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It has been said that revenge is a dish best served cold, and that is exactly how vengeance is perpetrated in The Scarlet Letter. One of the many prominent themes in The Scarlet Letter is revenge. Revenge is exacted many times throughout the novel through the characters actions and obsessiveness. Nearly every character in The Scarlet Letter, from Roger Chillingworth to Hester Prynne, is afflicted with revenge in some way, whether they are getting revenge or someone is getting revenge on them. In the novel, The Scarlet Letter, revenge expressly serves as both a motivator and downfall of the antagonist, Chillingsworth.
In the The Scarlet Letter, the first person mentioned that has anything to do with revenge happens to be Hester Prynne. The townspeople make Hester wear the letter A on her shirt as a punishment for the committing the sin, adultery. The reader is told this when Hawthorne says, “On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of goldthread, appeared the letter A” (6). The letter was intended to be a punishment for Hester, but in a way, it turned out to be a form of revenge by the townspeople. “Let us not look back,” answered Hester Prynne…., threw it to a distance among the withered leaves (157). Her life changes substantially because she has to wear the letter for what it represents.
Roger Chillingworth is another person mentioned in The Scarlet Letter involving revenge. Roger is the revenge seeker. Roger wants to get revenge on Hester for getting pregnant with another man while they were married. “Live, therefore, and bear about thy doom with thee, …, that thou mayest live, take off this draught” (26). From the quote, Hawthorne tells us that Chillingworth knows the scarlet letter will cause Hester constant humiliation and pain, and that Chillingworth’s presence in the town will haunt Hester because Chillingworth is the husband she cheated on. The two, Hester and Roger, don’t interact much, but when Chillingworth is torturing Dimmesdale, he is unintentionally getting revenge on Hester. When Hester sees Dimmesdale in the state that he’s in, it is difficult for her to deal with it, and this is an example of Chillingworth getting unplanned revenge on Hester. “It was myself!” cried Hester, shuddering. “It was not I, not less than he. Why hast thou not avenged thyself on me?” “I have left thee to the scarlet letter,” replied Roger Chillingworth. “If that have not avenged me, I can do no more!” (125). In this quote, Chillingworth says he is not going to get revenge on Hester because he is going to let the townspeople do it.
Another person mentioned involving revenge is Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale. Chillingworth wants to get revenge on Dimmesdale. “Thou mayest cover up thy secret from the prying multitude. Thou mayest conceal it, … , suddenly and unawares. Sooner or later, he must needs be mine!” (28). In this quote, Chillingworth is saying he would do everything in his power to get back at the man Hester keeps secrets about because this man, in a way, had hurt him. He also wanted to find out who the man was so he could make sure the man felt some sort of pain. “The intellect of Roger Chillingworth had now a sufficiently plain path before it. It was not, indeed, …, the Unforgiving! All that dark treasure to be lavished on the very man to whom nothing else could so adequately pay the debt of vengeance!” (91). Hawthorne is telling the reader that Chillingworth is planning an “intimate revenge”, for Dimmesdale, a revenge worse than public shaming and repentance. “Yea, woman, thou sayest truly!”cried old Roger Chillingworth, “…, has become a fiend for his especial torment!” (124). Chillingworth has dedicated his life to getting revenge on Dimmesdale. He is so dedicated that he spends 7 years following him, “nursing” him back to health and secretly torturing him. Chillingworth even fled because of his ultimate dedication to tormenting Dimmesdale and kept him alive so that he could continue his revenge “That old man’s revenge had been blacker than my sin. He has violated, in cold blood, the sanctity of a human heart. Thou and I, Hester, never did so!” (150). Reverend Dimmesdale is saying that Chillingworth is violating the human heart and that is the worst crime you could ever commit, worse than adultery. “Thou hast escaped me!” he repeated more than once. “Thou hast escaped me!” “May God forgive thee!” said the minister. “Thou, too, hast deeply sinned!” (210). These quotes are important because Dimmesdale tells the townspeople about his sin when Chillingworth has been threatening to do this all along. So when Dimmesdale tells the people, Chillingworth has no purpose for living because his only purpose was to get revenge on Dimmesdale.

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