NIM: 05320039
Presented to
Maulana Malik Ibrahim State Islamic University of Malang
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirement for Degree of Sarjana Sastra
Dewi Noorlaili Zakiyah
NIM 05320039
Dra. Andarwati, MA
This is to certify that Dewi Noorlaili Zakiyah’s thesis entitled Immoralities Portrayed in
Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter has been approved by the advisor for further approval by
the board examiners.
Malang, 12 September 2009
Approved by
Acknowledged by
Head of English Letters and Language
Dra. Andarwati, M.A
Galuh Nur Rohmah, M.Pd., M.Ed.
NIP. 150295493
NIP. 150289814
Dean of
Faculty of Humanities and Culture
Drs. KH. Chamzawi, M.H.I
NIP. 150218296
This is to certify that Sarjana’s thesis of Dewi Noorlaili Zakiyah entitled
Immoralities Portrayed in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter
has been approved by the board examiners as the requirement for
the degree of Sarjana Sastra
Board of Examiners
1. Sri Muniroch, SS., M.Hum
(Main Examiner)
NIP. 150327257
2. Mundi Rahayu, SS., M.Hum
NIP. 150381175
3. Dra. Andarwati, M.A
NIP. 150295493
Dean of
Faculty of Humanities and Culture
Maulana Malik Ibrahim State Islamic University of Malang
Drs. KH. Chamzawi, M.HI
NIP. 150 218 296
–( The Scarlet Letter, 1962 p. 242 )—
I would like to dedicate this thesis to
my lovely father (Muh. Syamsul Bachri) and mother (Siti Mujiati)
who always give their endless love, support, motivation,
and many things for my success.
I do love you very much.
Secondly, for my two beloved brothers
(Ahmad Ali Husain and Muhammad Ridwan Aziz)
No one can make me happier and stronger than both of you.
Thirdly, my dearest boyfriend
(Moh. Nur Hudi) who always accompanies me patiently
and give more time to help and support me
Thanks a lot for your great love in my life.
The undersigned,
: Dewi Noorlaili Zakiyah
: 05320039
: Humanities and Culture
: English Letters and Language
declare that the thesis I wrote to fulfill the requirement for the degree of Sarjana Sastra (SI) in English
Letters and language Department, Humanities and Culture Faculty, Maulana Malik Ibrahim State
Islamic University of Malang entitled Immoralities Portrayed in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The
Scarlet Letter is truly my original work. It does not incorporate any materials previously written or
published by another person except those indicated in quotations and bibliography. Due to this fact, I
am the only person responsible for the thesis if there any objection or claim from others.
Malang, 14 September 2009
The Researcher
Dewi Noorlaili Zakiyah
Firstly, I gratefully thank to Allah SWT for His Perennial love, guidance, blessing and spirit. He
gives the strength for passing through everything in my life and especially in finishing my thesis
entitled “Immoralities Portrayed in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter”.
Secondly, shalawat and salam may always be poured by Allah to our Great Prophet
Muhammad SAW who have successful accompany us go to truth way and hopefully we are given
strength to continue his struggle.
I realize that compilation of this thesis will not finish without tuition and guidance, and also aid
from various part. For this I render thanks to:
Dra. Andarwati, M.A as my Advisor who gives advise, greatest patience, precious guidance,
support, understanding, and brilliant and constructive suggestion for completing my thesis.
Lecturers of English Language and Letters Department who assisted me during my study in the
Maulana Malik Ibrahim State Islamic University of Malang.
Staffs and employees of Humanities and Culture Faculty who assisted me in finishing my thesis.
My beloved family: my father, my mother, and my brothers for their great spirit, abundant love,
patience and joy; my beloved boy friend who always supports me and makes me warm when I face
difficulties in doing my thesis.
All of my friends who always give me support and motivation to continue and finish my thesis as
soon as possible. When I fell down, they were always beside me. Thank you very much.
I realize that in compilation of this thesis there are still a lot of insuffiency. Therefore, I am very
expecting of constructive criticism and suggestion utilize furthermore repair.
Approval Sheet ....................................................................................................... i
Legitimation Sheet ................................................................................................. ii
Motto .................................................................................................................... iii
Dedication ............................................................................................................. iv
Statement of the Authenticity ................................................................................ v
Acknowledgements .............................................................................................. vi
Abstract .............................................................................................................. viii
Table of Contents ................................................................................................. ix
CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION ..................................................................... 1
Backgroud of the Study ............................................................................. 1
Statements of the Problems ........................................................................ 5
Objectives of the Study .............................................................................. 5
Scope and Limitation .................................................................................. 5
Significance of the Study ........................................................................... 6
Research Method ........................................................................................ 7
Research Design ......................................................................................... 7
Data Sources ............................................................................................... 8
Data Collection ........................................................................................... 8
Data Analysis............................................................................................... 9
Definition of Key Terms ............................................................................. 9
CHAPTER II REVIEW RELATED ON LITERATURE........................... 11
Novel as a Literary Work........................................................................... 11
Character ................................................................................................... 12
Setting ....................................................................................................... 14
Moral and Ethics........................................................................................ 15
Morality..................................................................................................... 16
Morality and Religion ............................................................................... 17
Morality and Law ..................................................................................... 18
Immorality ................................................................................................ 19
Structuralism Approach in Literary Criticism ........................................... 20
Previous Studies ....................................................................................... 23
CHAPTER III ANALYSIS ............................................................................. 27
The Kinds of Immoralities Portrayed in
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter ................................................ 27
Adultery .................................................................................................... 28
Hypocrisy .................................................................................................. 31
Revenge .................................................................................................... 36
The Consequences of Immoralities for the Main Characters .................... 43
Hester Prynne ........................................................................................... 43
Arthur Dimmesdale .................................................................................. 48
Roger Chillingworth ................................................................................. 51
CHAPTER IV CONCLUSSION AND SUGGESTIONS ............................ 57
Conclusion ................................................................................................ 57
Suggestions ............................................................................................... 59
BIBLIOGRAPHY .............................................................................................. 61
Zakiyah, Dewi Noorlaili. 2009. Immoralities Portrayed in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet
Letter. Thesis. English Letters and Language Department. Faculty of Humanities and
Culture. Maulana Malik Ibrahim State Islamic University of Malang
: Dra. Andarwati, M.A
Key Word
: immorality, character, structural approach
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a sensational novel about the struggles of four
people and tremendous burden placed upon them during the times in Boston, after the sinful act of
adultery is committed by two of them. The novel shows some kind immoralities of the main characters
Hester prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth. It is clearly an education that teaches the
readers not to do that immoral behavior. Based on the reason, the author chooses the title
“Immoralities Portrayed in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter”.
Based on the background of the study, the statements of the problems can be formulated as
follows: are (1) what are immoralities portrayed by the main characters Hester Prynne, Arthur
Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth drawn in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and (2) to
understand what are the consequences of these immoralities for the main characters as the doers of the
immoralities in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.
Theories are used in this study are concerned with novel as a literary work, moral and ethics,
morality, morality and religion, morality and law, immorality, and structural approach in literary
The study is categorized as literary criticism, where the researcher doing analysis,
interpretation, and evaluation in conducting the study. The writer applies the structural approach in her
study because this study analyzes what character’s immoralities and what the consequences of these
immoralities for the character’s life based on the intrinsic elements of this novel.
The results of the research are stated as follow: (1) the immoralities are found in The Scarlet
Letter novel are adultery, hypocrisy, and revenge; and (2) the three main characters get different
consequences of their immoralities for their life, so that’s why they also face the risks of their
immoralities in different ways. The Puritans of Boston in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter
novel unfair in responding the doers of immoralities. Most of them stare at Hester, treating her as an
outcast to society, while the people treated Dimmesdale as a saint, even though he was guilty of
hypocrisy. They also treated Chillingworth as a highly respected physician, although he was guilty of
Finally, the author can conclude that no one in this novel which really goodness. All of them
also have sin and it is impossible to build a plenary society. Through Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
proves that truth all. The author suggest for next researchers to investigate other literary works from
some objects or analyze the same works from different points of view.
Background of the Study
Literature is identical with life. It is a true picture or reflection of human’s life. It describes what
and how human life is and usually reflects the events which happen in society. Through literary work
we can eternalize our special moment or even express what is in our mind and what is in our heart
beautifully and artistically. Literary work is the result of human being’s thought which tells about life
that deals with feeling, ideas, experience, ambition, imagination, and problems. It presents to give an
enjoyment and also broader the reader’s general knowledge. Glickberg (Endraswara, 2008: 77) states
that “all literature, however fantastic or mystical in content, is animated by profound social concern and
this is true of even the most flagrant nihilistic work”. Literature is a creative and imaginative writing
which is full of values for human being’s life.
Literary works represent possibility world, its meaning when reader deals with literary work
hence he deals with possibility of interpretation. Each reader is entitled to and oftentimes differ result
of interpretation to literary work’s meaning. Reader with different expectation will result difference of
interpretation to a certain literary works. This matter relate to the problem of the characteristic, the
function, and the reality of the literary work. The typically characteristics of literature are shown by its
aspect (reference), "fictional", "creation", and "imaginative" (Wellek and Warren, 1993:18-20). While
the function of literature depended from the point of view and also determined by its ideology
background. Realities of the existence of literary works always stay in stress between innovation and
convention. Three elements in explanation above cause the problem complex and wide in the world of
Literature consists of value for education. Novel can possibly have literary value for us if we
can understand what messages are conveyed by the author. Beside that, literature also can be a good
source of readers, their needs, interest, cultural background, and language levels. Readers are usually
interested in reading some literary works like drama, novel, poem because the central theme of those
are mostly about life, love, death which are certainly undergone by all readers.
In this study, the writer concerns with literature especially novel. It is the art of work of a
novelist in beautiful language and high thought because reading novel is very interesting and we can
catch the message that is given by the author. “Novel is an extended prose fiction narrative that relates
to the actions of its character and events in their experience” (Lailah, 2007: 3). By reading novel
everybody can enjoy their spare time and also fulfill their emotional needs. It can be done wherever and
There are some reasons why the writer is interested in novel The Scarlet Letter. Firstly, she
thinks that by reading it the readers will know the value contained in it and they have to be able judge
its values, cultures, and life in it. Secondly, she thinks that studying moral value is a very important
thing and really relevant to the good people especially for us educated people who live in Indonesia.
Moreover, by knowing the value in the literature, we can improve the progression in our life. Thirdly,
this novel is not only an extremely entertaining and action packed story, but also gives a valuable and
lively picture of seventeenth century American society in Boston.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter is about love, sin and most of all morals.
Hawthorne creates many different perspectives on characters and their views. His vivid descriptions of
the three main characters allow the reader to make there own decisions on who is morally right or
wrong. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is one of moral and ethical controversy that reigns
throughout the entire novel.
The novel starts out with a woman named Hester Prynne standing on a scaffold in the city of
Boston so all the town could see her. Her crime was adultery with an un-named man, and her
punishment was to wear a letter “A” on her bosom for the rest of her life. Because of the mark of her
sin, Hester lived a life of exile, not so much physically, but emotionally. Hester still lived in the town
of Boston and was allowed to walk the streets and market place; however, she was not spoken to except
to be ridiculed, and the only time people wanted anything to do with her was when they desired her fine
skills as a seamstress. Also during this time, a man named Roger Chillingworth appeared in the town
and became Arthur Dimmesdale’s physician. The reader knows Dimmesdale to be Hester’s partner in
her sin, and Chillingworth is revealed to the reader to be Hester’s husband. Because of Chillingworth’s
close proximity with Dimmesdale at all times, Chillingworth discovers Dimmesdale’s secret and
torments the man’s soul.
