Chillingworth is the Greatest Sinner in The Scarlet Letter
The world of Puritan New England, like the world of today, was filled with many evil influences. Many people were able to withstand temptation, but some fell victim to the dark side. Such offences against God, in thought, word, deed, desire or neglect, are what we define as sin (Gerber 14).
In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, the reader is able to observe how one sin devastates three lives. Hester, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth are all guilty of succumbing to temptation, anger, and desire, causing all to fit the definition of a sinner. Yet, Chillingworth's iniquities raise him up above Hester and Dimmesdale on the level of diabolic acts.
From the very moment Chillingworth is introduced, he is deceitful towards the Puritan society. Chillingworth appears in the novel, seeming to know nothing of the scene at the scaffold. He asks of a townsperson: "...who is this woman? - and wherefore is she here to set up to public shame?" (Hawhtorne 67). Yet, we find in the next chapter that he indeed knows who Hester is, because Chillingworth is the lawful husband of her. He decieves the people of Boston to avoid the humiliation his wife brought upon him. In this respect, Chillingworth sins against the eight commandment, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour" (Gerber 26).
Now, one could state that Hester also sins against the eighth commandment. She never reveals the name of her daughter's father. And it is stated that one must always tell the truth. Yet, it also states that one must keep a secret whenever asked to do so, and not say anything to damage another's reputation (Gerber 27). So Hester, in fact, did not sin. She never denies that Dimmesdale was the father of Pearl. She also could not admit the truth because she would break a promise to Dimmesdale and damage his reputation. Dimmesdale also may be accused of this crime, but likewise, he never outwardly states that he was not the father of this child, he merely chooses to remain silent on the matter.
While Chillingworth is guilty of breaking the eighth commandment, he also breaks the fifth commandment "You shall not kill" (Gerber 24). It fact that Chillingworth did not directly kill anyone in the novel. Nevertheless, a serious act of anger or hatred is considered a sin under this commandment (Gerber 25). Chillingworth takes up residence with the Reverend Dimmesdale to care for his sickly heart. However, he uses this opportunity to punish the minister. Chillingworth becomes "a chief actor in the poor minister's interior world" (Hawthorne 137). This gives him the ability to make the minister suffer both mental and physical agony. Is the intention to punish another in anger not an act of hatred? Is causing a man to suffer emotionally and physically not a way of...