Characterization is a literary element used by the author to present qualities of characters in a literary piece, the purpose of characterization is to make characters credible and make them suitable for the role they play in the work. Authors present various characters possessing dissimilar qualities, to emphasize different aspects of the work. In the novel “The Scarlet Letter”, the author Nathaneil Hawthorn’s depiction of the two male characters, Arthur Dimmesdale and Roger Chillingworth, emphasizes the moral problems of the seventeenth century puritan society. Hence, their different characters contribute vitally to the plot of the novel.
Arthur Dimmesdale, the Reverent and the protagonists’ lover, was not a very powerful character. At his first appearance in the novel, Hawthorne describes his impressive and skilful preaching and calls to the reader’s attention his physical features such as his eyes and his hair. Hawthorne also marks the power that Dimmesdale gets when he is preaching which contradicts his actual weak character. Since Dimmisdale was a very respected person, his hideous adultery crime of forbidden love was totally unexcitable, and his fear to face his society reflected his weak character. Dimmesdale was put into great pressure when he was notified by the public to persuade Hester to confess who the father of her baby was, this caused his constant wounding of heart, which also stresses on his weak character. Dimmesdale’s health was lead to rapid deterioration, so he went to visit Roger Chillingworth, the real husband of the character Hester, and one of the few doctors in town; by that time, Chillingworth had already known that Dimmesdale was the one that committed adultery with his wife. Chillingworth made Dimmesdale suffer by exaggerating his illness, and humiliating him with guilt of his sin “a bodily disease which we look upon as whole and entire within itself, may, after all, be but an ailment in the spiritual part”. the fragility and susceptibility of Dimmesdale states clearly his weakness, moreover.
Dimmesdale’s love and agony towards Hester was shown in his physical and mental degeneration, furthermore, his love to Pearl, his daughter, was shown when he was trying to kiss her, but he always got her refusal, and this was the climax of his weakness and deterioration of character. yet, at the end of the novel, Dimmesdale’s health was in it’s worst stages, therefore he had nothing to lose, so he confronts his society and tells them about is adultery crime that he committed with Hester, and after he did that he gives up life, but as a matter of fact his death was not a sad one, for he was relieved from the pain in his heart and also got to kiss his daughter Pearl whom he never got to kiss, hence, at the end of the novel, the latter character musters courage and loses his weakness which was replaced with the powerful character that confronted without fear.
Chillingworth is not a very amiable character to the reader , but on the other hand he is a very shrewd and sharp person, with a malignant air surrounding him. He went through a great deal of pain, his ship sank and he was the only survival, then he was captured by the Indians where he stayed near the medicine man most of the time and learned from him a great deal. He returns to his town to find his wife, Hester, involved in an adultery crime with the character Dimmesdale. His character is strengthened further more through his journey, and this is evident through the physical change (she)”was startled to perceive what a change had come over his features,-how much uglier he looked” and the physical change is a symbol of the bitter change that happened to his character which also foreshadows the torture he would keenly and evilly apply to his wife’s lover, this showed his clever yet evil “haunted by satan” character. This discerning quality of his made him recognizes the way Dimmesdale looked at Hester and Pearl, he also noticed the habit of Dimmesdale of putting his hand on his chest showing his physical pain, then cleverly, he manipulated his observations to plan his revenge. All the latter evidence presents the powerful character of the doctor.
The characters presented by the author, which are Dimmesdale and Chillingworth, were very effective and cobntributed to he plot and the theme of the novel. They showed totally different thoughts which meant the were foils.