Foul whisp’rings are abroad. Unnatural deeds Do breed unnatural troubles. Infected minds. To their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets. More needs she the divine than the physician. (Shakespeare – Macbeth) Okay, I know this is Shakespeare, but it sums up the suffering of The Scarlet Letter well. Doesn’t it? Hester suffers society’s judgement for her adultery, the letter A (a constant reminder of her infidelity). Hester is burdened by her solitude.
For though she realizes her folly, she is unable to accept that she alone has sinned. … if truth were everywhere to be shown, a scarlet letter would blaze forth on many a bosom besides Hester Prynne’s? Be it accepted as a proof that all was not corrupt in this poor victim of her own frailty, and man’s hard law, that Hester Prynne yet struggled to believe that no fellow-mortal was guilty like herself. … in the view of Infinite Purity, we are sinners all alike. * Dimmesdale suffers by the inconsistancy and unassurance of his mind.
As his guilt consumes him, his body withers (along with the help of the leech). Wherever there is a heart and an intellect, the diseases of the physical frame are tinged with the peculiarities of these. Mr. Dimmesdale (was) conscious that the poison from one morbid spot was infecting his heart’s entire substance. In Dimmesdale’s case he was tortured by his lies. No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.
I have laughed, in bitterness and agony of heart, at the constrast between what I seem and what I am! And Satan laughs at it! Shakespeare break: For when my outward action doth demonstrate The native act and figure of my heart In compliment extern, ’tis not long after But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve For daws to peck at. I am not what I am. Othello * Chillingworth suffers from his obsession. Like Dimmesdale, he dies because of his moral illness.
Hawthorne allows us to see his gradual demise. Nothing was more remarkable than the change which took place, almost immediately after Mr. Dimmesdale’s death, in the appearance and demeanor of the old man known as Roger Chillingworth. All his strength and energy–all his vital and intellectual force–seemed at one to desert him; insomuch that he positively withered up, shrivelled away, and almost vanished from mortal sight, like an uprooted weed that lies wilting in the sun.
This unahppy man had made the very principle of his life to consist in the pursuit and systematic exercise of revenge; and when, by its completest triumph and consummation, that evil principle was left with no further material to support it, when, in short, there was no more Devil’s work on earth for him to do, it only remained for the unhumanized mortal to betake himself whither his Master would find him tasks enough, and pay him his wages duly.