Calm, gentle, passionless, as he appeared, there was yet, we fear, a quiet depth of malice, hitherto latent, but active now, in this unfortunate old man, which led him to imagine a more intimate revenge than any mortal had ever wreaked upon an enemy."
Undeniably, Revenge is one of the major themes in The Scarlet Letter.
With new ideas about women, main characters’ stories intertwined, and many different themes, The Scarlet Letter remains today as a extremely popular novel about 17th century Boston, Massachusetts.
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Those who seek revenge, such as Chillingworth, seem to loose control of themselves and revenge becomes their only purpose.
Real Life and Literary Instances of Revenge
Revenge is not confined to The Scarlet Letter: people often peruse it in real life, and it is a common motif throughout many works of literature.
Revenge is universal, with many people from all walks of life coming into contact with this bitter phenomenon.
Many literary works have used revenge as a theme, and Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter harnesses it to great effect.
Nearly every character in the story, from the physician Roger Chillingworth to the female lead Hester Prynne, is afflicted with revenge in some way, whether they are taking revenge on someone or someone is taking revenge on them.
Roger Chillingworth is Hawthorne's shining example of revenge backfiring on the one who takes it.
For example, on page 95 of the novel, upon discovering that Dimmesdale was guilty of adultery with Hester, Chillingworth does a mad dance that "had a man seen old Roger Chillingworth, at that moment of his ecstasy, he would have had no need to ask how Satan comports himself, when a precious human soul is lost to heaven, and won into his kingdom."
A quote on page 17 of Bloom's analysis of the Scarlet Letter describes this phenomenon well: "Chillingworth's discovery (of Dimmesdale’s guilt) only increases his desire to exact "intimate revenge" on Dimmesdale, and he sets about doing so."
After Dimmesdale passes away in the book's climax atop the scaffold, the narrator relates to the reader in an aside on page 178 that "old Roger Chillingworth's decease took place within the year".