Mean God or Nice God?

by , 1998

The Scarlet Letter was a novel that was written in the early 1850s by a renowned author, Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1850. Some people say that Hawthorne intended the book to portray God as a benevolent, forgiving, and loving god. Others, such as myself, believe that he had a different idea of who God was; The Scarlet Letter was written in a way that would portray God as an angry, vengeful, being that was slow to forgive. God put seven years of suffering upon Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, for a sin whom he committed with Hester Prynne. When he finally confessed and his life looked like it was about to get better, God abruptly ended his time on the earth. Hester Prynne was almost shunned by everyone, even the sunshine. Her daughter, Pearl, was constantly saying things to Hester that would cause her pain. Another man, whose life was damaged by the sin, was Dr. Roger Chillingworth. He was not part of the sin, but still suffered from it. His incredible knowledge of healing, a value to the entire town, was ruined by the quest for revenge upon Reverend Dimmesdale. All four of these lives were ruined, all because of one small sin committed by two people. A merciful, forgiving, benevolent god would never let that happen.

Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale was a young minister, who was greatly loved by the Puritan community. Some said that he would someday benefit the New England Church as much as the apostles had helped the early Christian faith. Unfortunately, that is not what happened. Instead, Reverend Dimmesdale was constantly depressed and physically deteriorating. In a chat with Hester in the forest, Hester asked him if he had found peace, and he responded, "None! -nothing but despair! What else could I look for being what I am, and leading a life such as mine? Were I an atheist... I might have found peace... But, as matters stand with my soul... all of God's gifts that were the choicest have become torment. Hester, I am miserable!" (182). Later in their conversation, Hester said, accurately, to Dimmesdale, "Thou art crushed under this seven years' weight of misery" (188). For seven years, Arthur Dimmesdale's life was filled with nothing but pain and suffering. Would a kind and merciful god put a minister that devoted his life to God through the kind of torment that Reverend Dimmesdale was given?

Finally, at the end of seven years of misery, it looked as though Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale's life might improve, but instead, his life was taken from him in front of the entire town. Hester and Arthur were going to journey back to England to escape the torment of Dr. Roger Chillingworth. The minister thought that it would be better if he finally confessed his sin before they left. He confessed, in front of the entire town on Election Day, then he cried out, "'Farewell!' That final word came forth with the minister's expiring breath. The multitude, silent till then, broke into a strange, deep voice of awe and wonder" (239). Reverend Dimmesdale died, just minutes after he finally confessed his sin. What kind of a god would kill a man immediately after he confessed, and his life looked as it was going to get better?

Hester Prynne's life was not much better than Arthur Dimmesdale's. She was forced to wear the scarlet letter A on her chest as a sign of her iniquity. People practically shunned her, and when they did speak to her, they often rebuked her due to her sin. Even the sun seemed to run from her, "Pearl set forth at a great pace, and as Hester smiled to perceive, did actually catch the sunshine, and stood laughing in the midst of it... 'See!' [said] Hester smiling. 'Now I can stretch out my hand and grasp some of it.' As she attempted to do so, the sunshine vanished" (176). God was full of anger towards Hester, so he decided to constantly torment her, even in things as small as the sunshine running from her in the forest.

What would cause even the sunshine to run from Hester Prynne? Pearl had the answer, which caused Hester much pain, "the sunshine does not love you. It runs away and hides itself, because it is afraid of something on your bosom" (175). God had placed Pearl in Hester's life to constantly stir up pain within her mother, using the subject of the scarlet letter. To a merciful and benevolent god, the fact that everyone else in the town scorned Hester would be enough, or maybe even too much, punishment for Hester. God decided to give Hester even more suffering by causing Pearl to constantly comment and question on the letter upon Hester's bosom.

Roger Chillingworth was a brilliant physician and a great asset to the Puritan town, which was without knowledge of medicine before the arrival of Dr. Chillingworth. Instead of the doctor of medicine gaining more knowledge and helping more people, a bitter yearning for revenge against Reverend Dimmesdale, after the sin between Hester and the minister was committed, ruined Roger Chillingworth's life. As the minister, Arthur Dimmesdale, had almost reached death, "Old Roger Chillingworth knelt down beside him, with a blank, dull countenance, out of which his life seemed to have departed. 'Thou hast escaped me!' he repeated more that once. 'Thou hast escaped me!'" (238). His reaction to Dimmesdale's death, showed the way that he felt about him, and the deep resentment that he carried towards the minister. Because revenge against Reverend Dimmesdale had become the only focus of Dr. Chillingworth's life, the doctor died soon after the minister. This hatred and want for revenge against Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale was given to Roger Chillingworth by God. It made him very bitter, depressed, and even caused him death. A kind, generous would not ruin a man's life, especially not a man who had committed no sin to deserve the punishment.

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel, The Scarlet Letter, an innocent physician, Dr. Roger Chillingworth's life was ruined by God. God also made one of his servants, a minister, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, suffer profusely for one small sin. His partner in the sin, Hester Prynne, was also over punished by God. These three lives, all showing so much promise, were destroyed by the wrath of an angry god.