Regents Essay: Critical Lens Dark Window On The Soul

Essay by noseyHigh School, 11th gradeA+, May 2009

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“Literature opens a dark window on the soul, revealing more about what is bad in human nature than what is good.” This quote mean that more often than not, novels show the dark side of human behavior and how humans behave in real life as opposed to fantasies of inherent good in mankind. Humans have natural corruptions such as greed, lust for power, anger, and revenge among many others. These are traits that are found in every human but are only evoked when certain events trigger them. These evil qualities have to be controlled and overcome. However not everyone can control them and it is when they are not managed that tragedies occur. Two examples of emotions that remain unchecked are in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. In Macbeth, Shakespeare uses characterization and solioquies to depict Lady Macbeth’s lust for power and greediness as she convinces Macbeth to murder his king and friends so he can ascend to the throne, which exemplifies a lust for power and greediness.

In The Scarlet Letter, Shakespeare uses characterization to depict Roger Chillingworth’s thirst for revenge that remains unquenched until he wears down Arthur Dimmesdale’s health to a point where he is near death and ultimately does die.

In Macbeth the human behavior is deeply explored as with most of Shakespeare’s masterpieces. In this case Shakespeare demonstrates how man can be corrupted by greed and power. Simply from hearing a couple of old hags tell him he will become king, Macbeth decides it is worth killing his benevolent king, his friends, and ultimately his and his wife’s life to usurp the throne. Lady Macbeth at first appears very kind and caring, but as Shakespeare develops her rather complex persona she emerges as a source of evil, corrupting Macbeth leading him to assassinate the king in his sleep so that he can take his crown. This initial corruption was all that was necessary to alter Macbeth. After he assumes the throne he murders his best friend and then has Macduff’s wife and children murdered as well. Macbeth and his wife go insane and see visions of their victims as the reader can see into the mind of each character through Shakespeare’s use of soliloquies. This is an example of how lust for power can drive human beings to insanity and lead them to do actions that would normally be considered absolutely unacceptable under any circumstances.

A common theme often written about is revenge. A classic example where revenge causes a normally decent human being to do terrible things is in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter in which William Chillingworth nearly singlehandedly causes the death of Arthur Dimmesdale. After abandoning his wife for many years, he finally finds her and discovers that she had a child with another man. This quickly leads him on a vendetta of revenge as he attempts to discover who the father of the child is. As the story progresses, Chillingworth discovers that Dimmesdale is the father of Hester Prynne’s child. Through endless torment, Chillingworth deteriorated Dimmesdale’s health to the point where he finally confesses his “sin” and then dies shorty afterward. Chillingworth was fueled by revenge, anger, and jealousy, and in the end he achieved what he wanted. However, his life quickly became meaningless without any goal to accomplish and he too died shortly thereafter. This example shows how human nature can be revealed to be extremely cruel and unusual in certain cases, especially when it concerns love.

Literature is merely social commentary on life, and as a result, many parallels can be drawn. Corruption in governments, corporations, etc. can be shown through a play such as Macbeth, while murders caused by revenge in cases like cheating, is exampled in The Scarlet Letter. The reason these plays and stories are written is so that humans can see how foolish and unsophisticated their actions are in some situations. These books are lessons that can only be taught through reading, since a real life experience is not viable in these cases. Human nature will not change, the only way to alter it is to teach control and that is the purpose of these stories and all others like it.

Bibliography:Macbeth by William ShakespeareThe Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne