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Revenge in The Scarlet Letter

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Collin Cunningham

on 12 December 2013

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Transcript of Revenge in The Scarlet Letter

Revenge in The Scarlet Letter
Revenge: An All-Encompassing Phenomenon
Our critical
reflects how revenge can transcend from being a mere hobby or relaxed pursuit into being an entirely obsessive, new way of life for the perpetrator of revenge. Essentially: revenge doesn't only hurt the victim, but also the one who is carrying it out.
Revenge Quotes in The Scarlet Letter
Page 95 and 96- "The intellect of Roger Chillingworth has now a sufficiently plain path before it. It was not, indeed, precisely that which he had lain out for himself to tread. Calm, gentle, passionless, as he appeared, there was yet, we fear, a quiet depth of malice, hitherto latent, but active now, in this unfortunate old man, which led him to imagine a more intimate revenge than any mortal had ever wreaked upon an enemy."
Undeniably, Revenge is one of the major themes in The Scarlet Letter. From Roger Chillingworth to Hester Prynne, many characters experience some form of revenge.
Both in real-life and in literature, revenge is very prevalent as seen in examples like The Count of Monte Cristo, The Princess Bride, and the Dachau Massacre.
Looking at revenge in the Scarlet Letter from a critical perspective, Hawthorne seems to want to convey that revenge is a consuming emotion. Those who seek revenge, such as Chillingworth, seem to loose control of themselves and revenge becomes their only purpose.
Real Life and Literary Instances of Revenge
Revenge is not confined to The Scarlet Letter: people often peruse it in real life, and it is a common motif throughout many works of literature.
Revenge is universal, with many people from all walks of life coming into contact with this bitter phenomenon.
Many literary works have used revenge as a theme, and Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter harnesses it to great effect.
Nearly every character in the story, from the physician Roger Chillingworth to the female lead Hester Prynne, is afflicted with revenge in some way, whether they are taking revenge on someone or someone is taking revenge on them.
Roger Chillingworth is Hawthorne's shining example of revenge backfiring on the one who takes it.
For example, on page 95 of the novel, upon discovering that Dimmesdale was guilty of adultery with Hester, Chillingworth does a mad dance that "had a man seen old Roger Chillingworth, at that moment of his ecstasy, he would have had no need to ask how Satan comports himself, when a precious human soul is lost to heaven, and won into his kingdom."
A quote on page 17 of Bloom's analysis of the Scarlet Letter describes this phenomenon well: "Chillingworth's discovery (of Dimmesdale’s guilt) only increases his desire to exact "intimate revenge" on Dimmesdale, and he sets about doing so."
After Dimmesdale passes away in the book's climax atop the scaffold, the narrator relates to the reader in an aside on page 178 that "old Roger Chillingworth's decease took place within the year".
Chillingworth's death at this point in the book helps prove the author's point that revenge is all-consuming and ultimately leads to death.

Page 177- "This unhappy man (Roger Chillingworth) had made the very principle of his life to consist in the pursuit and systematic exercise of revenge; and when, by its completest triumph and consummation, that evil principle was left with no further material to support it - when, in short, there was no more devil's work on earth for him to do, it only remained for the unhumanized mortal to betake himself whither his Master would find m tasks enough, and pay him his wages duly."
A major example of revenge that actually occured was the Dachau massacre during World War II. After finding the corpses of over two thousand Jews in train cars outside the camps, the 45th Thunderbird Army Division lined up several unarmed SS members who had come to surrender and shot them all.
In the novel, The Count of Monte Cristo, revenge is a very predominant theme. Edmond Dantes seeks revenge against three enemies, and it takes control of him to the point where he takes it a bit too far, similar to Roger Chillingworth.
William Goldman's The Princess Bride is a fan favorite, but no one can forget the book's major theme of revenge in the often-repeated line "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."
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