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Excerpt from "The Scarlet Letter as Pre-Text for Flannery O'Connor's 'Good Country People,'" by John Gatta.

Excerpt from "The Scarlet Letter as Pre-Text for Flannery O'Connor's 'Good Country People,'" by John Gatta in Hawthorne and Women Engendering and Expanding the Hawthorne Tradition Edited by John L. Idol Jr. and Melinda M. Ponder (courtesy of University of Massachusetts Press)

John Gatta suggests that one of the ironies of The Scarlet Letter is that it is the torture Roger Chillingworth inflicts upon Arthur Dimmesdale that, in the end, lead the minister to his saving confession. Of particular interest her is Gatta's notion that Chillingworth's work is effected by breaking down Dimmesdale's "psychic defenses," that arrogance that kept him from confession in the first place.

 

"Yet in the process of tormenting his victim, Chillingworth at the same time reveals a mysterious, unholy kinship with the minister. It is precisely by breaking down Dimmedsale's psychic defenses that Chillingworth helps draw him finally up to the scaffold, to public confession, and thereby to whatever solace and integrity he is stall capable of realizing in his broken condition. Despite himself, then, Chillingworth leads Dimmesdale toward salvation-or at least toward what the minister perhaps mistakenly, conceives to be his salvation and 'triumphant ignominy'" (273).




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