There are some researchers who take The Scarlet Letter as the object of their research. They
analyze the psychology of the main characters, internal conflicts faced by the characters, and symbols
in the novel The Scarlet Letter. One of them is Sri Wahyuni; a student of Gunadharma University with
her thesis (2002) entitled Psychological Effects toward Arthur Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter. In her
thesis, she used psychological approach to analyze the psychological effects toward Arthur
Dimmesdale as one of the main characters in The Scarlet Letter. She concludes that Arthur
Dimmesdale is an idealized self- image and he committed suicide because of the gap between his
idealized self-image and self-realization and depression about his guilty feeling.
In this research, the writer tried to find the immoralities portrayed in the novel The Scarlet
Letter because this matter plays an important role in society. Why is it important? Because by finding
about moralities we will know about the right and the wrong acts and by knowing immoralities we are
not asked to follow them as what the characters do in the novel but we need to know why someone
does the immorality and what the effect of it. So, by knowing immoralities we will try doing the right
act as well as possible because morally the effects of immoralities are very bad for our life. Although
the novel has setting in seventeenth century American society but the writer is sure that almost of every
society has the rule of moralities and it is almost the same although there are differences also. But
whatever the conclusion of what is right or wrong come from our self to choose what we should do
depend on our belief and we need to have the foundation of it.
Based on the reasons above, the researcher decides to choose the title “Immoralities Portrayed
in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter”.
Statements of the Problems
Based on the background of the study, the statements of the problems can be formulated as
1. What are immoralities portrayed by the main characters Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale,
and Roger Chillingworth in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter?
2. What are the consequences of these immoralities for the main characters as the doers of these
immoralities in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter?
Objectives of the Study
To know what immoralities are portrayed by the main characters Hester Prynne, Arthur
Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth drawn in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.
To understand what are the consequences of these immoralities for the main characters as the
doers of the immoralities in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.
Scope and Limitation
There are many intrinsic elements that can be analyzed such as plot, theme, setting, message,
point of view, and characters. In this study the writer analyzes only the characters in the novel. It means
that the analysis only at the aspects inside novel. The writer would like to focus only on the main
character’s behavior exactly their immoralities. Besides the effect of their immoralities for them also
becomes the major concern in the analysis. The limitation of the study is on the three main characters
Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth.
Significance of the Study
Theoretically, the result of this study is expected to be useful to enrich information about
structuralism approach in literary works. In addition, the result of this study is hoped to develop the
knowledge of the application of literary theory especially how to analyze literary works. It is aimed at
giving the understanding how society is very important of human life. The human life can be better or
worse, it depends on how receiving his own society as his view and it includes about moral. That’s
way, it is also hoped to give a little contribution to the next researcher who wants to analyze about
society can influence main character’s morality. Practically, the result of this study is expected to be
useful for the writer as an experience in facing how to analyze literary work from the character’s
immorality. In addition, this study will give contribution and information for others who want to
conduct the similar study.
Research Method
Research Design
In criticizing literary works, we need basic tool, knowledge, and understanding about literary
criticism such as theory and approach. Criticizing literary is a process of analyzing, interpretation, and
evaluation the literary works ( The study is categorized as literary criticism.
Literary work can be analyzed based on several approaches. These approaches are based on four
orientation critics. The first is orientation of the nature which peeping out mimetic theory. Second,
critic theory orientates to the readers as called pragmatic theory. Its emphasis the reader is as the
meaning giver and also the reader is as a literary effect receiver. Third, critic theory orientates to the
element of the author and it is called expressive theory. And the fourth is theory which orientates to the
literary work as known objective theory.
The approach is used in this study is structuralism which is included in objective approach It is
one of objective approach in analyzing literary work that emphasizes its texts. Lukumahua (Hudianto,
2004:8) states that conventional study of literature is started from the status of its entity, that is, the text
of literature itself. Endraswara (2003: 51) says the emphasis of structuralism is viewing literary work as
an autonomic text. It means that we view a literary work based on it that is not influenced by the
outside elements, like the author or history. So in this study the writer analyzes from text of this novel
only, not influenced by the extrinsic elements of novel, like biography of the author or setting when
this novel was written.
The writer applies the structural approach in her study because this study analyzes what
character’s immoralities and what the consequences of these immoralities for the character’s life based
on the intrinsic elements of this novel. In this study, she wants to know how the Puritan as the new
community in American society can influence the elements in the society related how the society gives
a punishment to the society citizen who does the bad act or immorality. In this society, all of elements
in the society are based on the Church. This society can not tolerate to the people who do a sin as small
as it is. So, in this study besides to know what immoralities are done by the main characters in The
Scarlet Letter and what effect of them, also wants to know how Puritan gives influence to the society
citizen thought about moral.
Data Source
The source of the data in this study is the literary work itself, namely Nathaniel Hawthorne’s
The Scarlet Letter novel which consists of 254 pages. It was published in New York by The New
American Library in 1962.
Data Collection
To collect the data, there are some steps that the researcher does. First, the researcher did
intensive and analytical reading in novel The Scarlet Letter to get more understanding. Second, she
continued the research by selecting the content of the novel that reflects to the objective of the study
that is about the immoralities in the novel by underlying the words or sentences that reflect to the
analysis. Third, she classified the required data to answer the statements of the problems correctly. The
last step was evaluating the appropriate data.
Data Analysis
After collecting the data and study the information taken from many literary books closely
related to this study, the researcher began to analyze them by following these steps. First, identifying
the data related to the problems of the study. Second, organizing and separating the data, thus only the
required ones are quoted and analyzed based on the objectives of study, they are: (1) to know what
immoralities are portrayed by the main characters Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger
Chillingworth drawn in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and (2) to understand what are the
consequences of these immoralities for the main characters as the doers of the immoralities in
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Third, doing deep analysis and interpretation on the data
deals with problems of this study, and then reviewing and determining each event that supports the
study. The last step is drawing conclusion and rechecking if the conclusion is appropriate enough to
answer the stated problems.
Definition of Key Terms
Avoiding misunderstanding in the terms used, the researcher gives some definitions of the terms
used in this study:
Morality: an important topic for discussion or argument about standards of behavior,
concerned with principles of good and wrong behaviors.
Immorality: an action that not following accepted standards of morality. In this study,
immorality is an action which not following the rule or standards of morality in seventeenth
century Boston and it can be referred as a sin.
Character: one of the attributes of features that make up and distinguish the individuals.
M.H. Abrams (1982: 20) defines characters as the people presented in dramatic or narrative
work who are interpreted by readers as being endowed with moral and disposition qualities.
In this chapter the writer presents several theories related to some problems in this research.
These theories concern novel as a literary work, literature and moral, moral and ethics, morality,
morality and religion, morality and law, immorality, puritan, and moral approach in literary criticism.
Novel as Literary Work
There are some kinds of literary works. One of them is novel. Novel is kind of literary work
presenting many kinds of views and values. Because it is written in long story, that is why novel can
describe and explain the story in detail. It makes novel can be analyzed from many sides. Novel is also
born in a society that has social, cultural, and historical background. Peck and Coyle explained that
novel presents a documentary picture of life. There are so many characteristics of the literature genre,
which is given by novel.
Novels are different from short stories. A short story is short and a novel is relatively long.
Because of its length, the novel is particularly suited to deal with the effect on character of the passage
of time. William Kenney (1966:105-106) stated that the length of the novel permits expansiveness is
spaces as well as in time. It is therefore not surprising that man in society has been a favorite subject of
novelist. Society has both its spatial and temporal aspects. A society is obviously related to place, but
one’s role in society changes and develops with time.
A novel, however is a long work with great amount of detail on every page and prose, it is
different from the long verse narrative because novel is the modern version in the long narrative and
consists of many elements. It is particularly suited to deal with the effect or character of the passage of
the time. As Clara Reeve (Wellek and Warren, 1995: 282) stated that the novel is a picture of real life
and manners, and of the time in which it is written. The novel also reflected the situation in the society.
The elements of novel which have an important role in this study are characters and setting.
Characters are very important to explain because characters have many important roles in this research
because this research analyzes about immoralities; and of course, the immoralities are done by the
characters in the novel. Characters are needed to develop a plot. Setting also has important role in this
study because setting serves certain functions. It can serve as background of action, a means of creating
appropriate atmosphere, a means of revealing characters, and a means of reinforcing theme. Setting can
reflect condition like condition of society, family, and many things in those eras. By knowing setting of
the literary works, we can know where and how the character’s life so we can also know what the
motivation of the characters in doing something.
In a fiction, especially novel, it is impossible to have a story without characters. Kenney stated
that “a character is obviously relevant to us and to our experience if he likes ourselves or like others
who we know” (Kenney, 1966: 27). So, it is undeniable that sometimes an author only uses pronouns
or other signifiers to call the characters. We do not ask that they necessarily be like ourselves, but we
do ask that people in the story be believable, and that these characters be consistent.
To believable or convincing, characterization must observe at some principles. First, the
characters must be consistent in their behavior: they must not behave one way on one occasion and a
different way on another unless there is a clearly sufficient reason for the change. Second, the
characters must clearly be motivated in whatever they do, especially when there is any change in their
behavior: we must be able to understand the reasons for what they do, if not immediately, at least by
the end of the story. We are interested to know that characters act from known motives.
There are three divisions of character in the novel. Firstly, based on the development of a story
conflict are protagonist and antagonist character. The protagonist is also the hero or heroine, an
admirable character who embodies widely accepted strengths and virtues, who is morally good. The
antagonist is such fiction represents contrasting weakness and vices, and if the antagonist is unsavory
enough the word villain or villainess is used.
Secondly, based on proportion to the fullness of their development, character is an story can be
divided in two types. They are flat and round characters. According to Forster in Koesnosoebroto
(1988: 67) said that the flat character is built around a single idea or quality and it is presented in
outline without much individualizing detail, and so can be fairly adequately described is a single phase
or sentence. The round character is complex in temperament and motivation and is represented with
subtle particularity; thus he is as difficult to describe with any adequacy as a person in real life, and,
like most people, he is capable of surprising us.
Thirdly, based on the role of character, they are main or major character and minor character.
Koesnosoebroto (1988: 61) stated that the major character is the most important character in the story
and minor characters are characters of less important than those of the main character.
Setting is also one of elements of the novel that is very important to develop a novel. An author
imagines a story to be happening in a place that is rooted in his or her mind. The location of a story’s
actions, along with the time in which it occurs, is setting. For Connoly in Koesnosoebroto (1988: 79)
setting is in a sense “the time, place, and concrete situation of generative, the web of environment in
which character spin out their destinies.
Kenney (1966: 38) stated that setting as the point in time and space at which the events of the
plot occur. It is including time and place. Furthermore, Abrams in Koesnosoebroto (1988: 80) stated
that setting as the general location and historical time in which the action occurs in narrative or
dramatic work, while the setting of an episode or scene within a work is the particular physical location
in which it takes place.
It is more referring to the time and location which a story takes place. So, from those statements
above setting is the atmosphere in a story included time and place which follow every actions in a
story. Actually setting is divided into two types: neutral, setting and spiritual setting. Neutral setting is
only the reflection of truth that things have to happen somewhere. It is just to meet the requistic of the
action. But, spiritual setting is means the values embodied in or implied by the physical setting
(Kenney, 1966: 38-39).
Moral and Ethics
Ethics need to be differentiated from moral. Moral teaching includes about view and value of
moral norm found on a group of human being. Moral teaching teaches how people have to live. Moral
teaching represent systematic formula to valuable ascription whereof and also obligation of human
being. Ethics represent science about norm, moral teaching and value. Ethics represent philosophy
reflecting moral teaching. Idea of philosophy have five characteristics are rational, critical, basic,
systematic and normative (do not merely reporting moral view but investigate how moral view which
in fact).
Moral and ethics are almost the same in meaning. But actually they have a little different in
orientation and point of view. If we relate between ethics and moral, ethics is more oriented to the
theory about how to associate and to do good act, and while moral is more oriented about how the
people ought to interact each other. The ethics point of view leads to the human behavior universally,
while the moral point of view leads to the standard, which is entirely part, which should be created by
an ethics.
