The Scarlet Letter
The major characters go through many changes due to all of the events that have taken place, but the torture they have to live and die with is all within themselves. Hester Prynn has always been strong, but being isolated from society and raising a child who constantly punishes her for her love affair makes her grow stronger and tougher. Chillingworth, who once was a caring man who loved Hester, shows his darkest side when he sets out to destroy the soul of an already weak man. Dimmesdale becomes weaker when he finds he can’t purify his soul from the sin he has committed. The major character changes come from within and are controlled by the characters.
Once her jail time had been served, the worst of Hester’s punishment had only begun. She had confessed and had no guilt to live with, but society had completely shut her out. Also, aside from the embroidered scarlet letter she had to wear, she also had to live with her child who was a daily reminder of her sin. In order to survive her daily pain, Hester grows stronger and blocks out a lot of her emotions. It is noticed that the tougher she got inside, the tougher her appearance becomes and the more plain she dressed. Once she meet with Dimmesdale in the forest, she told him of Chillingworth, which shows she had grown strong enough to not let him hold her down. When she gained that strength, her beauty was expressed by:
Her sex, her youth, and the whole richness of her beauty, came back from
what men call the irrevocable past.
Chillingworth had not been able to harm Hester because of her inner strength. At the end of the book, she is the only one who has survived emotionally.
Chillingworth wanted a woman who would love him, but when that failed, he found a new love. His new passion became the destruction of the man who took Hester away from him. He tells Hester of his plans when he says:
I shall seek this man…There is a sympathy that will make me conscious of
him. I shall see him tremble. I shall feel myself shudder, suddenly and
unawares. Sooner or later, he must needs be mine!
When Chillingworth moved in with Dimmesdale and controlled his every day life, his whole life was based around Dimmesdale’s destruction. Since Dimmesdale had not yet confessed his sin to the town, Chillingworth was succeeding in his plan to destroy Dimmesdale’s soul easily. The more harmful he got, the uglier his physical appearance became. When Dimmesdale finally confessed his sin to everyone and let out all of his guilt, Chillingworth could no longer harm him. Without Dimmesdale being vulnerable, Chillingworth had no meaning to his life and became a withered away old man, both on the outside and the inside. His destruction could only be blamed on himself because he allowed his passion for destruction to take over his whole mind and body, and the only soul he ended up destroying was his own.
Dimmesdale was weak from the beginning of the book because he was so devoted to God and to being pure that he could not defend himself or his sanity. Once he had committed the act of adultery, his guilt grew heavier and heavier throughout the years that he had to keep it a torturous secret. Seeing Hester and Pearl daily was enough to drive him mad, but not knowing he was living with his worst enemy is what really weakened his soul. Dimmesdale had almost completely been drained out by Chillingworth before he realized who Chillingowrth was. Before his soul had completely been destroyed, he released it by confessing his sin to the whole town, and some say that the scarlet letter was imprinted on his chest. He was his own worst enemy because he allowed his guilt and Chillingworth into his mind, which destroyed his body and almost destroyed his soul. When he died, he thanked God for bringing him to confession by saying, “By bringing me hither, to die this death of triumphant ignominy before the people!”
The major characters portrayed both weaknesses and strengths. When they are deciphered, it is noticed that Hester was overall a strong person, Dimmesdale was a weak person, and Chillingworth fell right in-between, changing from strong to weak depending on the situation. Hester was strong enough to resist the destruction of her soul. Dimmesdale allowed Chillingworth into his soul, but with the help of Hester’s strength, was able to free himself. Once Chillingworth could not manipulate Dimmesdale, he turned weak and old. All of the changes the characters went through depended on both their actions and the actions of everyone around them.