The Scarlet Letter

Wakefield and Chillingsworth: Hawthorne’s Subtle Abusers

Wakefield and Chillingsworth: Hawthorne’s Subtle Abusers

In his short story “Wakefield”, author Nathaniel Hawthorne represents the perverse and abusive inclinations of man at their most random. As a man of no individual value, Wakefield lives a generally insignificant existence, with neither character nor actions to his merit or discredit. Wakefield’s decision to suddenly leave his wife, only to spend decades observing her from close proximity, does not have any catalyst, nor does it correspond with any profound intellectual or creative intentions he may have harbored. Wakefield’s haphazard resolution to completely disappear from his wife’s life (to her knowledge) is wholly purposeless: he not only has no reason for doing this, but he develops no objectives or even any conclusion to his scheme. The fact that Wakefield did possess enough resolve—however unfounded—to continue the psychological abuse of his wife for years upon end does, however, signify a buried dissatisfaction with his marital life. Therefore, while Wakefield lacks the same motivation for torturing his victim that Chillingsworth possesses in The Scarlet Letter, both characters demonstrate uneasiness with their relationships that manifests itself in their...

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