The struggle between good and evil is the basis for any good work of literature. The Scarlet Letter is a unique story when it comes to the battle of light over darkness. There is not a set of good characters versus a set of bad; each individual has his own sins, whether hidden or exposed, that blights his nature. Despite this, there is one main struggle that dominates throughout the book. Pearl and Roger Chillingworth contend brutally over the soul of the minister Arthur Dimmesdale.
Although seen as a holy magistrate, Reverend Dimmesdale committed the sin of adultery. Not only did he violate his reverence for Hester Prynne’s soul (Hawthorne 234), but he also wronged her husband, Roger Chillingworth. In addition to this, Dimmesdale hid his sin while Hester suffered public humiliation and degradation. His cowardice acts invited the war over his soul, which attacked him mercilessly throughout the story.
Roger Chillingworth is the representation of evil warring against Dimmesdale. Ironically one of the minister’s closest friends, Roger’s purpose in life is to seek out, like a search for truth, the man who wronged him (Hawthorne 66). He wants to make him tremble and shudder (Hawthorne 67). From the very beginning of the conflict, Chillingworth’s dark intensions and his evil heart are clearly seen. He is not after justice, but rather a sinister revenge. Justice and public exposure would have paved a path for retribution, but Roger wanted a destruction that would disintegrate the very fabric of Dimmesdale’s being. Chillingworth wanted to suck every trace of life from the minister’s body and mind. In order to achieve his dark desires, Roger digs into Arthur’s soul trying to uncover the hidden sin like miner searching for gold (Hawthorne 115). The poison of Roger’s wickedness works its office; Dimmesdale becomes fatally affected by his relationship with him. His health and energy declines, and the scarlet letter on his own breast burns deeper into his heart.
The wickedness in Chillingworth’s nature did not fester unnoticed. Hester asks him if he is the Black Man that haunts the forest (Hawthorne 68); the Black Man being the devil, and the forest representing evil in general. Even Hawthorne says that old Roger Chillingworth is Satan’s emissary, or even a guise for Satan himself (114). His impiety was powerful enough to be compared with the Devil’s. In one scene from the book, Pearl sees Chillingworth and Dimmesdale together; she tells her mother that the Black Man has caught the minister (Hawthorne 120). Pearl is very perceptive to the influence that he has over Arthur, as well as many other things about the minister and Chillingworth.
As for the good of Dimmesdale, Pearl represents the way to salvation. The little child is a symbol for everything pure and good when it comes to struggle for the minister’s soul. When Pearl remarked that the Black Man captured the minister’s soul, she simply laughed saying that he could not catch her (Hawthorne 120)....