Moral teaching load view about moral norm and value which there are among a group of human
being. Moral value is to kindliness of human being as human being. Moral norm is about how human
being has to live so that become goodness as human being. There is difference between kindliness of
moral and kindliness in general. Kindliness of moral represent kindliness of human being as human
being while kindliness in general represent kindliness of human being seen from one just facet, for
example as wife or husband. Moral relate to morality. Morality is manner, everything related to manner
or etiquette. Morality can come from source of custom or tradition, religion or ideology or an alliance
from some sources.
Morality is very important thing for individual because in a society every man should think, act,
and behave as the principles moral. Morality is the principles of good or right behavior or the standards
behavior. Morality includes about the rightness or wrongs of behavior. Human beings without the
morality in principles are like animals and human beings who resemble animals are very dangerous.
They will be wilder and more dangerous than a dangerous animal.
Moreover morality is the relation of conformity or nonconformity to the moral standard or rule;
quality of an intention, a character, an action, a principle, or a sentiment, when tried by the standard of
right or the quality of an action which renders it good; the conformity of an act to the accepted standard
of right (
Morality and Religion
Religion and morality go together like boiled beef and carrots. You often find them together but
( said that:
The greatest tragedy in mankind's entire history may be the hijacking of morality by
religion. Many people have swallowed the idea that morality started with religion to
such an extent that they cannot separate the two. I myself was under the impression that
religion had a significant causative link to morality until quite recently when I came to
see the truth.
Man is a primate. All primates have innate morality. A moral sense is vitally important to the
efficient running of any society or group. There are no amoral primate groups anywhere. The mafia has
morals, baboons have codes. There are differences between the various groups and their codes of
morality but all primate groups have some morals and standards of behavior. Religion is also very
common but it is not universal and it did not cause the codes or the instinct to observe them. These are
facts that need to be clearly stated. Morality does not require religion.
It can not be disputed that religion has a close relation with morality. Each religion has amoral
teaching. A moral teaching which is in a religion can be learned as critical, methodological, and
systematic which constant in the context of the religion. According to Bertens in Lailah’s thesis (2007:
20) a moral teaching, which is in religion, has two kinds of rules. In one side, there are many rules that
sometimes, it details enough about lawful food, fast, worship, and etc. these rules are often different
between religions to other religions. In other side, there are general rules of ethic, which over a certain
religion interest such as; do not kill; do not lie; do not adultery; do not steal.
Morality and Law
However a law requires the moral, as moral need law, so that moral do not only hang and law
do not become decorator of empty wall without meaning. In empire of Roma, there is an aphorism,
“Quid leges sine moribus?'' “What is the meaning of law without accompanied by morality?'' Law can
have the power, if it souls of morality. Quality of law laid in moral weight of it. Without morality, the
law seems vacuous and empty.
So that the verdict in law scope, because justice represent its legal fundament, have to really
consider from the aspect of its moral, in this case society sense of justice. Because, something that
concerning justice and law have impact of morality very wide of nation society.
About moral and law, in Thomas Koten’s essay (2001) there is an expression of Judge J Burnett
in English of eighteenth century, when dropping a dead crime; he said that "Thou will be hung by not
because of thou steal horse, but so that the horses will not be stolen again”. It can be concluded that law
and moral have very closed relationship.
We have to distinguish between amoral and immoral terminology before we go through the
explanation of immorality. Based on Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (1995) the word amoral is
defined as not based on moral standards, not following any moral rules. In the same dictionary,
immoral is explained as not following accepted standards of morality.
Johnson (1986: 79-80) stated that mores or moral focus on what most of us thinks as morality,
and several characteristic distinguish moral acts from immoral ones. First, moral acts never have the
actor’s self-interest as their goal. Second, moral acts are that they have a quality of command. Third,
moral acts have an element of desirability. And the last, ideas of morality is sacred.
About the cause of immorality, it can be looked from the causes of morality because immoral
acts have the same causes as the moral acts. Zubair (1990: 83) gave three kinds of causes that
determine the act of morality, they are: the act itself, motive, and the situation.
As causality rule, there is cause must be the effects. The good act can give the good effect, and
if we do the bad act, we will get the bad effect too. Like the old says “what we plants, so it will we
harvest”. Commonly there are three kinds of effects from immorality acts. Firstly, we will get a law
sanction. Secondly, we will get the moral sanction. And the last one is sanction of the doer’s
Structuralism Approach in Literary Criticism
The existence of literary works in medial of the society is the result of author’s imagination and
also his social symptoms around him. Therefore, attendance of literary works represents the part of life
of society. Author as individual subject try to yield his world view (world vision) to his collective
subject. The significance which is elaborated individual subject to social reality around him indicates
that literature comes from a certain society and culture. The existences of such literature confirm that
literature as documentation of socio-cultural (Iswanto, 2001: 61).
Structuralism has a notion that to answer literary works objectively shall pursuant to
masterpiece its text (Sayuti, 2001: 66-69). Study it shall be aimed at the parts of masterpiece which
supporting entirety, conversely that the entirety represents the parts. This view represent reaction of
mimesis and romantic view emphasizing masterpiece as imitating objects outside him, and therefore,
assessment more is emphasizing at aspect of expressivity. Its mean that is more emphasizing at the
author biography and history of literary works.
Based on Peaget (in Jabrohim, 2001: 56) there are three fundamental ideas which included in
structure theory. The first is entirety idea (wholeness) as parts of or its study adapts to a set intrinsic
method which determine overall of structure and also parts of it. The second is transformation idea
(transformation), which is a structure promise procedure of transformation continuous so that enable
forming of new materials. And the third is self-supporting idea (self regulation), that is do not need
things coming from outside of the literary works to maintaining it.
A basic concept which becomes structural theory characteristic is the existence of ascription
that in literary works itself represent an autonomous structure able to comprehend as a circular unity
with its each related constructor elements (Pradopo in Suwondo, 2001: 55). This opinion sign that to
comprehend meaning, literary works have to be out of history background, writer intention, and get out
of its reader effect.
Structuralism is the way of think about the world related to perception and description of
structure (Hawks in Suwondo, 2001: 55-56). Intrinsically, this world is more lapped over from relation
than its objects. In this unity of relation, each elements or its analysis do not have its own meaning,
except the relation with other analysis as according to its position in structure.
Abrams (Pradopo, 2001:140) states that there are four approaches that aroused in a study of
literature. The first is orientation of the nature which peeping out mimetic theory, an approach that
assumes that literary work is an imitation of universe. Second, critic theory orientates to the readers as
called pragmatic theory, that is, an approach that assumes that literary work is a means to achieve
certain purpose. Its emphasis the reader is as the meaning giver and also the reader is as a literary effect
receiver. Third, critic theory orientates to the element of the author and it is called expressive theory.
And the fourth is theory which orientates to the literary work as known objective theory, that is, an
approach that assumes that literary work is an autonomic thing undone from environment, the readers,
and also the author.
From four modes of approaches above, the main discussion of this study just focused on the last
approach or objective approach. Related to this statement, Suwondo (in Jabrohim, 2003: 54) states that
the objective approach is an approach that gives the full action on literary work as a structure.
Structuralism approach is also called as objective approach. Beside that, Semi (1993: 67) says that
structural analysis is called as objective approach, formal approach, or analytic approach. It begins
from the basic assumption that literary work as the creative work has full autonomy that must be seen
as a thing that can stand alone.
In addition, Suwondo (in Jabrohim, 2003: 56) states that the main point of structural analysis is
the text of literary work itself without accompanying with other elements. Furthermore, he said that the
main guidance of structural analysis is the text of literary work itself. Then how is the intrinsic
elements of its structure, absolutely it is not accompanied by an analysis of identity and also the view
of the author, the role of the readers as the producer of meaning, its relevance with the real world, and
do not talk also about literary work as a sign on the process of communication.
In short, the main point of the analysis is the structure, from which the word structuralism is
derived. As it is a structure, it is closely related to the aspects that compose the work. Thus, the analysis
in this thesis will focus on the major character and their behaviors in their society where they live in
Previous Studies
As long as the writer has written this thesis, she has found many studies on Nathaniel
Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Many researches which has been done on the novel The Scarlet Letter
such as about the character’s psychology and the internal conflict of the main characters.
The first was conducted by Masrukhin Kholil (2007), a student of State Islamic University of
Malang. He conducts the research entitled An Analysis on the Internal Conflicts Faced by Main
Characters of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. In his research, he proposes some problems
namely: (1) the internal conflict of the main characters, (2) the way of the main characters solve their
conflicts. This study is literary criticism. The approach used is structural approach since the writer
analyzes the intrinsic aspect of novel. As the result, this study shows that Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The
Scarlet Letter contains several internal conflicts faced by the main characters. They are (1) Hester
Prynne, experiences the internal conflicts; it is character against disability in keeping the secret and
character against guilty feeling, (2) Arthur Dimmesdale, experiences the internal conflict; it is character
against disability confessing sin, character against insecurities, and character against guilty feeling, and
(3) Roger Chillingworth, experiences the internal conflict; it is character against curiosity. Through the
analysis in his study, the main characters use different ways in solving their internal conflicts. Hester
Prynne uses both her logic and her feeling in solving her conflicts, while Arthur Dimmesdale uses his
logic more than his feeling in solving his conflicts, and it is different with Roger Chillingworth in
which uses his ego in solving his conflict.
There are several similarities and differences between the study above and this study. The
differences are Kholil’s study focuses only describe about the internal conflict and also the way of main
characters in solving conflicts. While in this study, the writer analyzes and focuses on immoralities of
the main characters and the consequences of these immoralities for the main character’s life. In other
hand, the similarity between study above and this study is employing structural approach in order to
analyze the problems in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter novel. By using this approach,
hopefully the writer can obtain the finding of the analysis properly.
The second was conducted by Sri Wahyuni (2002). She is a student of Gunadharma University.
Her thesis entitled Psychological Effects toward Arthur Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter. In her study
she tried describe what the character of Dimmesdale is like and why committed suicide. The study used
a qualitative descriptive method which involved the use of qualitative data, such as verbal expressions,
notes of interviews, information from internet, and psychological books. Using a psychological
approach, the writer concludes that Arthur Dimmesdale is an idealized self- image and he committed
suicide because of the gap between his idealized self-image and self-realization and depression about
his guilty feeling.
Wahyuni’s thesis have relevant with this study because these thesis study in what psychological
effects toward Arthur Dimmesdale, as one of the main characters of the novel. From those thesis, the
writer can find how personality of Arthur Dimmesdale are and what happen with his psychology after
what hew did, in this case it is referred as a sin. There is a close relation with the study above because
in this study the writer wants to analyze the effects of immoralities which are done by the main
characters to their life including in psychological aspect.
There are some researchers used moralities as object of their research but they used different
approach to analysis their research. One of them is thesis of a student of Muhammadiyah University of
Surakarta. Dwiyanthi Yhan Sulistianingrum (2008)’s thesis entitled Morality In Mario Puzo’s The
Family. This research analyses how morality influences the chosen characters in Mario Puzo’s The
Family, especially viewed by Leibniz moral philosophy approach. The study analyses the novel in
terms of its structural elements and based on moral philosophical perspective. In her research, she finds
out that morality is reflected in Mario Puzo The Family through the characters of The Family;
Alexander VI, Cesare Borgia and Lucrezia. The morality influences their will and their decision which
alter them to act. Alexander VI, Cesare Borgia and Lucrezia get suitable compensation because of their
action. The destiny leads them to the death. This research has a same aspect of analysis object. Both
Sulistianingrum’s thesis and this thesis analyzed the morality in the novel.
