Chillingworth and Dimmesdale: Reflections of True Puritan Society
18th century’s perception of the Puritan Society was that Puritans were a zealous community of people that lived with strict moral standards which allowed them to live in perfect harmony. However, the truth is Puritans were overly zealous whose values created paranoia and intolerance for other views. Through the characters Dimmesdale and Chillingworth who are also falsely perceived, Hawthorne suggest they are representative of the dour living of Puritan society that is hidden by the puritan’s tranquil and utopian outlook.
John Winthrop aimed to created Christian utopian society when he founded the puritan community, he failed in this goal. Even with his failure, people still thought of the society as pure and just. What he engendered instead was a community whose theology denied human being’s free will, filled with paranoia, racism, sexism and hatred of sexuality and youth. These themes are clearly represented in the Scarlet Letter. The hatred of youth is shown early on in the novel, when Hester Prynne first enters from the prison, “This woman [Hester Prynne] has brought shame upon us all, and ought to die. Is there not law for it? Truly, there is, both in the Scripture and the statue-book.”(199). The aged ugly woman who makes this statement is used by Hawthorne to serve as representative for the puritans, while Hester represents youth and sexuality. The undeserving punishment of death for the crime of adultery only further demonstrates the extremities of this so-called perfect society. While perhaps seen as God’s will that a person who commits adultery must die, it is instead the government’s way of controlling the people by fear and terror so that they abide by their rules. The people of this society must feel a sense of paranoia knowing the most fortuitous sin could have them killed. With feelings such as paranoia rampant, it is an impossibility for this to be a perfect society. Free will was an unattainable fantasy in an area where the length and width of a lady’s sleeve was solemnly decided by law. The government not only robbed the people of free will, but their seeming tyrannical god did so also. A reward after death was never dependent on your actions of this life, but was rather predestined depriving the puritans of what little free will they had left. With rules and regulations such as these it is evident that the Puritan society was not one of benevolence and harmony but rather one of zero tolerance and little free will.
The perceptions the people have of Roger Chillingworth are that he is a man of great statue who has come to aid the sick minister. “Heaven had wrought an absolute miracle, by transporting an eminent Doctor of Physic, bodily through the air, and setting him down at the door of Mr. Dimmesdale’s study Individuals of wiser faith, indeed, who knew that Heaven promotes its purpose without aiming at the stage-effect of what is called...