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October 27, 2011
Roger Chillingworth: The Worst Sinner
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a story about the relationship between three Puritan’s sins, secrets, and starting a new life. Hester Prynne, the main character was abandon by her husband, Roger Chillingworth, for two years. During this time she committed adultery with the minister Arthur Dimmesdale. As a result they had a baby girl named, Pearl. Hester is punished by wearing the scarlet letter ‘A’ on her bosom and she became an outcast from the Puritan society. Dimmesdale, however, kept the secret and lives with shame for seven years. Chillingworth, on the other hand, discovers this secret and slowly tortures Dimmesdale by misusing his medical practice. Hawthorne’s portrayal of Roger Chillingworth is as a fiend, leech, and creepy old man this reveals him as the worst sinner in the book because he does not suffer any penance.
The townspeople view Chillingworth as the most educated doctor in the town, which he uses to his own advantage. The townspeople believe that he was sent by angels since he arrives when Dimmesdale becomes ill. Dimmesdale and Chillingworth become good friends. They begin living together under the same roof so Chillingworth can take better care of Dimmesdale. Dimmesdale hides a secret and Chillingworth assumes this secret affects him internally which is why he becomes ill. He discovers that Dimmesdale was the man Hester committed adultery with and because of this discovery Chillingworth becomes very full of himself. Since he dedicated his life to education he thought he would notice “the man who had wronged [them]” (52). The author describes Chillingworth as a leech, an animal that feeds itself by sucking blood. In a sense, Chillingworth is doing just that, sucking the secret and life out of Dimmesdale. The townspeople start suspecting this because Dimmesdale seems to just get worse. They begin to consider Chillingworth was the cause of Dimmesdale sickness. For the reason that Dimmesdale appears to them like a saint, he was being haunted by “Satan himself, or Satan’s emissary, in the guise of old Roger Chillingworth” (88). Chillingworth starts changing as well. He doesn’t look the same, as when he had arrived at the town; he use to be “kind, true, just...” (118). However, by the end of the story, his obsession for revenge changes him drastically “there came a glare of red light out of his eyes; as if the old man’s soul was on fire…”(116). His soul burns with sin. As a result it was changing him externally as well. Chillingworth’s revenge made his heart “full of torture” (116). Dimmesdale was living death and just this was Chillingworth’s revenge. He makes Dimmesdale suffer what no other mortal has suffered.
Dimmesdale and Hester’s sin is the cause of Chillingworth’s obsessive revenge. Hester Prynne’s major sin is adultery. Consequently, she is made to wear the torturous letter ‘A’ on her bosom. This makes her an outcast from the Puritan society. Her daughter, Pearl, also symbolizes her sin along with the scarlet letter. Pearl has a different kind of personality from the other puritan children but she is uniquely beautiful. Pearl inherited “… [Hester’s] wild, desperate, defiant mood…” (62). This was Hester’s attitude when she was in prison and had barely committed her sin. Hester bears much penance for her sin, she also most importantly recognizes and accepts that she sinned. She is the town’s seamstress. Hester has a passion for elegance, which is why the ‘A’ on her bosom is so gorgeous and fancy. For penance, though, she makes coarse garments for the poor. Dimmesdale as well suffers much penance, even more than Hester. He beats himself because of his shame. He tells the townspeople, “[I] am utterly a pollution and a lie!”(99). Nevertheless, the townspeople consider him a saint. Whereas Chillingworth doesn’t care he is sinning and wants to keep sinning. Dimmesdale furthermore helps Hester keep Pearl; he defends her when Hester goes to the Governor’s mansion to protect her child from being taken away. Hester helps Dimmesdale equally; he becomes very frail and Hester at the end gives him strength to not lose his hope. He is able to confess his sin and give the election sermon because of her. They both assist each other when they need it the most.
Chillingworth commits the most and awful sins from all the characters in the book. His main sins are pride and gluttony, he commits many other sins but those stood out from all. His pride and hatred leads him to seek the father of Pearl, and revenge himself. When he discovers who it is, he becomes very arrogant and his pride turns into gluttony. Gluttony is when you want and have too much of something. He is getting too much revenge, it becomes a “dark necessity” (119) because he lives under the same roof with Dimmesdale. Hester worries about Dimmesdale; she asks Chillingworth to forgive but he states, “It is not granted for me to pardon.”(119). He doesn’t have the power to forgive, and he doesn’t want to forgive. The lust he had for knowledge started it all, making him leave Hester for two years. Chillingworth seem to live with lust his whole life, in fact he would let it take over. He lies that he is a doctor and torments Dimmesdale as a result this is “transforming him into a devil” (116). Chillingworth doesn’t endure any penance like Hester and Dimmesdale do. At the end of the story, he loses his purpose in life with Dimmesdale’s death and he disappears.
Roger Chillingworth isn’t the favorite character to the reader; Hawthorne’s portrayal of him makes him seem like an awful person. Although the townspeople do not see the evil in him since he is the doctor; the pain he causes Hester and Dimmesdale makes the reader dislike his character. He doesn’t have any punishments either, other than becoming a sorrowful man because of his actions. Furthermore, he did what he wanted with no care about the consequences. Roger Chillingworth therefore, is the worst sinner. Dimmesdale and Hester commit there sins because of love even though it was wrong. Since Chillingworth left Hester he recognized it was mistake and realized it was reasonable. He said, “Between thee and me, the scale hangs fairly balanced.”(52). He wasn’t plotting any revenge against Hester. Instead he revenged himself with the man she committed adultery with. Chillingworth kept Dimmesdale alive with his medicine, “if I (Chillingworth) imagined a scheme of vengeance, what could I do better for my object than to let thee live…” (50) that is exactly what he did with Dimmesdale. Chillingworth never did anything that could be justified.