People judge others they encounter based upon their own values. These values are acquired through experiences in the home, school, at work, and with friends. A person is taught from their parents at a very young age what is right and wrong, but they may fail to realize that the values they are taught are filtered through the minds of those who teach. Therefore one is a product of their previous generation adding our his or her judgement to the values that we will pass on.
Hawthorne judges the characters in The Scarlet Letter by using his own values. These values were drastically different from other Puritans. Instead of the stern, harsh values of the Puritans, Hawthorne sees life through the eyes of a Romantic. He judges each person accordingly, characterizing each person’s sin as the pardonable sin of nature or the unpardonable sin of the human soul. One can infer, by the writing style, that Hawthorne is most forgiving to Hester.
He writes about Hester with a feeling of compassion that the descriptions of the other characters lack. Hawthorne approves of Hetser’s feeling, vitality, and thirst to overcome the iron shackles of binding society. He shows us that although Hester is not permitted to express her feelings verbally because of social persecution, there is no one that can restrain the thoughts of the human mind. Hawthorne, being a romantic and man of nature himself, can relate to the this. – If you were to look up the human mating characteristics in a science book you may surprise yourself. The human instinct is to have more than one partner not to stay loyal to one partner- In fact Hester is often contrasted with the Puritan laws and rules, especially when Hawthorne states: “The world’s law was no law for her mind.” (70)
Roger Chillingworth’s personality is one of intelligence and knowledge but no feeling. Hawthorne considers Roger Chilingworth’s sin the worst in the book. In one of his journal entrees he labels it the “unpardonable sin.” Hawthorne describes him as very cold and Puritan-like, an educated man that looked very scholarly. As stated here:
There was a remarkable intelligence in his features, as a person who had so cultivated his mental part that it could not fail to mould to physical to itself, and become manifest by unmistakable tokens. (67)
Hawthorne frequently refers to Chillingworth’s genius and diction, but purposely fails to have Chillingworth show any slight sign of compassion. This lack of compassion is what made him the monster that he is. He treats people like a mathematical problem analyzing only the facts, caring nothing about the harm that he might cause.(my notes) He picks at Dimmsdale the same way as described here:
He now dug into the poor clergyman’s heart like a miner searching for gold or, rather, like a sexton delving into a grave Possibly in the quest of a jewel that had been buried on the dead mans bosom, but likely to find nothing save morality and corruption. (127)
Chillingworth now takes room with Dimmsdale only pretending to be his friend but secretly plotting his demise. Shortly after people begin to notice “something ugly and evil in his face which the had not previously noticed and grew to the more obvious to sight the more they looked upon him.” (67) Chillingworth’s face seemed to change more and more. Hawthorne soon refers to Chillingworth as the black man, which is a derivative of the devil. Hawthorne describes Chillingworth with such strong disdain that in the end Chillingworth simply dies when there is no pain or suffering for him to live off of. He is a parasite, a leech that sucked dry the life of the once young and strong Dimmsdale. For this feat Chillingworth shall be eternally punished. He has committed the worst sin, not of the mind but the mortal sin that is the desecration of the human soul. The reader first comes across Arthur Dimmsdale in the church making his sermon. The people love him, regarding him as a good, young, Christian man. The one thing that no one knows is the secret that he holds within. We see that Dimmsdale watches Hetser being prosecuted, doing nothing to stop the injustice.
He is a weak and immoral man that has no inner strength whatsoever. In some points of the story he cannot even bear to live with the sin, in some severe instances he even whips himself as punishment, but he will not tell of the sin because he fears the social persecution that he will receive if he admits to this hanous crime. Dimmsdale’s sin is one of enigma. He commits a sin against two people, one being himself and the other being Hester. It is very clear that he has done Hester wrong but the sin against him is more complicated. By not telling the people that he has done wrong he lays tremendous guilt on his soul, so much so that it causes his physical appearance to fade and almost extinguishes as Hawthorne iterates here:
His form grew emaciated his voice, still rich and sweet had a melancholy prophecy of decay in it he was often observed on a slight alarm or other sudden accident, to put his hand over his heart, with first a flush and then paleness, indicative of pain. (119)
Hawthorne is a romantic and has the personality of one. He is most forgiving to Hester because she is a Romantic person. She lives in a society many years before her time, but she is strong willed and fights societies disdain to overcome her own sin. He places Dimmsdale somewhere amidst the foggy middle, between these two characters. Dimmsdale is sat here because he commits no direct sin. By not telling anyone of his secret sin he causes the pain of himself and Hester. He clearly characterizes Chilingworth as the least pardonable because he commits the sin of the heart, the soul, and of God.