Nurul Lailah (2007) has also conducted another study on moralities. For the sake of fulfilling
her graduating project in State Islamic University of Malang, she conducted the study entitled
Immoralities Found in Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders. She formulated some problems as follows: (1)
what are immoralities done by the main character Moll Flanders in Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders, (2)
what causes of immoralities done by the main character Moll Flanders in Daniel Defoe’s Moll
Flanders, and (3) what effects of immoralities done by the main character Moll Flanders in Daniel
Defoe’s Moll Flanders. She applied the moral approach because her study analyzed what moral
messages want to be conveyed by the author. She found three findings can be stated. First, the
immoralities done by the main character Moll Flanders are adultery, bigamy, incest, and theft. Second,
the causes of immoralities done by the main character Moll Flanders are economic necessity,
passionate desire and Moll’s evil. Third, the effects of immoralities done by the main character Moll
Flanders are a law sanction, psychological problem, and a moral sanction. This research has a same
aspect of analysis object. Both Lailah’s thesis and this thesis analyzed the immoralities of the main
This chapter will cover the result of the data analysis of which has been accomplished and
collected based on the formulated research problems. The data are analyzed descriptively based on the
moral approach in literary work.
In The Scarlet Letter novel, there are three main characters which develop the story from
beginning until ending. They are Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth. Each
of them does immoralities and they even also have the different way in facing of the risks of their
action. What is going on and what they sliver, it is bearing with condition of Puritanical society during
the period. Puritans wish a society which is holy; and for them, a sin which is done by someone is likes
against their ideology. For the matter, Puritans are stringent in giving punishment to all 'sinners' as
what happen to the main characters in The Scarlet Letter novel.
The Kinds of Immoralities Portrayed in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter
Through Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter is written about love, sin, and most of all morals. It is
surrounded by something sinful and lies as called immorality. It is occurred in Puritan community
which is very religious. This novel based on human experiences and shows us that there is no body
perfect in this would even for a reverend. From this novel, the writer finds some immoralities which are
done by the main characters in this novel.
Adultery is a sin never taken lightly. It is a serious crime that hurts not only the person
committing it, but also the people around that person. A crime so serious requires a severe punishment,
but that would just lead to more sorrow. In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hester is the
main character who is forced to wear the letter ‘A’ on her chest for committing adultery with an
unknown person. At times, the punishment should fit the crime, but under certain circumstances, the
crime itself holds all the punishment that is needed.
During the Puritan time period, crimes for adultery ended in execution. In Hester’s case, she
was only required to wear the scarlet letter because of the unknown information of who her husband
and her lover were. Execution is too severe for a crime such as this, the taking of a life never
compensates for a crime that does not physically take a life of another. Wearing the letter ‘A’ on the
other hand seems reasonable at first; It subjects the adulterer to public humiliation and criticism. On the
surface, this punishment is perceived tame and does not fully grasp the significance of the crime, but if
you consider all the non-implied consequences of this type of punishment, it is too harsh of a
punishment for one to take.
Physical pain is nothing compared to how the mind can hurt. Hester’s mental anguish from
being an outcast of her settlement is caused by her punishment. She felt alone and isolated from the
world. It is far too severe for a crime such as adultery. A punishment should only hurt the people that
are guilty of the crime, but the punishment also affects Pearl, Hester’s daughter. Pearl was treated like
her mother, an outcast from society.
Temptations occurs everyday in our lives. They force us to do certain things that we do not
want to do. A temptation always delivers a positive effect towards one, but in exchange it always has a
consequence. Adultery is a crime that has temptation as a foundation. In our society, people believe
that there is no perfect human being, that such a status would be impossible to achieve; but in our
society we each constantly thrive for perfection in ourselves and in the way we go about our lives.
When our mentality is focused on the idea of being perfect, we can’t accept imperfection. If a person
around us acts in a manner that is not at our standards, we perceive him/her as inferior and subordinate.
We can not help but criticize the “imperfection” that we see before us. An imperfection can be the way
that a person may give into a certain temptation.
When Hester was publicly branded as an adulterer, the people around town began to think of
her as a figure of evil and that she symbolizes all that is wrong in the world, thus ruining her social life
and causing her mental, and in turn physical, deterioration.
“But the point which drew all eyes, and, as it were, transfigured the wearer -- so that
both men and women who had been familiarly acquainted with Hester Prynne were now
impressed as if they beheld her for the first time -- was that SCARLET LETTER, so
fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her bosom. It had the effect of a spell,
taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity, and enclosing her in a sphere by
herself.” (The Scarlet Letter, 61)
Now if all of us can accept the fact that there is no perfect human being in this world, then why
can we not accept the fact that there are people in this world that are not perfect? The punishment that
has been brought upon Hester not only ruins her life, but also visually shows the sins in all the people
around her that questions her innocence.
Arthur Dimmesdale, Hester's partner in adultery, is a minister, one whom the people look up to
for guidance and direction. The people consider him almost sinless, the perfect model which to follow.
The townspeople thought of him as:
"a true priest, a true religionist, with the reverential sentiment largely developed, and an
order of mind that impelled itself powerfully along the track of creed" (The Scarlet
Letter, 122 )
Believing himself to have committed the grave sin of adultery, Dimmesdale's responsibility is
to step down from his clerical position or at least admit his sin to the public. Instead, Dimmesdale hides
his sin and actually uses Hester's sin in his sermons. A "true priest" would not hide his sin from his
congregation, as Dimmesdale does. The fact that Dimmesdale hides his own sin while expounding on
Hester's sin, which is actually the same, makes Dimmesdale a hypocrite.
How a person is punished, always coincides with the crime itself. But how do you create a
punishment for committing adultery? Adultery is more of an ethical crime than it is harm to society.
When a person commits adultery, only the people involved should be involved because it’s so personal.
The fact that the church has so much influence over the government itself is not in the best interest of
the society, and a crime against God’s will is not always necessarily a crime against mankind. In
Puritanical views, we can see how a crime such as adultery can be punished, but isn’t a person
punished enough when they commit adultery? And even if they were not, why would it be necessary to
punish their unmoral views on life? Mr. Arthur Dimmesdale, Hester’s lover, is a perfect example of
how a person is punished by the act itself. When he had committed adultery with Hester, his identity
was unknown which allowed him to remain anonymous. But his conscience had reduced him to a
weak, ill man and later causing his death.
Life is all about second chances. A perfect world can never and should never be achieved.
Adultery is a serious crime, but a punishment such as the scarlet letter is far too serious for this crime.
A punishment such as this would hurt the person and the people around him/her far too much, and the
fact that they all probably suffered from the crime itself makes the punishment less necessary.
In The Scarlet Letter, hypocrisy is evident everywhere. The characters of Hester Prynne, Arthur
Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth were steeped in hypocrisy. Hawthorne was not subtle in his
portrayal of the terrible sin of hypocrisy; he made sure it was easy to see the sin at work. Parallels can
be drawn between the characters of The Scarlet Letter and of today’s society. Just because this book is
set in colonial times, does not mean its lessons are not applicable to the world we live in.
The first character, Hester Prynne, is guilty of adultery, as in the explanation of adultery above,
and of hypocrisy. She “loves” Dimmesdale yet she says nothing while for seven years Dimmesdale is
slowly tortured. This love she felt that was so strong, that it made her breaks sacred vows must have
disappeared. Why else would she condemn her supposed love to the hands of her vengeful husband?
Dimmesdale is continually tortured by his inner demons of guilt that gnaw at his soul, and
Chillingworth makes sure these demons never go away. Hester allows this to happen. Physically and
mentally the minister begins to weaken, slowly he becomes emaciated, and he punishes himself
constantly. Only when Hester knows that if Chillingworth is aloud to continue, that Dimmesdale will
surely go insane if she does not reveal her secret. Why did Hester wait so long? She did not reveal who
her lover was on the scaffolding when she had the perfect opportunity to. Also, she did not tell her
husband who her lover was.
Why did Hester Prynne keep secrets that ended up hurting everyone? Hester can atone for her
sin of adultery, but every day that she keeps the secret of her lover, and the true identity of Roger
Chillingworth a secret she is committing a sin.
“Take heed how thou deniest to him---who, perchance, hath not the courage to grasp it
for himself---the bitter, but wholesome, cup that is now presented to thy lips!” (The
Scarlet Letter, 73)
If Hester would have things would have been infinitely better for everyone. Everyone Hester
Prynne loves, she does in a hypocritical way. She loves Pearl enough to sacrifice to feed and clothe her,
but she does not love Pearl enough to give her a father. Hester loves Dimmesdale, but she does not love
him enough to expose his sin publicly, and she conceals her knowledge of Chillingworth. Either you
love something whole-heartedly, or you don’t. Hawthorne might have portrayed Hester in a more
favorable light then the other characters, but still she should have to wear a scarlet H in addition to her
The second character, Arthur Dimmesdale is the epitome of hypocrisy. Hawthorne intended his
name to have symbolic meaning. Dimmesdale might be bright in the areas of theology, but when it
comes to hypocrisy, he is a fool. Dimmesdale says very near the beginning of the book:
“What can thy silence do for him, except to tempt him---yea, compel him, as it were---to
add hypocrisy to sin?” (The Scarlet Letter, 73)
He knows what will happen to him if he endures his sin in private, but he is too weak at this
point in the book to admit it. The tapestries of biblical adultery, which are found in Dimmesdale’s
room, are hypocritical. These are supposed to help him atone for his sins by making him feel guilty, but
he feels no better. Dimmesdale goes and preaches every week on how bad sin is, and how he is the
worst sinner of them all. These partial confessions just make him more of a hypocrite. Dimmesdale
knows how the parishioners will interpret these confessions; he is not blind to their looks of adoration.
Dimmesdale enjoys being viewed as a saint, when he knows he is a truly a sinner.
The years of torture the minister receives, are brought on by his own doing. If his supposed
commitment to the community had stopped him from admitting his sin, he would have not been
tortured. His love of the community is very similar to Hester Prynne’s love of Pearl. Dimmesdale only
loves his community enough to preach in it, but he is preacher harboring a great sin, and so he cannot
truly guide his community spiritually. Dimmesdale’s and Hester’s love are alike in their limitations.
While Dimmesdale does speak up for Hester keeping her Pearl but he cannot love her enough to be her
The scene at the scaffolding at night is a truly disgusting scene of hypocrisy. Arthur seizes the
opportunity to go up on the scaffolding and feel better about his sin, but when he sees a fellow man of
the cloth walking by, he cowers. Would it not have been better to have his sin revealed? Then, the
minister is given another chance to redeem himself but he cowers yet again when Hester and Pearl
stand with him Pearl asks:
“Wilt thou stand here with mother and me, tomorrow noontide?” (The Scarlet Letter,
Dimmesdale is selfish, he tries to atone in private, by whipping himself and fasting. This
accomplishes nothing; he knows in his heart that no punishment in private will get him forgiveness
from the lord. Yet he continues his practices of private punishment, so he temporarily feels better about
himself. Another occurrence of hypocrisy was when Hester finally revealed the true identity of Rodger
Chillingworth. Dimmesdale was overcome with anger, how could Dimmesdale has been mad? Hester
had finally conquered her weakness of character, and told him the truth. Dimmesdale could only see
that she had been harboring a terrible secret in her heart. After that, the agreement to run away to the
Old World was another instance of a character weakness of Dimmesdale. He had not atoned for his
sins, but he would still run away with Hester. He even interpreted the flood of sunshine to mean that
God himself approved of their plan.
Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter is the ultimate incarnation of hypocrisy. He represents how
the Puritan ideals had been twisted into something that reeked of hypocrisy. Dimmesdale pretended to
be a good, just, and wise minister, in reality, he was a bad, unjust, and foolish. Dimmesdale recognizes
the danger of hypocrisy, but his character is too weak to avoid the pitfall of hypocrisy.
The third character of Roger Chillingworth is a man who at one point was guided by intellect,
and not his emotions. He pretends to be Dimmesdale’s friend, but inflicts grievous wounds upon the
reverend. At the beginning of The Scarlet Letter Rodger returns to his wife, only to find her being
publicly condemned for adultery, his emotions began to take over. At that point, his only goal in life is
revenge. When he eventually figures out whom Hester’s lover was, he begins to torture Dimmesdale in
such a way that he does not know he is being tortured. Chilingworth’s emotions rule him; his singleminded pursuit of revenge overtakes him. He is supposed to be a scholar, a man of reason. Revenge for
the betrayal of Hester is the driving force in his life. The actual torture he inflicts is purely mental, and
is successful in breaking Dimmesdale’s body and soul down. During one instance Chillingworth sees
what he has become. He sees just how far evil he has become, but still Chillingworth continues his
vengeful work.
The unfortunate physician, while uttering these words, lifted his hands with a look of
horror, as if he had beheld some frightful shape, which he could not recognize, usurping
the place of his own image in a glass. IT was on of those moments---which sometimes
occur only in the interval of year---when a man’s moral aspect is faithfully revealed to
his mind’s eye. Not improbably he had never viewed himself as he did now.
(Hawthorne 1962: 165-166)
Hypocrisy is the major theme in The Scarlet Letter. Hawthorne’s work was meant to highlight
the hypocrisy in Puritan society, and in the people that make up the society. The Scarlet Letter was
meant to expose just how much of a sin hypocrisy is, and just how it causes so much pain and
Revenge is also significant element in The Scarlet Letter novel and that it encompasses a
person’s attempt to see his or her artistic side survive in a community that disapproves of the use of the
imagination. The word adultery is never spelled out in the novel. Thus, the letter A could represent
avenger as well as adulterer.
Close scrutiny of the action in The Scarlet Letter novel divulges a theme of revenge with the
three main characters acting as avengers. Though Chillingworth is the most obvious symbol of revenge,
Dimmesdale and Prynne are vengeful in different degrees.
The author himself sets the tone for revenge in the preface to the second edition:
...The author begs leave to say, that he has carefully read over the introductory pages,
with a purpose to alter or expunge whatever might be found amiss...As to enmity, or illfeeling of any kind, personal or political, he utterly disclaims such motives....The author
is constrained therefore, to republish his introductory sketch without the change of a
word. (The Scarlet Letter, xiii-xiv)
Although Hawthorne denies using The Custom-House as a means of revenge for his removal as
a Custom House official, he quite obviously does so. The focus of his long description of the Custom
House (and object of revenge) is not only to cast his co-workers and boss in a poor light, but to reveal
the inefficient and apathetic virtues of the Federal Government. To this end Hawthorne describes in
detail how his co-workers sleep on the job and even describes his own government work day as:
...During precisely three and a half hours of each forenoon, floats or droops, in breeze or
calm, the banner of the republic; but with the thirteen stripes turned vertically, instead of
horizontally, and thus indicating that a civil, and not a military, post of Uncle Sam's
government is here established. (The Scarlet Letter, 16-17)
This reveals that government workers enjoy three hours of work rather than the customary
eight. Referring to the Custom House Inspector as “an animal” and comparing him to a dog is another
of Hawthorne’s vengeful deeds.
Roger Chillingworth appears in the novel as a newcomer to Boston who seems to be an answer
to prayer. He is a physician and is welcomed into the town to care for the town’s beloved minister,
Reverend Arthur Dimmsdale. However, what the people of the town do not know is that Chillingworth
is Hester Pryne’s husband and he is out for revenge against Arthur Dimmsdale. When Chillingworth
first starts caring for Dimmsdale, he does it from his own home, and goes and visits Dimmsdale’s place
of residence to administer his “medicine.” However, after Chillingworth had been doing this for some
time, the community of Boston decided it would be better if Chillingworth were to be able to move into
the residence of Arthur Dimmsdale. Once with Dimmsdale, the reader can start to see Chillingworth’s
kleptomaniac behaviors unfold. The first sign of this behavior is seen when some people in the town
start to see something ugly and evil taking over the face of Roger Chillingworth but they can not quite
figure out what that something is. However, the reader is aware of what goes on inside of the residence
of Dimmsdale and Chillingworth.
What once began for Chillingworth as an act of vengeance, slowly transformed into a life of
endless obsession?
“Thou wilt not reveal his name? Not the less he is mine.”
(The Scarlet Letter, 80)
Roger Chillingworth tells Hester that the father of her child will be known and that
Chillingworth will make it certain that he learns the man, and confronts him. The reader may
experience the intensity of Chillingworth’s plans for the future, as the foreshadowing of his obsession
is apparent. As the passion of his revenge grows, Chillingworth’s actions become more sinful and
“…It was understood that this learned man was the physician as well as friend of the
young minister, whose health had severely suffered of late by his too unreserved selfsacrifice to the labours and duties of the pastoral relation.” (The Scarlet Letter, 109)
Chillingworth decides to become good friends with Reverend Dimmesdale, the father of Hester
Prynne’s child, in order to ensure the slow and painful torture of the reverend.
"Wherefore not; since all the powers of nature call so earnestly for the confession of sin,
that these black weeds have sprung up out of a buried heart, to make manifest, an
outspoken crime?" (The Scarlet Letter, 129)
Chillingworth speaks to the reverend about the blackness of secrets in order to torture the
reverend by increasing the pain of his guilt. Chillingworth’s evil symbolism is also apparent here in his
obsession of destroying the reverend. Although Chillingworth was the only character with no problem
at the start of the novel, his dedication to vengeance and pure evil, leads to his defeat as he remains the
only character who never repents for any of his sins.
Chillingworth, who the reader knows is aware of Dimmsdale’s sin, will constantly pressure
Dimmsdale on the topic of forgiveness and confession. He does this in a manner that makes it seem
like he is just looking for answers in his own life; however, it is quite obvious that these questions are
tearing away at Dimmsdale’s soul. Chillingworth sees the affect he is having on Dimmsdale and is
deeply pleasured by Dimmsdale’s torment of the soul, proving just how evil Chillingworth is.
Romans 12:10 says, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving
preference to one another.” ( Chillingworth obviously was not kindly
affectionate to another and therefore just like everyone else in the Puritan Society, and everyone else in
the world, was a sinner and therefore is at just as much fault as everyone else in the puritan society.
Roger Chillingworth embarks on a road to revenge at almost the first moment he enters the
story. The demon of revenge overtakes him as he enters the town and sees Hester upon the scaffold
“A writhing horror twisted itself across his features, like a snake gliding swiftly over
them” (The Scarlet Letter, 67)
Chillingworth’s next action is to obtain information on Hester from a man in the crowd. He first
seeks to confirm Hester’s iniquity, and then asks for the identity of the baby’s father. When he learns
that the father’s identity is not available, Chillingworth declares that this unknown man should be
punished. He reiterates three times that the child’s father will be found.
Chillingworth’s next significant action takes place while ministering medicine to Hester in her
prison cell. Hester is afraid to take any medicine from him fearing his revenge. Chillingworth reassures
Hester that if he wanted revenge, he would not get it by killing her. He explains that the “better
revenge” would be in keeping her alive to wear the scarlet letter. An easily overlooked point is
Chillingworth’s next declaration; that it is the infant’s father who has hurt both himself and Hester.
This may mark the beginning of a mutual revenge against Dimmesdale, as Hester agrees to keep
Chillingworth’s identity as her husband secret.
Chillingworth fades into the background for a while, but he is present when the town elders
debate removing Pearl from her mother’s care. When the elders fail to take this course of action he
suggests that he might study the child to determine her father. It seems that he is determined to exact
revenge on someone (Hester) until he can ascertain the child’s father. Chillingworth’s mental and
perhaps physical torture of Dimmesdale is quite obvious and does not warrant further discussion here.
It is noteworthy that when Dimmesdale is asleep in his chair one day, Chillingworth removes his cloak
and sees the scarlet letter across his heart; which makes him more obsessed with torturing Dimmesdale.
Learning of Dimmesdale’s and Hester’s planned departure, Chillingworth planned to join them rather
than to kill Dimmesdale. After Dimmesdale’s death Chillingworth has lost his will to live. His revenge
was in watching the minister suffer and ended with his death.
Though Dimmesdale suffers terribly by his own self-torture, he too has tasted revenge. He
abandons Hester at her time of need (public punishment) and blames her for putting him in his secret
predicament. For seven years he makes no attempt to see her, comfort her, or offer any type of financial
support for her or his illegitimate child. However, ironically, his actions seek revenge on his
community for punishing Hester. He still lusts for young women in his congregation. He preaches
fervent sermons, while mentally mocking his congregation. In the second scaffold scene Dimmesdale is
on the podium, making noise in the middle of the night to mock his congregation. After his meeting in
the woods with Hester and planning to sail away with her, his only question was when they would
leave. He was concerned with getting in one last piece of revenge, the Election Day Sermon, before his
Dimmesdale’s ultimate revenge is at the last scaffold scene. He dashes Hester’s hopes of a new
life with him and Pearl. He further destroys her hopes of spending eternity with him in his last dying
words. He admits his guilt to the townspeople whom he has mocked for all these years, only when he
knows they will have no chance to retaliate.
The most dramatic actions of revenge are performed by Hester Prynne. As the prison guard
leads her from the prison:
...On the threshold of the prison door, she repelled him, by an action marked with
natural dignity and the force of character, and stepped into the open air, as if by her own
free will....she took the baby on her arm, and, with a burning blush, and yet a haughty
smile, and a glance that would not be abashed, looked around at her townspeople and
neighbors. (The Scarlet Letter, 60)
Thus, from her very first action in the story, Hester shows disdain for the townspeople. She
looks directly at them with scorn, vowing to keep her true anguish hidden from them. She places her
hand on the beautiful letter on her breast only to draw attention to it. Making her punishment an object
of art is another means of Hester’s revenge. Hester’s decision to remain in the colony after being
released from prison was also vengeful. Her continued presence adorned with the letter would cause
unease in the community and discomfort for Dimmesdale.
It can be argued that Hester’s reason for not naming Dimmesdale while on the scaffold is
Hester’s main revenge. She knows the minister’s weak nature and that his conscious will offer her
more revenge if he is alive, rather than put to death if she names him. Hester also knows that agreeing
to keep Chillingworth’s identity as her husband hidden is also not to Dimmesdale’s advantage. It is
hard to believe that Hester truly loved Dimmesdale, since she made no attempt to contact him for seven
years. After seeing Dimmesdale at the second scaffold scene, and noting his physical and spiritual
deterioration, Hester’s need for revenge against Dimmesdale has been satisfied.
Hester is able to get revenge on her community by making her needlework so good that they
needed her. She must have gained some enjoyment from refusing to work for some of her community.
Also, performing work for the elders and those in high positions in the community must also have
given her some satisfaction. Hester extracted her revenge by kindness. She proudly wore the letter in
public, knowing that seeing it made many of the townspeople uneasy because of their similar sins. This
is also probably her true motive in wearing the letter even when told she could take it off.
Finally, Hester extracted revenge on her community through Pearl. She would not leave her
house without taking Pearl along, dressed like a smaller version of the scarlet letter. She was also lax in
Pearl’s religious training and in disciplining her, feeling that the community had caused Pearl to suffer
From Preface to Conclusion, The Scarlet Letter endows its infrequent action with vengeance.
The characters symbolize art, guilt, and obsession, but the main characters are all avengers on some
The Consequences of Doing Immoralities for The Main Characters
Sin has always been and will always be a part of human life and literature. And as long as there
is sin, people will react to it in different ways; some will hide it, some will embrace it, some will rot
from it. But no matter how the sin is handled or dealt with, it will always leave its mark.
Sin is the transgression of a moral code designated by either society or the transgressor. The
Puritans of Boston in the novel, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, establish a moral code by
which to purge their society of deviants. As this society is inherently theocratic, the beliefs and
restrictions established by religion are not only incorporated into law but constitute all law. In this
manner, the moral code of the Puritan society thoroughly pervades the lives of its individuals, and any
presence of iniquity is felt in all aspects of their lives. In The Scarlet Letter, the characters' lives are
controlled by the sin they commit.
Hester Prynne
Hester is a round, major character and a protagonist in this novel. She comes from Old England.
