Nathaniel Hawthorne’s work The Scarlet Letter has been read widely across the globe. The work depicts a strong moral theme, which has served to compel readers of different generations. Notably, Hawthorne managed to develop his characters in an appealing manner. The critical role of having characters developed effectively so that they can bring out the intended theme becomes outstandingly evident in The Scarlet Letter. Arthur Dimmensdale and Roger Chillingworth are two of the main characters in Hawthorne’s work. Whereas Chillingworth was Hester’s husband, Dimmensdale was a Christian minister serving a congregation in Boston. Although a superficial look of these characters revealed certain similarities, a closer analysis indicates that their personalities are completely different. This paper will compare and contrast the two characters.
Both Chillingworth and Dimmensdale qualified to be regarded as scholars. Chillingworth was a medical doctor, who had studied widely while Dimmensdale was a seasoned minister who exhibited a high level of understanding religious matters. The two men could qualify for a positive public reputation based on their careers. An additional similarity was that they were in love with the same woman. Despite this, they seemed to be fond of each other to the level of becoming friends. This is evidenced by the fact that Chillingworth decided to give health care and medical attention to Dimmedale after the deterioration of his physical health. This level of attachment and closeness came to an end after the truth unfolded. It would later emerge that Dimmensdale was the man who committed adultery with Chillingworth’s wife. Worth noting is the fact that both of them shared an intimate relationship with Hester (Hawthorne 64). Both of these men have a well guarded secret with Hesther. Each of them expected a measure of loyalty from the woman in question.
In a real sense, Dimmensdale and Chillingworth are opposites of each other. Even after committing adultery, Dimmensdale had taken all the possible measures to ensure that he maintained a positive reputation without compromising his position as a priest. However, this was only an outwards measure of covering up for his sin. The truth was that Dimmensdale was extremely tormented by his conscience because of the sin he had committed and decided to keep a secret. It is interesting to note that Dimmesdel had become an influential priest delivering compelling sermons to the congregation. Ironically, the author describes him as having an angelic voice (67). This served to portray him positively hiding his sins over time.
On the other hand, Chillingworth exhibits a different personality. After realizing that his wife had cheated on him, he sought to revenge against her unfaithfulness. He is a straightforward person because he did not condor adultery in his marriage despite the fact it happened during a time when the wife thought he was dead. Moreover, he sought to know precisely who the father of his wife’s daughter was. Whereas Dimmensdale exhibited a guilty conscience as a consequence of his sin, Chillingworth exhibited a vengeful spirit that could not rest until he made things even. Dimmensdale’s guilt was enough to cause him a physical and emotional trauma (70). Although he sought to maintain his position as a priest, it was evident that the consequences of his sin were taking him down, ruining his health. This motivated Chillingworth to offer medical care for him. In an effort to prolong his life.
Dimmensdale proves to be an escapist. This is because he fails to admit his mistakes and confess his sin. When his conscience pangs him, he results to developing a scheme to escape to Europe with Hester. Moreover, this plan to escape proves that he was unwilling to face the reality as it was. Rather, he preferred to elope with Hester and his daughter so that they could rebuild their live elsewhere. Despite his intention to escape, he had proved to be very fragile. His fragility motivated him to reveal the truth to the public that Hester was his lover, and that they had given birth to a child. Although he confessed, he did so because his health has proven critical and the chances of his survival were minimal. During his last days on earth, he managed to know peace because he decided to confront his mistakes (80). On the other hand, Chillingworth died as a bitter man because of his determination to revenge. After realizing that Dimmensdale was the lover of his wife, he developed depression, which later contributed to his death.
Evidently, Dimmensdale and Chillingworth are the two male characters defining the plot of The Scarlet Letter. Although they were friends and secretly in love with the same woman, they were people of different convictions. Chillingworth focused on revenging against his wife for her unfaithfulness. He let the desire for revenge take away his happiness and purpose. On the other hand, Dimmensdale made his weakness evident by letting guilt control his life. In the last days, though, he decided to face his realities and confessed dying peacefully.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter [Electronic Resource]. n.p.: Boston : Ticknor, Reed, and Fields, 1850., 1850. UF/Winebrenner Catalog. Web. 13 Oct. 2014.