From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter

  

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter Theme of Revenge

(Click the themes infographic to download.)

Revenge is a dish best served cold. (And with a side of fries. But isn't everything best served with a side of fries?) Roger Chillingworth seems to agree, as you can no doubt tell by the extremely frosty fake name that he chooses. He spends seven years psychologically torturing Hester's lover Dimmesdale, keeping him alive just so he can squeeze out just… a… little…. more vengeance. Unfortunately, revenge in The Scarlet Letter is also served with an unexpected side: the loss of humanity. It turns out that God is the only one who gets to do the revenging around these parts, and he's got a little surprise for our anti-hero.

Questions About Revenge

  1. Why does revenge end up making Chillingworth evil? Was he always a little evil, or does the revenge actually twist his soul around?
  2. Is Hester's scarlet letter a form of revenge? What's the difference between revenge and punishment?
  3. Can a community take revenge, or is revenge an individual act? What forms of revenge do communities take? What position does The Scarlet Letter seem to take on the issue of old-fashioned public shaming (wearing letters, being paraded through towns) and acts of punishment like imprisonment, which is the way we deal with wrong-doers today?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The Scarlet Letter suggests that revenge is a dish best served by God.

Chillingworth redeems himself with his final act, giving Pearl and Hester the money they need to escape their community.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...

Advertisement