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When Opposing Passions Merge

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When Opposing Passions Merge

In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, dualities vie for the soul of an emerging American generation. The novel proves that opposing passions, such as love and hate, paradoxically coexist in the human spirit, and they dictate the actions of Hawthorne’s multifaceted characters. Although such emotions may be similar, one transcends the other. Hawthorne’s novel, on the surface, often teems with hatred; but love is at the root, both driving and transforming destructive social interactions. Hatred is a superficial passion that develops in the character’s souls, emanating from—often perverse, confused, and hidden—love. In the novel, Roger Chillingworth’s life and spirit are dominated by his fierce desire to destroy the man who had an illicit affair with his wife. Chillingworth “digs into the poor clergyman’s heart, like a miner searching for gold” (113), scouring Dimmesdale’s psyche for hints of dishonesty. He becomes obsessed with his secret plot for revenge, and before long, his malicious intentions distort his physical appearance. The physician transforms into a walking emblem of hatred. The town realizes: “Now, there was something ugly and evil in his face, which they had not previously noticed” (112). Behind Chillingworth’s gloomy countenance, however, lies a motivation deeper than his desire for revenge: his enduring love for Hester. As he says to Hester while visiting her in prison, “I drew thee into my heart, into its innermost chamber, and sought to warm thee by the warmth which thy presence made there” (68). The fact that Chillingworth cares enough to search relentlessly inside Dimmesdale—his antagonist’s—soul, to the point of his own ruin, proves that he still has feelings for Hester. His love, when threatened, becomes warped, twisting into a destructive scheme for revenge.
Pearl’s relationship...

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