Archetypes in The Scarlet Letter

             When Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote The Scarlet Letter, he filled the story with archetypes. He used archetypes from three different categories. They are plot, character, and symbolic archetypes. Because of these three elements, The Scarlet Letter is an archetypal book.

             The first plot archetype is the battle between good and evil. In the story, Roger Chillingworth represents evil and is also seen as the devil figure. He was said to be the "Black Man” that lived in the forest and carried a book with people's names signed in blood. It is also said that Chillingworth resembled Satan. Hester Prynne and the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale represent the good in the story, and are both ultimately "good,” despite the fact that they committed adultery. The "battle” that the three characters have, has to do with Chillingworth's obsession with getting vengeance on Dimmesdale. After Chillingworth finds out that Dimmesdale was the one Hester had the affair with, Chillingworth makes it a point to get revenge on the two. He mainly concentrates his evil doings on Dimmesdale though, because he figured that the scarlet letter was enough punishment for Hester. So he makes Dimmesdale suffer by digging deeper into the guilt that was already haunting him, and tortures him to a point where he becomes ill.

             The next plot archetype is the unhealable wound. Both Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale share the unhealable wound. Both characters lost their innocence when they committed adultery. Hester had to wear the scarlet letter everyday of her life as a punishment for her sin, and for not revealing whom her partner was. At one point in the book, she even thought of committing suicide and murdering Pearl. That's how far her suffering carried her. Arthur Dimmesdale had to live with a guilty conscience everyday of his existence. It was hard for him to be a minister, a person of God, when he knew what sin he had committed.

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