In the novel The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the tragedy of the story is shown through the characters being both agents and victims in their fates. Hester and Dimmesdale’s gravestone, the deaths of Dimmesdale and Chillingworth, and Hester’s loneliness toward the end of her life all show the characters tragic fates.
One of the ways the characters fates are tragic is the writing on the gravestone which Hester and Dimmesdale share. All that their burial places are marked with is “`ON A FIELD, SABLE, THE LETTER A, GULES'” (235). The A that was a part of both of their lives will stay with them forever. During her life Hester embraced the scarlet letter she was forced to wear and made it an embroidered part of her wardrobe. Dimmesdale also embraced the scarlet letter, though he did so secretly as a punishment to himself. Dimmesdale’s letter was for his personal repentance and he felt separate from society though most people did not know about it. Both of them made the letter a part of their lives and were accepting of it. This is tragic because they had much more in their lives than just the act of adultery which kept them separated from society and is now all that future peoples will know of them.
Another tragedy in the fate of the characters is the deaths of Chillingworth and Dimmesdale. Chillingworth’s extreme hatred for Dimmesdale causes him to make life much harder for Dimmesdale and ruined his plans to leave for Europe with Hester and Pearl. When he realizes that he cannot escape what he had done, Dimmesdale decides to confess to the town and then to kill himself which leads to “Roger Chillingworth’s death (Which took place within the year)” (232). Chillingworth’s only goal has been to make Dimmesdale suffer for what he has done and after Dimmesdale’s death Chillingworth had nothing left to live for. These deaths are very tragic because they are not necessary for any reason.
A final example of tragedy in the fates of the characters is Hester’s loneliness towards the end of her life. After Dimmesdale’s death Hester and Pearl went to Europe as they had been planning to do. After a few years Hester returns to her old home, but without Pearl who marries a man in Europe. Hester is completely alone in her new life in her old home and “There was no more real life for Hester Prynne [there]” (234). Hester’s loneliness prevented her from enjoying the final years of her life.
The tragedy of the book through the fates of the characters can be clearly seen in the gravestone marking the burial places of Hester and Dimmesdale, the untimely deaths of Chillingworth and Dimmesdale, and Hester’s loneliness towards the end of her life. These events all added to the tragedy of the book as a whole.