She marries Dr. Prynne, an old educated man who spends most of his time on science. However, she
does not love him. Hester lives in New England, Boston, while her husband is still in Amsterdam.
....Yonder woman, Sir, you must know, was the wife of a certain learned man, English
by birth, but who had long ago dwelt in Amsterdam, whence some good time agone he
was minded to cross over and cast in his lot with us of the Massachusetts. To this
purpose he sent his wife before him, remaining himself to look after some necessary
affairs. Marry, good Sir, in some two years, or less, that the woman has been a dweller
here in Boston, no tidings have come of this learned gentleman, Master Prynne; and his
young wife, look you, being left to her own misguidance-- (The Scarlet Letter, 68)
Hester Prynne has shocked the Puritans of Boston by committing adultery. Two years before
the opening of the story, she is sent to America alone by her husband to await his coming. As far as the
world knows, Hester’s husband, Dr. Prynne (an elderly scientist) has disappeared. All of Boston is
anxious for Hester to tell the name of her secret lover, the father of her child named Pearl.
The immoralities which are done by Hester Prynne are adultery, hypocrisy, and also revenge.
Between three of the main characters who did immoralities, Hester is the one who show her guilty
feeling and try to do whatever the human being do although the society can not receive her as the
member of this society.
Hester Prynne has strength of character. She is very honest so she openly acknowledges her sin.
Hester stands on the scaffold, exposed to public humiliation, and wears a scarlet letter on her dress for
the rest of her life as a sign of shame. Her beauty and warmth go away, buried under the burden of the
elaborate scarlet letter on her bosom. Hester settles in a cottage at the edge of town, lives a somber life
with her daughter, and earns a living with her needlework. She has to bear the contempt of the
townspeople and she has nothing but her strength of spirit to sustain her.
What the consequences are gotten by Hester because of her immoralities? In the beginning of
the novel, it is revealed that Hester Prynne is guilty of adultery. One of the consequences for her sin is a
prison term. Secondly, she had a child, a baby who was conceived from lust rather than love. Hester
named this child Pearl, meaning of great value. Thirdly, Hester was condemned to wear the scarlet
letter, upon her bosom, for all to recognize her as one who has met with the black man in the forest.
Fourth, she was made to stand in public ignominy as the townsmen mocked her. Although the
magistrates tried to make Hester Prynne reveal her accomplice, she kept his name unknown.
Hester Prynne's adultery causes her alienation from the Puritan society in which she lives.
After the term of her confinement ends, she moves into a remote, secluded cottage on the outskirts of
town, inducing a physical separation from the townspeople. Because of this seclusion from society, the
Puritans regard her with much curiosity and suspicion:
"Children...would creep nigh enough to behold her plying her needle at the cottagewindow...and discerning the scarlet letter on her breast, would scamper off with a
strange, contagious fear." (The Scarlet Letter, 85)
In addition to the physical separation, a more intangible manner of exclusion also exists, in that
Hester becomes a pariah. She is subject to derision and malice from the lowliest of vagrants to the
most genteel of individuals of the community, though many are often the recipients of her care and
"The poor...whom she sought out to be the objects of her bounty, often reviled the hand
that was stretched forth to succor them...Dames of elevated rank, likewise, were
accustomed to distill drops of bitterness into her heart." (The Scarlet Letter, 88)
Hester cannot feel any sort of kinship with the townspeople in light of the treatment she
receives from them, thus alienating her even further from Puritan society. Formerly an inhabitant
within the bounds of the community as well as a member of the community, she is now outcast in both
respects. Just as the act of adultery is pivotal in Hester's life, this sin effects a similar manipulation of
Arthur Dimmesdale's life.
Hester Prynne's sin was as an adulteress, and the result of this was that she had to wear the
scarlet letter "A." She feels that her sin has taken away everything she had, and given her one thing in
return; her baby. Although she had dignity and pride when she first stepped out of the prison and when
she stood upon the scaffold this "A" unfamilarized and separated her from the community, and she
stood alone with her child as she does for the most part of her life following this event. From then on,
she was to live away from the community with her baby, Pearl, and was shunned by everyone. The sin
she has committed has made her think that death would be an easy way out and that she deserves little,
for she says, "I have thought of death, have wished for it, would have even prayed for it, were it fit that
such as I should pray for anything." Throughout the next years, the sin Hester committed changes her
personality and identity. Once a beautiful woman, Hester now looks plain and drab. Once passionate,
she is now somber and serious. She had contained a precious quality of womanhood that has now
faded away. Her plain gray clothes symbolize her temperament and disposition. There are also good
effects that the sin has on her. She becomes more giving and caring, and is endlessly helping the poor
and sick and doing neighbors favors. Hester feels that she owes it to the community, and is also
forcing herself into a life of service to others. The sin stays with her throughout her life, and even
when she leaves her town, she feels obligated to come back and fullfill her punishment. The sin made
her lifestyle worse, but it changed her character somewhat for the better.
Directly formed as the result of sinful passion and union, Pearl is the quintessential effect of sin;
and its products seep into her very being and personal. Hawthorne clearly reveals Pearl's peculiarities
transferred from the womb
"The child could not be made amendable to the rules... The mother's impassioned state
had been the medium through which were transmitted to the unborn infant in rays of its
moral life; ...the warfare of Hester's spirit, at that epoch [time] was perpetuated in Pearl"
(The Scarlet Letter, 93)
In this quote, and others Hawthorne denotes that Pearl is an unusually sprite-like child, who is
unpredictable and mischievous as a result of her sinful creation.
"There was fire in [Pearl] and throughout her; she seemed the unpremeditated offshoot
of a passionate moment" (The Scarlet Letter, 102)
Throughout the novel Pearl reveals a side to her personality well beyond her years, which
exemplifies maturity and an uncanny level of understanding.
"Truly do I!" Answered Pearl, looking brightly into her mother's face. "It is for the same
reason that the minister keeps his hand over his heart" (The Scarlet Letter, 171)
Indefinitely, if Hester had understood the effect her sin would have on her offspring she would
never gone through with the passionate moment. Part of Hester's punishment, is Pearl's obsession with
the Scarlet A and its true meaning. Pearl continually pushes to know the purpose behind the symbol;
furthermore, when she observes her mother without the A she's thrown into a demon like rage. How
could she accept her mother if she lacked the first thing Pearl noticed about her? Pearl depends on the
A's existence as a mysterious, but integral part of her mother's whole being. However, in the end as
Pearl identifies clearly her father, and her method of creation she finds peace and can go on with her
life. Moreover, Pearl's early devotion to the symbol of sin could only come from that sin's full
embodiment within her.
Arthur Dimmesdale
Arthur Dimmesdale is a major character within the story The Scarlet Letter. He had committed
the sin of adultery and been followed by guilty of hypocrisy because of his sin of adultery. Throughout
the story, the entire population does not know of his sin which himself and those he is in complicity
with refuse to reveal. The main reason most likely for his refusal to expose himself is the fact that he is
the towns reverend and that he is living in a strict Puritan society. It is his own conscience that causes
his self denial that will condemn him. During the entire tale, Dimmesdale, while refusing to reveal his
sin to man or God suffers a deterioration of his health. While this could be contributed to natural
causes, it can also be shown that at the end of the story that he, by confessing his sin is released of his
mental anguish. This can also be contrasted to the relative benign effects of confessed sin on the human
Arthur Dimmesdale was guilty of adultery. However, he did not confess his sin until it was too
late. Dimmesdale continued his ministry in the church, as a hypocrite, concealing his sin. Nevertheless,
his guilty conscience drove him to a manic-depressive state of mind. Dimmesdale became very ill,
because the scarlet letter upon Hester's bosom seemingly burned through his chest, weakening his
heart. When he realized what was happening to him, he tried to expose himself through his sermons. In
another attempt, he went to the scaffold, in the dead of the night, and screamed out at the top of his
lungs, hoping all would arouse from their sleep and find him there. Then, coming upon Hester and
Pearl, he took their hands in his own, and all three were united as one upon the scaffold. No one except
Roger Chillingworth found them there, but he would not tell a soul, for he too was a part of this
In spite of his desperate attempts, Dimmesdale only became physically and mentally worse, for
he still had not honestly confessed to being Hester's accomplice. By deceiving himself and the
townspeople, he was also guilty of the sin of hypocrisy. During the Election Day parade, when
everyone was gathered in the town center, Dimmesdale, once again, took the hands of Hester and Pearl
and confessed to adultery. When it was finally done, Dimmesdale passed away, for he was too sick and
found no reason to live.
The effect of sin in the novel The Scarlet Letter is exemplified through Dimmesdale's
overwhelming guilt, physical ailments, and untimely demise. Dimmesdale's costly punishment for his
sin is mainly the guilt and self-condemnation that overwhelms him daily. Through the characterization
of Dimmesdale the reader realizes that the guilt associated with un-confessed sin acts as a greater
catalyst of pain than the humiliation of confessed sin. As the novel progresses, one finds that
Dimmesdale suffering increases to the point that the deterioration caused by his cowardice and untold
truth, embodies his whole existence.
"To the untrue man, the whole universe is false, it is impalpable, and it shrinks to
nothing within his grasp... The only truth that continued to give Dimmesdale a real
existence on earth was the anguish in his inmost soul" (The Scarlet Letter, 142)
Even his brief moment of freedom that in turn provokes happiness is a result of Dimmesdale's
sin. Sadly, Dimmesdale only experiences this relief when he publicly confesses his adultery on the
scaffold with Pearl and Hester. By admitting his sin, he finally frees himself from his guilt and
Chillingsworth and thus dies peacefully. Yet, in Dimmesdale own morbid views he takes no solace to
his belief that the remainder of this life and his next will be filled with the same self-knowledge, pain,
and guilt associated with his being.
"Hush Hester... when we forgot our God, when we violated our reverence ... it was
thenceforth vain to hope that we could meet hereafter, in everlasting and pure reunion”
(The Scarlet Letter, 239)
Dimmesdale character will never alone provide keen example of the aftermath of a sinful act;
the full embodiment of such action is found in Pearl as well.
Arthur Dimmesdale, a reverend in the Puritan Church, committed the sin of adultery with
Hester. The difference between their cases was that Dimmesdale did not confess until seven years after
the crime took place. Although he never received a punishment from the government as Hester did, he
punished himself night and day. He was severely tortured with guilt in his heart, and carried out
prolonged vigils, fasts, and other physical damage to himself. As a result of not confessing his sin, he
despised himself above all other things. The fact that his parishoners love him more than they had after
he told a sermon about hypocrites makes him loathe himself all the more. Over the seven years that
this story takes place in, Dimmesdale becomes very ill. He becomes pale, nervous and sickly. After a
while, it gets to the point where he uses a cane to walk, and people are afraid for his life. The reason
for his illness is not disease, but the effect of sin and guilt on his heart. Finally, after putting himself
through a living hell for seven years, Dimmesdale's dying words are his confession.
Roger Chillingworth
Arthur Dimmesdale was not the only one guilty of being a hypocrite. Roger Chillingworth,
actually Mr. Prynne, was also a hypocrite with his secret identity. Chillingworth was an eccentric man,
who was guilty of a far worse sin than either Hester or Dimmesdale. He was guilty of vengeance. Ever
since Chillingworth found Hester standing in public ignominy on the scaffold, he has been out to get
revenge on the man who betrayed him. Chillingworth devoted the rest of his decaying life to solving
this mystery.
The structure of Chillingworth’s character is carefully decomposed throughout the novel.
“…Hester had been looking steadily at the old man, and was shocked, as well as
wonder-smitten, to discern what a change had been wrought upon him in the last seven
years. But the former aspect of an intellectual and studious man, calm and quiet, which
was what she best remembered in him, had altogether vanished and had been succeeded
by an eager searching, almost fierce, yet carefully guarded look.”( The Scarlet Letter,
The quote greatly relates to what has happened to Chillingworth throughout the novel. After
dedicating his life to revenge, he begins to change for the worse. Once again, he relates to the devil
because sin and evil (revenge) will often lead to a terrible defeat. Soon, Chillingworth learns that the
reverend may have the strength to escape his destiny for him. Chillingworth realizes, that if
Dimmesdale finally makes public of his sin, he will have escaped Chillingworth, because
Chillingworth will no longer be able to slowly destroy him through guilt.
