Tell-Tale Heart Compares to Scarlet Letter: Literary Analysis Essay

Paper Type:  Literature review
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1350 Words
Date:  2022-03-26


The Scarlet Letter is an interesting book written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. In chapter 10, he narrates of how Roger Chillingworth seek revenge from Reverend Dimmesdale for committing adultery with his wife who was once sent back to prison for failing to reveal the father of her infant Pearl. The Tell-Tale heart by a romantic poet, Edgar Allen Poe, on the other hand, is a story of a narrator who daily watches an old man with pale blue eyes like those of a vulture that made him nuts. He, therefore, seeks to kill him so that the eyes won't bother him anymore. Hawthorne is a writer who was influenced by Poe's stories. He transplants and transforms this chapter 'the leech and his patient' from Poe's, 'the tell-tale heart.' There are some similarities and comparisons depicted in both the two writings to verify the influence of Poe's story to that of Hawthorne's novel. The similarities include; the plot details, confession, and guilt themes while the comparisons are the figurative language used in both and the use of spiritual structure in, the scarlet letter.'

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The plot details in these two narrations are quite similar. Here it is evident that Poe inspired Hawthorne in his novel writing. The scarlet letter is about a man, Chillingworth seeking revenge and despising himself as a physician in order to accomplish it (Nathaniel 1850). He would like to take away the soul of the person who committed adultery with his wife Hester and bore him a child that resulted to her being sent to prison. He sought for the man's soul, which describes how he wanted to kill Dimmesdale. He meets him over for consultation on his Dimmesdale is seen as a sinner by committing adultery while he is a Catholic priest, however, Roger Chillingworth ends up to be the worst and likened to Satan at the end of the chapter for taking away the Old's man soul. Similarly to Poe's story, the narrator tells how he spent nights patiently viewing the old man with vulture eyes sleep (Poe 1996). He was in a mission to end his life and get rid of the eye. He eventually kills the old man in ecstasy and does not feel bad about it rather find himself wise.

In both the plots, the two people who ended someone's life are seen to be full of joy after their missions are completed. Chillingworth is said to manifest extravagant joyful gestures by throwing up his hands towards the ceiling in wild look of wonder while the narrator enjoys the old man being stone dead and how his eyes won't bother him anymore. He further pretends to the police that he has been within the house since weird noises were heard and do it calmly. Though in the two narrations, there is dissimilarity on murderer and victim meetings. In Poe's story, the murderer who is the narrator visits the victim daily to record his every move in sleep before ending his life the victim's own house. He then kills him physically and tore his body in parts. In the Scarlet letter, the victim visits the murderer by his words in his place of work where he is treating the governor while telling Dimmesdale how he has a spiritual sickness. He talks out how the soul should be removed or made whole by a physician which made the victim so guilty of his actions. He also emphasizes on taking up one's shame and honoring God instead of deceiving oneself with the pleasures of the earth. The young clergyman who wronged this old man is found dead later in a seat after their conversation on sin confession and soul topics.

Two themes in both, the tell-tale heart and Scarlet letter are similar. These are the theme of confession and theme of guilt. The act of confession is vivid in both. Hester in the previous chapter confesses publicly to the people of her adultery. Dimmesdale on the other hand talks of the holy writ where confession should only be done privately according to his faith. He, therefore, is willing to die with his sin at heart rather than confessing publicly in church. Acting from his own pride he goes on punishing himself in a locked room which doesn't cleanse him from his sins rather weakens and disturbs his soul more. He eventually dies before confessing publicly. Poe story narrates how the three policemen entered the house of the dead old man and started questioning the narrator. In the beginning, he was calm and full of joy trying to act as nothing had happened. The police further question him and survey for quite long in the house. This makes him nervous and conscience of his action. The murderer becomes pale and sweaty upon noticing the police aren't leaving. Their questioning and discussions on the scene force him to confess that he killed the old man and tore him apart. He says this while showing them the body and its parts.

Guilt is another theme in the two narrations. Hawthorne's novel narrates the guilt felt by the young clergy. He was an adulterer who preached opposite to his congregation. He is said to be locking himself up in a room and beating himself to try easing his feeling. Dimmesdale dies out of too much guilt. Earlier in his own private moment, he marveled at how much insensitive he was to the old man and feels bad about himself with his high temper caused by guilt. Upon seeing Hester and his child Pearl, who happens to be a loner, on the graveyard field together with Chillingworth, the clergy is guilty and answers the old man in a very low voice when asked about the little girl. The narrator in Poe's story is also seen guilty when his heartbeat sound increases loudly after committing the crime and being investigated. The guilt moreover grows too much to bear that he eventually confesses to the police in charge. In general, the tell-tale heart is a short story emphasizing on guilt and innocence.

Figurative languages used in the two differ. In, Scarlet letter chapter ten, there is metaphor seen when Dimmesdale is talked of suffering from a black trouble of the soul that is guilt and overwhelming conscience. There is a lot of symbolism from the spiritual scriptures like the Holy Writ in chapter ten which is depicted from the bible on confession of sins to the holy one to be forgiven. In Poe's story, he employs discourse as the narrator is the only one telling the story. He more so asks rhetoric questions though no one answers but rather continues with the narration. Imagery is also another language used where clear descriptions of the old man's eyes are narrated and how he panicked while with the police officers.

Lastly, The Scarlet Letter uses spiritual structure though it copies most format and storyline from Tell-Tale Heart. In the whole novel, spiritual quotes have been employed. Chapter ten has the Holy Writ, where Dimmesdale tries to justify himself that confession is only acceptable when in private. From a biblical point of view, confession of sins should be done alone with the Father in Heaven in a closed room.


In conclusion, Hawthorne transplanted and transform Poe's story is effective for the novel narration and character traits of Dimmesdale and Chillingworth. He made it possible for Chillingworth to be responsible of the clergy's murder through his words so that he could remain the one to blame and pass through public confession in the church at the end of the novel. The moralization of guilt and innocence is transplanted from Poe's story to enhance the plot twist of the book. Dimmesdale is treated as the guilty one while the physician the innocent one, however after the death of the young clergy he becomes guilty and confesses to the people but ends up dead just like in the biblical manner of how Jesus saved our sins.

Works Cited

Dassin, Jules, and Edgar A. Poe. The Tell Tale Heart. United States: Loew's, 1996.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter: A romance. Boston, 1850.

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Tell-Tale Heart Compares to Scarlet Letter: Literary Analysis Essay. (2022, Mar 26). Retrieved from

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