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In Chapter 17 of "The Scarlet Letter", what is Dimmesdale's secret poison his...

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artseyfartsey18 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 17, 2009 at 11:45 AM via web

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In Chapter 17 of "The Scarlet Letter", what is Dimmesdale's secret poison his malignity, infecting all air about him?

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ms-mcgregor | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 17, 2009 at 12:04 PM (Answer #1)

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In Chapter 17, Hester meets Dimmesdale in the forest to reveal the truth about her former relationship with Roger Chillingworth, the fact that they were once married. Hawthorne writes:

"She [Hester] doubted not, that the continual presence of Roger Chillingworth,--the secret poison of his malignity, infecting all the air about him,--and his authorized interference, as a physician, with the minister's physical and spiritual infirmities,--that these bad opportunities had been turned to a cruel purpose."

Thus, "The secret poison of his malignity" is Roger Chillingworth. He is the one who, although he seems like a kindly physician, he is actually secretly torturing Dimmesdale and keeping Dimmedale's conscience " in an irritated state" in order to " to disorganize and corrupt his spiritual being." 

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