in prison about her crime against him and against God, he does it under false pretenses. He arrives, not as Hester’s long-lost husband, but as a physician. Take note of this: From the very beginning of the story, Hawthorne gives you a huge clue about the role Chillingworth is going to play. That’s because the first time we see Chillingworth in action, he’s already in the process of redefining, or re-identifying, himself.
Sure, the guy clearly has some potion-making skills, but he’s more scholar than doctor. And his methods are…suspect to say the least. As the story gets going, it’s pretty clear that his medical practices are more akin to witchcraft than anything else.
Match made in hell: Roger & Hester
So the first time we see Chillingworth, he’s redefined himself as a doctor. But he takes this redefinition a step further when he tells Hester to keep his identity as her husband a secret. He isn’t Mr. Prynne, but Mr. Chillingworth—a man with a new identity, right down to his profession and name.
Now here’s where things get interesting, because throughout The Scarlet Letter, Hester is also in the process of redefining herself. When we first meet her, she’s the embodiment of that scarlet letter on her chest: A for adulteress. As time goes on, though, Hester refuses to let herself be defined by her community’s judgment and intolerance. She gives generously to the poor. She works on her needlework. Over time, the meaning of that A morphs. And by the end of the book, Hester is no longer adulteress, but artist and angel.
Two characters. Two very different trajectories for these characters’ identities. Hester’s identity changes because of her own internal compass. Something within her, Hester herself, compels her to assume a new identity. By contrast, Chillingworth changes because of external factors. He allows others’ actions and decisions—namely, Hester’s affair with another man—to define and motivate him. And it’s his reaction to her choices—his desire for revenge—that leads him deeper and deeper into darkness and evil.
In other words, Chillingworth isn’t just Satan. His character embodies Hawthorne’s warning about identity: Letting others’ actions and opinions define you is certain death. Or, to put it more positively: You, and you alone, have the power to define who you are.
Procrastination Of Revenge In William Shakespeare's Hamlet
Procrastination of Revenge in William Shakespeare's Hamlet
In the play “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare, the protagonist Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, is deceived by many of his former allies, including his mother, Gertrude, and his lover, Ophelia. Perhaps the most deceptive of these former allies is Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius. Not only does Claudius kill Hamlet’s father, the King, but he also proceeds to marry Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, and to steal the crown from Hamlet, the rightful heir to his father. In Act III, scene III of “Hamlet,” Hamlet accidentally comes upon Claudius while he is alone and in prayer. Hamlet draws his sword and contemplates murdering Claudius. However, Hamlet neglects to perform this action. The decision not to kill Claudius in these circumstances shows that Hamlet possesses an intellectual mind,which, in this circumstance, prevents him from taking decisive action.
At first, Hamlet sees the circumstance as a perfect opportunity for revenge against Claudius. Hamlet knows that Claudius truly committed murder after seeing his reaction to the play within a play. Also, Hamlet must leave soon for England. Hamlet realized that if he does not act now, he may never have such a ripe opportunity for revenge again.
“Now might I do it pat,
now ‘a is a-praying,
And now I’ll do’t.” (III, iii, 73-74)
However, Hamlet’s intellect provides him with a ready excuse to delay his revenge against
Claudius. Hamlet does not believe that killing a man in prayer constitutes an unfair deed. Rather, Hamlet reasons that, since Claudius has purged his soul through prayer, he would go to heaven.
“And so ‘a goes to heaven;
And so am I revenged.” (III, iii, 75)
Hamlet’s father, contrastingly, had not prepared his soul for death. He suffered purgatory as a ghost. Hamlet, unsatisfied with performing...
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