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smile1's avatar

Do you think Chillingworth from the Scarlet Letter is too melodramatic?

Asked by smile1 (488 points ) October 5th, 2009

A lot of people consider Chillingworth very important to the plot of the Scarlet Letter, but find him not to be a believable character, and more melodramatic (oversimplifying characterization and exaggeration of emotional content)

What do you think? Do you partially agree, fully agree, or disagree? why?

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8 Answers

books's avatar

I have always wondered that…. but i cant give a very good answer…

Zaku's avatar

Puritan society is too melodramatic and surreal for me, but once I allow that it exists, Chillingworth, what I remember of him from 11th grade or whenever that was I read the book, seemed to fit in IIRC.

YARNLADY's avatar

Not at all. There are thousands of ‘him’ all over the country. The only part that is over the top is his physical appearance. In today’s world, you can’t tell the Chillingworth’s from the other people, which make them all the worse. Spend some time at any woman’s shelter to see what I mean.

Jeruba's avatar

<sniff> Homework?

smile1's avatar

@Jeruba yes…in a way. I finished the essay, but am curious what other people think. I used to ask people for help on my essays, but learned that by copying i dont gain anything. and whats the use of going to school if i just copy and cheat? SO, ive veered away form that. i can ask AFTER if im really interested..and thus im doing so. :)

smile1's avatar

nobody is giving their insight. :(

@Jeruba what do you think of all this with Chillingworth?

Jeruba's avatar

Well, it has been more than 40 years since I read the book, and some recollections remain clearer than others. I have read other works by Hawthorne more recently.

Yes, there is an element of melodrama, all right. Popular writers of the time (his contemporary Dickens, for instance) did go in for melodrama and tended to draw their villains much more heavily than is typical today. There were different standards of believability then. People didn’t expect characters to resemble their neighbors and local townsfolk quite so faithfully while also bearing the burden of symbolism and moral teaching. The lessons of sin, estrangement, and redemption are perhaps a bit larger than everyday realism in The Scarlet Letter.

But also remember, what might seem overdone now was not necessarily out of proportion or a cliche when the book was published in 1850. Being one of the most influential American writers, Hawthorne has literally influenced many, and so literature has evolved in the past century and a half. What would be very strange is if we were still writing now the way he did then. You can’t really judge his work as if it had been written last year.

smile1's avatar

Thats right! It never occurred to me that the book was written quite a while ago…

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