“The physician knew, then, that, in the minister’s regard, he was no longer a trusted
friend, but his bitterest enemy.”( The Scarlet Letter, 211)
Chillingworth gains a deeper hate for Dimmesdale now as he becomes stronger. Roger
Chillingworth's obsession with vengeance results in his eventual degeneration. His physical
appearance changes greatly over the years he spends in Boston because of his fixation with exacting
"A large number...affirmed that Roger Chillingworth's aspect had undergone a
remarkable change...At first his expression had been calm, meditative, scholar-like.
Now, there was something ugly and evil in his face..." (The Scarlet Letter, 125-126)
His unattractive appearance is the physical manifestation of his animosity towards
Dimmesdale. Furthermore, Chillingworth's morals also undergo deterioration, in that he devotes his
life to tormenting Dimmesdale: in effect, sacrificing his fellow man for self-gratification. The change
from his initial integrity to his consequent depravity is apparent even to himself, as he asks Hester:
"'Dost thou remember me? Was I not...a man thoughtful for others...kind, true, just, and
of constant, if not warm affections? ...And what am I now?...A friend!" (The Scarlet
Letter, 166)
Because of his perverse obsession with retaliation, Chillingworth abandons his morality, an
integral part of his former self.
For the next seven years he was Dimmesdale's leech, trying, but not wholeheartedly, to help
Dimmesdale overcome his sickness. All the while, Chillingworth's appearance strangely changed. He
had grown older and fiercer, with a close resemblance to the devil. Soon after the death of Arthur
Dimmesdale, Roger Chillingworth also passed on, for he too no longer found any reason to live, his
mystery had been solved.
The sin that Chillingworth did was that he was even more unforgiving than the common
Puritans. When he came to the colony, Providence, and saw that Hester commited adultery, he wanted
to take revenge on her, and as later he figured out that her partner in that sin was the reverend himself
and Dimmesdale also. In fact he wanted to do this so bad, that after a while this was all he was living
for. For proof here comes a quote from chapter three,
“…I shall see him [her partner] tremble. I shall feel myself shudder, suddenly and
unawares. Sooner or later, he must be mine.…”( The Scarlet Letter, 79)
After Dimmesdale told everyone that he was the one Hester commited adultery with, since he
couldn’t take the revenge which was the only thing he was living for on him any more, he shriveled up
and died.
Roger Chillingworth comes to Boston to seek out his wife, Hester Prynne. When he arrives,
she is standing upon a scaffold with a baby in her arms. After finding out what was going on, the first
thing he says is:
"It irks me, nevertheless, that the partner of her inquity should not, at least, stand on the
scaffold by her side. But he will be known!- he will be known!- he will be
known!"(The Scarlet Letter, 69)
This foreshadows the sin that he commits, which is greater than Hester and Dimmesdales'.
Chillingworth devotes his entire life to finding Hester's partner in crime and punishing him. He
suspects Dimmesdale and so becomes his doctor and moves in with him. Once he is certain of his
culprit, he keeps him alive to live in agony. The effect of his great sin on his own character is that of a
complete transformation to evil. His physical characteristics become twisted and corrupted, as does his
soul and life purpose. His one-track mind leads him to eventual self-deterioration. He is the worst
sinner in the book, and once his transformation was complete, there was no turning back.
Finally, at the end of the novel, as the reverend finally decides to reveal his shame,
Chillingworth grabs him violently and screams:
“Do not blacken your fame and perish in dishonor. I can yet save you.” (The Scarlet
Letter, 235)
As Dimmesdale confesses and escapes Chillingworth, Roger has been defeated. After
dedicating the last seven years or his life to torturing the reverend, Chillingworth’s motive for living,
and his obsession, is no longer present. After Dimmesdale dies upon the scaffold, Chillingworth does
very little with the rest of his life, and dies a year after the death of the reverend. The symbolism
Chillingworth possesses holds meanings that are very powerful. First, both his attitude, and the result of
his revenge describe the effects of one’s vengeance. Not only did he slowly decompose the life of
Reverend Dimmesdale, but after the death, he lost reason for living, and died also. Now, at the
beginning of the book, certain empathy can be felt with Chillingworth. Many can relate to having a
spouse or friend who has wronged the other through lying, cheating, and/or evil or sins. Every day, you
may hear about a person who has committed adultery, breaking apart a family or causing others grief.
A reader will understand the need for revenge when something of this nature occurs, and will at first
side with Chillingworth. Yet, as the book progresses, his side of evil is shown through his actions,
thoughts, looks, and feelings. Chillingworth appears as a character, brought into a ‘destined for
perfection’ society, as the sinful tempter of the colony. One, who’s vengeful tactics led to the deaths of
two men, and who’s sinister plan changed the aspects of a society. Although he was originally the only
character without a problem or a sin, he became the one who performed the worst sins of all.
From the explanation above we can find that the consequences of doing immoralities for the
main characters in The Scarlet Letter is caused by the Puritans of Boston respond to what their doing.
Puritans of Boston respond in the different ways to the main characters in The Scarlet Letter novel as
the doers of immoralities. They do not fair in looking the doers of immoralities. As the writer’s
opinion, the Puritans of Boston is the highest ranked sin to man.
Whenever Hester went into town the citizens would stop what they were doing and stare at her,
treating her as an outcast to society. For example, they criticized her for walking too proud, but she
only held her head high enough so that she may see her pathway. People would run away when she
came near them, and kept their distance during a gathering. Whenever she attended church, the sermon
was on adultery. To support Pearl and herself, Hester made precious garments, for the wives of the
magistrates, but she was paid only a tenth of what the garments were worth.
There was a tremendous difference in the town’s behavior towards Hester as compared to the
way they treated Dimmesdale. The people treated Dimmesdale as a saint, even though he was guilty of
hypocrisy. They also treated Chillingworth as a highly respected physician, although he was guilty of
vengeance. So, when the community dwells on a person's imperfections, they are guilty of sin, the sin
of man's inhumanity to man.
The way sin affects the lives of the characters in the book, and the way they each deal with it is
both enlightening and unsettling. In a way, one can see why the characters acted they way they did, but
it's unsettling to see them end up the way they did. If there is one thing to learn from The Scarlet
Letter, it is not to give in to sin, and if you already have, own up to it and learn from it.
After analyzing the problems, the researcher found the answer of the statement problems: (1)
what are immoralities portrayed by the main characters Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger
Chillingworth drawn in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and (2) to understand what are the
consequences of these immoralities for the main characters as the doers of the immoralities in
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.
To answer the first statement problem, the writer found there are three kinds of immoralities
which are done by three main characters Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth,
they are (1) adultery, which are done by Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesadale; (2) hypocrisy, which
are done by three main characters with different motivation; and (3) revenge, which are done by Roger
Chillingworth although Hester Prynne also do a revenge but it is not worse than what Roger do.
Hester commits adultery but she confesses her sin to the society and they give her punishment
because of it. Although the magistrates tried to make Hester Prynne reveal her accomplice, she kept his
name unknown. As one may have guessed, from the hints given throughout the novel, Arthur
Dimmesdale was also guilty of adultery. However, he did not confess his sin until it was too late.
Dimmesdale continued his ministry in the church, as a hypocrite, concealing his sin. By deceiving
himself and the townspeople, he was also guilty of the sin of hypocrisy. During the Election Day
parade, when everyone was gathered in the town center, Dimmesdale, once again, took the hands of
Hester and Pearl and confessed to adultery.
Roger Chillingworth, actually Mr. Prynne, was also a hypocrite with his secret identity.
Chillingworth was an eccentric man, who was guilty of a far worse sin than either Hester or
Dimmesdale. He was guilty of vengeance. Ever since Chillingworth found Hester standing in public
ignominy on the scaffold, he has been out to get revenge on the man who betrayed him. Chillingworth
devoted the rest of his decaying life to solving this mystery. However, it is possible to say that
Chillingworth is the guiltiest because he showed no signs of remorse and never did confess his sins.
Chillingworth on the other hand, never seemed to even be bothered by the fact that he was tearing away
at a person soul. His sin does not make the sins of any other sinner in the community any less and
therefore makes the Puritan Society as a whole, the guiltiest in terms of morals and ethics.
In analysis the second statement of the problem, the writer finds that each main character in The
Scarlet Letter gets different consequences because of their immoralities. They are depending on how
they face their immoralities, confess or conceal it to the society. That consequences which are gotten by
the main characters as the doers of immoralities included physical, psychological, and moral sanction.
The consequences which Hester get because of her guilty of adultery are many. One of the
consequences for her sin is a prison term. Secondly, she had a child, a baby who was conceived from
lust rather than love. Hester named this child Pearl, meaning of great value. Thirdly, Hester was
condemned to wear the scarlet letter, upon her bosom, for all to recognize her as one who has met with
the black man in the forest. Fourth, she was made to stand in public ignominy as the townsmen mocked
Arthur Dimmesdale concealed his sin from the world and did not confess it. Arthur as the pious
man in his society he does not get a punishment of his immoralities from the society so he makes
himself punished because of his adultery and hypocrisy to his people for his adultery. In spite of his
desperate attempts, Dimmesdale only became physically and mentally worse, for he still had not
honestly confessed to being Hester's accomplice. Nevertheless, his guilty conscience drove him to a
manic-depressive state of mind. Dimmesdale became very ill, because the scarlet letter upon Hester's
bosom seemingly burned through his chest, weakening his heart. Dimmsdale eventually was so plagued
by his guilt that he stood on the scaffold of the town where Hester once stood as punishment for her
sins, and confessed to the entire town his sin of adultery. When it was finally done, Dimmesdale passed
away, for he was too sick and found no reason to live.
Immediately after Mr. Dimmesdale's death, there is a remarkable changing in the appearance
and demeanor of the old man known as Roger Chillingworth. All his strength and energy, all his vital
and intellectual force, seemed at once to desert him, insomuch that he positively withered up, shriveled
away and almost vanished from mortal sight, like an uprooted weed that lies wilting in the sun. Roger
feels his life is no mean after Arthur passed away and confessed his sin to the society, he gets worse
physically and finally, one year later he gets death.
From this analysis, the writer can make a statement that our life will be better or worse is
depending on our act. It is like the scatter-harvest law. Although we do the bad act or immoral but we
can confess it to say the truth, it will make our life better than when we conceal it.
This suggestion is for the reader of this thesis who becomes the next researcher. It is because
there are many aspects which can be explored more about The Scarlet Letter novel. The researcher
expects to the next researcher to make new aspect because there are many researchers use this novel. It
is time for the next researcher to find new something interesting in this novel. The researcher is sure
that if the next researchers read this novel or even watch the movie, it is much interesting story or
element that can be found. Many values can be found in the novel. For example the author’s life,
cultural background, Puritan’s law, etc. In the author’s life, the next researcher can analyze the author’s
cultural background, why the author creates the story and etc. In the cultural background, the next
researcher can analyze the social values happen in the novel. In Puritan’s law, the next researcher can
analyze how Puritan’s law has many injustices for the members of society. So, the researcher hopes
that the next researcher can explore more about this novel.
