Critics debate who committed the greater sin, Hester, Chillingworth or Dimmesdale. Based on your understanding of the novel, explain your choice of the person who committed the greatest sin to someone who disagrees. Support your position with specific proof.
“The Scarlet Letter” written by Nathaniel Hawthorne and first published in 1850, tells the story of a young woman who committed the sin of adultery. The two other main characters in this book are Reverend Minister Dimmesdale, the father of Hester child and Roger Chillingworth her husband.
All 3 of them committed a sin, even when the definition of sin and the punishment changed during the years, but who committed the greatest sin? Hester, because she had an affair with Dimmesdale even when she was married? Dimmesdale, because he doesn’t confess that he is Pearl’s father? Or is it Roger Chillingworth, because he finds satisfaction in torturing Dimmesdale and tries to punish him by himself for his sin?
The arguments in the book and the story indicates, that Roger Chillingworth is probably the biggest sinner of them all, even when he didn’t commit a real sin against the law.
Hester committed the sin of adultery, which was in the strong religious Puritan society one of the worst sins. But even though, I don’t think she was the biggest sinner in this novel. First you can say, that she didn’t knew that her husband was still alive. She and most other people thought that he was dead on the bottom of the sea! Another thing is, that she did it out of love, she really loves Dimmesdale and even afterwards she wants to live with him in England.
Also she regretted her sin and she was punished by the law and had to wear forever the Scarlet Letter on her bosom with the consequence that she never really was accepted by the townspeople, even when she really tried and worked hard, she never became a full member of the strict Puritan society!
Dimmesdale sin is a little greater then Hesters, because he commited the same sin as her in first place, but in addition he never admits his sin and he is never punished for it! But he also has an excuse; he did it out of love, like Hester and he has a reason not to confess his sin: he is a Reverend and Minister of the church and is so supposed to be free of sin, but when he would confess this great sin of adultery, he would harm himself, Hester and the whole church! When the Puritans with their strong believes would hear that her pattern, is one of their biggest sinners, they probably would loose their strong believes!
He tries to confess his sin in his sermons, though, but that makes him even more popular for the people! But soon he discovers that he can’t live a lie and he starts punishing himself and tries to find forgiveness.
Chillingworth is the biggest sinner of all three of them. He doesn’t commit a sin in first place, but then he turns evil and starts punishing and torturing Dimmesdale. Of course one can say that he has a reason to be mad on Dimmesdale but just because he has the reason, that doesn’t mean that he has the right to punish him by himself for his sins and to make life to hell for Dimmesdale. He lives a lie, too, he pretends to be a doctor even he isn’t and he doesn’t confess that he is Hester’s husband, not to protect her from harder punishment, no, just because that would lower his possibilities to torture Dimmesdale! He feels satisfaction when Dimmesdale is suffering and uses his power over him. Even when he sees that Hester and Dimmesdale are happier together and that he can’t do anything about it he still tries to interfere with it! Hester and Dimmesdale didn’t plan anything they committed the sin ou of love to each other, but he planned the whole thing from beginning on, his simulated friendship, the medicaments, everything!
After all one has to say, that Dimmesdale paid the ills for all their sins! He died because of Chillingworth torturing, his confession and because he tried to keep his and Hester’s secret to long!
Hester and Dimmesdale didn’t harm any other people with their sins, they made nobody suffering, only Chillingworth did and he also is the one who had the lowest amount of regret.
So all in all with or without reason to commit them, his sins were the greatest ones.