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The Revenge in Scarlet Letter and The Crucible

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Puritanism arose in the late 16th century within the Church of England. Puritans wanted to stay with the Church of England but change the ceremonies to make them more traditional. Their church services were extremely simple, were centered around the bible, and no musical instruments could be played in the church. They believed that faith, not works or deeds, was the key to salvation. Puritanism is still being preached today and its history told in many books. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is about an adulterous woman, Hester Prynne, who must wear a scarlet “A” to mark her shame in seventeenth-century Boston. Hester struggles to create a new way of life as a new mother, a new criminal, and an outcast. Throughout the book, the author explores themes of guilt, revenge, sin, and redemption. Similarly, The Crucible by Arthur Miller was written in the 1950s and based on historical people and the real events of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. This play is about a fictionalized version of the trials and tells the story of a group of young Salem women who falsely accuse other villagers of witchcraft. The accusations and ensuing trials push the village into a hysteria which results in the arrest of 200 villagers and the deaths of 19. The Crucible explores the themes of reputation, power, authority, guilt, and judgment. The Scarlett Letter and The Crucible both share the theme of vengeance, which is the punishment inflicted or retribution exacted for a wrong. In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and The Crucible by Arthur Miller, vengeance acts as influential, controlling, and a consuming motivation, instigating people to act violently, even unreasonably.

People who seek a vengeance seem to lose control of themselves and their revenge becomes their only purpose. In The Scarlett Letter, Hester’s husband, Roger Chillingworth, becomes vengeful when he learns that his wife cheated on him. He becomes consumed with hate and rage towards Hester and her lover. For example, when Hester is back in prison Chillingworth visits her and he tries to get Hester to tell him who her lover is. She refuses and he says, “I shall seek this man…sooner or later, he must need to be mine!” (Miller 64). This dialogue means that Chillingworth declared his revenge on Hester’s lover and starts his slow transformation to an evil, corrupt, and malevolent man. He is seeking to deliberately destroy others for his gain as he desires to hurt others. The author implies that revenge is going to be devouring cancer and create havoc just to make sure Hester’s lover gets what he deserves. Soon, Chillingworth, posing as a doctor, helps Dimmesdale, the reverend of the town, recover from his sickness. Chillingworth moves in with Dimmesdale to discover that the reverend was Hester’s lover. The author describes Chillingworth as, “Satan…himself, when a precious human soul is lost to heaven and won into his kingdom” (Miller 115). The shocking news makes him complete his transformation. His desire to harm Hester’s lover for revenge for his selfish reasons makes him more demonic and irritational. The sight of Dimmesdale’s physical and mental agony delights Chillingworth. He used to live a quiet, moral life in England. Then, Chillingworth became a demonic creature because he was so consumed in his vengeance that he lost himself and all he stood for, which made him unreasonable. Additionally, the townspeople of Boston are vengeful because of their desire to always have Hester wear the scarlet letter. The scarlet letter is, “…so artistically done…much fertility and gorgeous luxuriance…” (Miller 46). This illuminates the fact that scarlet letter is beautifully made and against Puritan beliefs. This is the government’s revenge for Hester committing adultery. The scarlet letter represents her shame and guilt for her actions. Vengeance in The Scarlett Letter was a dish best served cold.

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Vengeance is the act of taking revenge for a past wrong. In The Crucible, one of the major themes was vengeance. Abigail Williams was a seventeen-year-old girl, is the main antagonist in the play. She took advantage of the circumstances to carry out her vendetta against different people. Abigail and John Proctor, a respectable farmer, had an affair and Abigail wants him to herself, but John has a wife. Abigail uses her status, as a witch, to get Goody Proctor killed or gone from John. During the trial, John states, “We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law! This warrant’s vengeance! I’ll not give my wife to vengeance! (Millar 73)” John Proctor is accusing Abigail of being a crazy, selfish, manipulative, fake, and vengeful girl. Abigail Williams is manipulating girls to continue being witches just to avoid being punished for her bad choices one night in the forest. Proctor knows the truth and is willing to speak about what he knows, even though it may cost his life. In John's eyes, Abigail wants to get back at Elizabeth for firing her and taking Proctor away from her. John crazily states he will not let his wife be taken because of the word of a stupid girl and her motivation for vengeance. Also, the law of this land is now driven by a vengeance from the legal principles created by the town. This proves that the Salem witch trials were a big plot created by people who had vendettas to settle with people they do not like. Also, Elizabeth Proctor states to John in her house, “She wants me dead, John, you know it (Millar 56)!” This shows the motivation to want to kill Goody Proctor for simply being married to John Proctor. Abigail reveals the selfish deals of the witch trails. She lies about being a witch because she wants the attention to have it. Since John called it quits on their affair, Abigail saw the perfect opportunity to get rid of her and take John for herself. When Goody Proctor exclaims, “she wants me dead” turns the story to a selfish and vengeful one (Millar 56). This further proves that the Salem Witch trials were just an opportunity to kill people and punish them for grudges they hold. Abigail creates fear and chaos in the town because she just wants what she wants. Goody Proctor is at breaking point as her fate is sealed by simply being married to a man. Vengeance runs the town of Salem, Massachusetts and consumes everyone to act unreasonably.

Finally, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and The Crucible by Arthur Miller both share similar themes of vengeance. The novel and play are both set in Massachusetts from the mid-1700s to the early 1800s in a Puritan town. Roger Chillingworth and Abigail Williams share many of the same qualities. They both are twisted, selfish, manipulative, and have a motivation for vengeance. Abigail does not confess to her wrongs but points her finger at everyone and tries to get revenge on innocent Elizabeth Proctor. Roger Chillingworth spends what is the life of his horrible life to try to get revenge on Dimmesdale. They both were victims of adultery; Chillingworth was cheated on and Abigail manipulated John to have an affair. Also, they both were angry and bitter so they both turned to vengeance, which made them act unreasonably. Both stories share many similarities such as setting, theme, and characterization, but they have their differences and they are successful novels that leave different impressions on the readers.

Overall, Puritanism began in England in the late 1500s and it was a religious reformation movement. Its goal was to remove any remaining links to Catholicism within England’s church. Vengeance is a lonely feeling that consumes anyone easily. In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and The Crucible by Arthur Miller, vengeance is persuasive, controlling, and an expending inspiration, inducing individuals to act fiercely, even absurdly

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The Revenge in Scarlet Letter and The Crucible. (2022, Jun 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 28, 2024, from
“The Revenge in Scarlet Letter and The Crucible.” Edubirdie, 29 Jun. 2022,
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