Chillingworth: Friend or Fiend

Roger Chillingworth: Friend or Fiend?.

There are many complex emotions displayed in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. A prominent one is shown in the character of Roger Chillingworth. He is the long-lost husband of Hester Prynne: a woman charged with adultery and forced to wear a scarlet letter “A” on her chest for the rest of her life. Prynne believed that Chillingworth had died years earlier and soon began her adulterous relationship with Arthur Dimmesdale, a beloved minister in the town. When a child was born (Pearl) and no “father” came forward to claim it, Prynne was sentenced to her penalty. Chillingworth is first introduced in the story just as Prynne is carrying out the first part of her sentence: standing on a scaffold for three hours, in front of the entire town. It is told that Indians, and that is the reason for his long absence from the town had captured Chillingworth. After his first few comments, a secretive and strange man is revealed, and it is soon known that Chillingworth’s maniacal pursuit of vengeance ultimately leads to his downfall.

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In the beginning of the story, Chillingworth is described as a man “well stricken in years, a pale, thin, scholar-like visage, with eyes dim and bleared by the lamplight that had served them to pore over many ponderous books.” He was an intellectual. However, when the rage of jealousy and anger seeped into him, he no longer used his common sense. He had one goal: to destroy Dimmesdale. He became enslaved by his ambition.

Chillingworth had several deformities that reflected his inner abnormalities (I.e. his shoulder). He was unable to maintain deep relationships with people after his long disappearance. Chillingworth proceeded in taking the role of a doctor, a profession in which many secrets are discovered and kept in confidentiality. He uses his new “profession” to become close to Dimmesdale.

With Dimmesdale’s deteriorating health, Chillingworth eagerly suggests that he live with him.



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