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Preceding the plot of The Scarlet Letter is an essay called “The Custom-House.” In it, narrator
says he found a mysterious package–dating back two centuries–on the second floor of the Salem
Custom-House, where he worked as Surveyor of the Revenue. The package contained a ragged piece of
red cloth in the shape of the letter “A” and a manuscript on foolscap outlining the story of the woman
required to wear the letter as a symbol of shame for committing adultery. Hawthorne then informs the
reader that the plot of The Scarlet Letter tells the story of that woman as he imagines it to have
In Puritan Boston of the 1600's lives a beautiful woman named Hester Prynne, a native of a
village in England. The novel presents her background–through dialogue and flashbacks–from time to
time in the opening chapters. It is as follows:
After marrying a man some years her senior–a scholar who spent long hours poring over
books–Hester and her husband moved to Amsterdam, Holland. There, they lived for a time before
deciding to begin a new life in colonial America. He sent her ahead, alone, to the town of Boston in the
Massachusetts Bay Colony while he remained behind to conclude business before following her across
the sea. But in the next two years, he never arrived, and the citizens of Boston presumed he went down
with a ship. During these two years, Hester committed adultery and bore a child.
The action of the novel begins at the town prison, where Hester is being held. According to the
moral code of the Puritan settlers, adultery is a grave offense; the punishment is death. However,
Boston authorities decide to spare her life. Instead of capital punishment, they impose two humiliating
penalties: First, she must, for the rest of her life, wear on the bodice of her dress a patch of red cloth in
the shape of the letter “A,” standing for “adulteress.” Second, she must stand for three hours on the
platform of the pillory in the marketplace, there to endure the burn of reproving eyes.
Hester, a seamstress, has made the scarlet letter herself, bordering it with gold thread and
fashioning it with such skill that it is verily a work of art. When she emerges from the prison door to
walk to the pillory, she carries herself proudly, to the astonishment of the crowd gathered to observe
her ordeal. Hawthorne writes:
“The young woman was tall, with a figure of perfect elegance, on a large scale. She had dark
and abundant hair, so glossy that it threw off the sunshine with a gleam, and a face which, besides
being beautiful from regularity of feature and richness of complexion, had the impressiveness
belonging to a marked brow and deep black eyes. She was lady-like, too, after the manner of the
feminine gentility of those days. . . .”
After arriving in the marketplace and ascending the platform steps, she endures the glare of the
townspeople while cradling her infant, whom she has named Pearl. Pearl is not more than four months
old. A stranger, a white man accompanied by a savage, enters the marketplace. Although he wears a
peculiar mixture of Indian and white man’s apparel, Hester recognizes him. He tells an onlooker that he
has been a wanderer, surviving trials at sea and on land, including captivity by Indians, and then asks
why the young woman is standing on the pillory. The onlooker explains everything.
During her ordeal–observed by the governor and every other important dignitary in Boston–the
Rev. John Wilson, the oldest and one of the most revered of Boston’s clergymen–repeatedly asks
Hester to identify the father of her child. She refuses. Further prodding brings further refusals, and it
becomes clear that she will never reveal the name of her partner in sin.
After standing her three hours on the pillory, Hester returns to prison to await release. The
stranger from the marketplace visits her, telling the authorities he is practiced in the medical arts and
can attend to Hester and her child if they require treatment. He is, of course, Mr. Prynne, Hester’s longabsent husband. Taken captive by Indians after arriving in the New World, he eventually gained release
and was escorted to Boston by a tribesman. He claims to be a physician of uncommon skill and
assumes the name Roger Chillingworth. When Hester continues to withhold the identity of her child’s
father, Chillingworth makes Hester swear not to tell anyone that he is her husband. His plan is to
remain incognito while taking up residence in Boston and attempting to ferret out the scoundrel who
bedded his wife.
As time passes, Hester raises her child in a cottage on the outskirts of town, supporting herself
with sewing and stitchery. Little Pearl is wild and unruly, characteristics which reflect the uncontrolled
passion that gave her life. When Governor Bellingham attempts to take Pearl from her, a young
minister, the Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale, intervenes to enable her retain custody of the child.
Dimmesdale himself needs help because of declining health with a variety of symptoms, including
heart problems. What is the cause? Because his friends revere him and regard him as saintly, they
arrange for Chillingworth–now established as a competent healer–to lodge with the minister in the
house of a “pious widow” in order to diagnose and treat Dimmesdale’s illness. It was on
Chillingworth’s recommendation that Dimmesdale’s friends acted.
Everyone in the town is pleased with this arrangement. Almost everyone. For there are
townspeople who believe that Chillingworth had learned his medical skills from the Indians during his
captivity. He is, in effect, a practitioner of black magic. These same townspeople notice a marked
change in Chillingworth. When he arrived in Boston, he seemed a quiet, scholarly, sensible sort. Later,
“something ugly and evil” possessed him; the fire in his laboratory was the fire of hell itself–and he
was the devil, or the devil’s agent. Now, they believe, the good and godly Dimmesdale is under his
Chillingworth has always suspected that something was not quite right about Dimmesdale.
Perhaps guilt is eating at him. Could it be that he was Hester’s secret lover? Acting on his hunches,
Chillingworth tortures the minister with innuendoes. For example, one day, Dimmesdale inquires about
herbs Chillingworth gathered. They have dark, unsightly leaves. The sly physician says he found them
growing on a grave of a local man. Then he observes: “They grew out of his heart, and typify, it may
be, some hideous secret that was buried with him, and which he had done better to confess in his
Under the searing eye and twisting probe of Chillingworth, Dimmesdale–who is indeed ridden
with guilt–continues to decline mentally and physically until Chillingworth learns the truth: Arthur
Dimmesdale is in fact Pearl’s father. A mysterious image on his chest, which Chillingworth sees while
Dimmesdale is sleeping, confirms that the minister was Hester’s partner in sin. (Hawthorne does not
immediately reveal what the image is, but the reader later learns that it is the letter “A”–possibly etched
as a psychosomatic manifestation of Dimmesdale's guilt.)
Deeply distressed and full of shame, Dimmesdale one evening mounts the platform of the
pillory to enact an imaginary scene in which the town looks on while he bears his chest. When Hester
and Pearl happen by and stand on the platform with him, Pearl asks him to expose his chest in daylight,
at noon, before the townspeople. At that moment, a falling star illumines the marketplace, and they see
Chillingworth standing before the pillory. Hester then realizes that he is a sinister, evil presence.
Meeting weeks later with Dimmesdale in the woods, she tells him her secret: The physician, Roger
Chillingworth, is her husband. Deciding to run off and begin a new life in Europe, they book passage
on a ship.
The day before the ship is to embark is a holiday, Election Day, on which the new governor of
the colony is to take office. On this festive occasion, the townspeople gather in the market-place for a
procession to the meeting-house. Curious onlookers include Indians and sailors from the ship–“roughlooking desperadoes with sea-blackened faces,” who openly violate local laws by smoking tobacco and
drinking wine and strong liquor. One of the sailors, the shipmaster, strikes up a conversation with
Hester, noting that the ship will be lucky to have not only the regular ship’s surgeon aboard but also
another doctor.
“No fear of scurvy or ship-fever, this voyage!” he says.
.“What mean you?” inquires Hester.
The shipmaster then identifies the other doctor as Chillingworth. Before Hester has time to
consider what to do about this alarming development, the procession of magistrates and townspeople
begins moving to the meeting-house, where the Rev. Dimmesdale is to deliver an Election Day sermon.
The church is so crowded that Hester must stand outside. While little Pearl–now seven years old–plays
in the street, endearing herself to the mariners, Hester listens to Dimmesdale’s sermon, which is
eloquent and inspiring. Afterward, to everyone’s surprise, he walks to the pillory and stands on the
platform, inviting Hester and Pearl to join him. Then he shocks the crowd by revealing that he was
Hester’s partner in sin; he is the father of Pearl. After opening his shirt to reveal a scarlet letter
imprinted on his chest, he collapses and dies.
In the days that follow, the townspeople speculate on how the scarlet letter came to appear on
Dimmesdale’s chest. Some believe Dimmesdale inscribed the letter himself as a form of punishment;
others believe Chillingworth caused it with magic or drugs. Still others think it was the work of
Dimmesdale’s guilty conscience. Finally, there are those who swear they saw no scarlet letter on
Dimmesdale’s chest.
As for Chillingworth, Hawthorne writes, “All his strength and energy–all his vital and
intellectual force–seemed at once to desert him; insomuch that he positively withered up, shrivelled
away, and almost vanished from mortal sight, like an uprooted weed that lies wilting in the sun.” He
dies within a year and, in his will, leaves property in America and England to Pearl, making her
Hester and Pearl disappear, and no one receives news of their whereabouts. One day years later,
however, Hester returns to Boston, still wearing the scarlet letter, and resumes living in the same
cottage where she reared Pearl. Pearl is not with her. Although Hester never reveals what became of
her daughter, town gossips believe she is married and living in a foreign country. They base their
information on letters and expensive gifts that Hester receives and on an elaborate infant’s garment she
was observed embroidering.
In time, the people deeply respect Hester, and many women seek her advice on how to cope
with their problems. After many years, Hester dies and is buried near Dimmesdale. One slate
gravestone serves both of them. On it is a motto: on a field, sable, the letter a, gules.
Accessed from
Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on July 4, 1804, in Salem, Massachusetts, a descendant of a long
line of Puritan ancestors including John Hathorne, a presiding magistrate in the Salem witch trials.
After his father was lost at sea when Nathaniel was only four, his mother became overly protective and
pushed him toward relatively isolated pursuits. Hawthorne's childhood left him overly shy and bookish,
which molded his life as a writer.
Hawthorne turned to writing after his graduation from Bowdoin College. His first novel,
Fanshawe, was unsuccessful and Hawthorne himself disavowed it as amateurish. He wrote several
successful short stories, however, including "My Kinsman, Major Molyneaux," "Roger Malvin's
Burial," and "Young Goodman Brown." Still, his insufficient earnings as a writer forced Hawthorne to
enter a career as a Boston Custom House measurer in 1839. After three years Hawthorne was dismissed
from his job with the Salem Custom House. By 1842, his writing finally gave Hawthorne a sufficient
income to marry Sophia Peabody and move to The Manse in Concord, which was the center of the
Transcendental movement. Hawthorne returned to Salem in 1845, where he was appointed surveyor of
the Boston Custom House by President James Polk, but he was dismissed from this post when Zachary
Taylor became president. Hawthorne then devoted himself to his most famous novel, The Scarlet
Letter. He zealously worked on the novel with a determination he had not known before. His intense
suffering infused the novel with imaginative energy, leading him to describe it as a "hell-fired story."
On February 3, 1850, Hawthorne read the final pages to his wife. He wrote, "It broke her heart and sent
her to bed with a grievous headache, which I look upon as a triumphant success."
The Scarlet Letter was an immediate success that allowed Hawthorne to devote himself to his
writing. He left Salem for a temporary residence in Lenox, a small town in the Berkshires, where he
completed the romance The House of the Seven Gables in 1851. While in Lenox, Hawthorne became
acquainted with Herman Melville and became a major proponent of Melville's work, but their
friendship became strained. Hawthorne's subsequent novels, The Blithedale Romance--based on his
years of communal living at Brook Farm--and the romance The Marble Faun were both considered
disappointments. Hawthorne supported himself through another political post, the consulship in
Liverpool, which he was given for writing a campaign biography for Franklin Pierce.
In 1852, after the publication of The Blithedale Romance, Hawthorne returned to Concord and
bought a house called Hillside, owned by Louisa May Alcott's family. Hawthorne renamed it The
Wayside. He went on to travel and live in France and Italy for a spell, but he returned to The Wayside
just before the Civil War began. Indeed, he would publish an article entitled "Chiefly About War
Matters" for the Atlantic Monthly just before he fell ill, detailing the account of his travels to the
Virginia battlefields of Manassas and Harpers Ferry and to the White House.
Hawthorne passed away on May 19, 1864, in Plymouth, New Hampshire, after a long period of
illness during which he suffered severe bouts of dementia. Hawthorne was buried in Sleepy Hollow
Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts. Emerson described his life with the words "painful solitude."
Hawthorne had maintained a strong friendship with Franklin Pierce, but otherwise he had had few
intimates and little engagement with any sort of social life.
A number of his unfinished works were published posthumously. His works remain notable for
their treatment of guilt and the complexities of moral choices.
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