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The Changing Of Chillingworth Throughout The Scarlet Letter

1158 words - 5 pages

The Changing of Chillingworth throughout The Scarlet Letter

The character of Roger Chillingworth in Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter is one of many different faces. Hawthorne changes the character of Chillingworth during different periods of the novel. As Chillingworth's actions and his motives change, so in turn does the reader's opinion of him, which ranges from compassion to antipathy. Hawthorne keeps the character of Chillingworth an enigma, and Hawthorne uses his narrative to shed light on the true feelings of Chillingworth, as well through the good doctor's interaction with other characters, especially Hester, Pearl, and Dimmesdale. As we watch the plot evolve, and the reader observes Chillingworth's actions, Chillingworth's character continues to confuse the reader. This is because Chillingworth is empty. Roger Chillingworth is a vacant vessel in search of a captain. Chillingworth looks to validate his existence through his crusade. Chillingworth attempts to present himself as an upstanding, righteous, religious man only in search of justice. This righteousness is only one layer, underneath his façade is hatred, and underneath that is a deep sense of self loathing. Chillingworth hates who he is, so in an attempt to appease his own sense of self, Chillingworth attacks others in order to transfer his loathing from himself to Hester, Pearl, and Dimmesdale.
Chillingworth's relationship with Hester is rife with conflict and confusing details. This husband and wife tandem are officially married, the union seems artificial. Hester and Chillingworth spent a large amount of time separated from each other, starting with Hester journeying first to America, and were only reunited after Chillingworth spent time traveling with the Native Americans. It's as if neither one truly wanted to be around the other. The tone of conversations between Chillingworth and Hester are cold, and they never try to work out any differences they had in order to ignite a love again that probably never existed in the first place. In the first interaction between Chillingworth and Hester, Chillingworth is the doctor for both Hester and Pearl. Hester is dubious of Chillingworth's motives for helping them, and with good reason. Chillingworth declares that he is not aiding her out of the goodness of his heart, but rather to make sure that she lives so that he may broadcast her sins throughout the community. "Live, therefore, and bear about thy doom with thee, in the eyes of men and women, - in the eyes /of him whom thou didst call thy husband, - in the eyes of yonder child! And, that thou/ mayest live, take off this draught!" (67) Chillingworth is very angry at Hester, but not because of love for Hester, but rather because Chillingworth feels emasculated by Hester's transgression. As revenge, Chillingworth wishes to strip her of any honor. The reader at this point feels nothing but anger towards Chillingworth at this point. Chillingworth has badgered Hester...

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