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In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, which of these does Chillingworth most...

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cknutson4 | eNoter

Posted July 29, 2013 at 11:57 AM via web

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In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, which of these does Chillingworth most resemble:

a. Dimmesdale

b. Pearl

c. the devil

d. an old man

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 29, 2013 at 1:47 PM (Answer #1)

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Since you mentioned you were reading chapters thirteen and fourteen of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, I am not revealing any secrets when I say that the most vivid description of Roger Chillingworth happens when he discovers that Arthur Dimmesdale is Pearl's father and the man with whom Hester had an affair.

Clear back in Hester's jail cell (chapter four) where the two of them met for the first time in a few years, Chillingworth assured her that, though she refused to tell her the name of her lover, he would discover who he is. 

"Believe me, Hester, there are few things,--whether in the outward world, or, to a certain depth, in the invisible sphere of thought,--few things hidden from the man, who devotes himself earnestly and unreservedly to the solution of a mystery. Thou mayest cover up thy secret from the prying multitude. Thou mayest conceal it, too, from the ministers and magistrates, even as thou didst this day, when they sought to wrench the name out of thy heart, and give thee a partner on thy pedestal. But, as for me, I come to the inquest with other senses than they possess. I shall seek this man, as I have sought truth in books; as I have sought gold in alchemy There is a sympathy that will make me conscious of him. I shall see him tremble. I shall feel myself shudder, suddenly and unawares. Sooner or later, he must needs be mine!"

Hester is suitably horrified and says she thinks he must be the Black Man (Satan) because of his evil intentions. It takes time, but Chillingworth is devious and patient, and he gets closer to discovering who the mystery man is.

In chapter ten, he finally does what he purposed to do. When Arthur Dimmesdale is sleeping unusually soundly one day, Chillingworth is able to open Dimmesdale's shirt. When he sees what is on the minister's chest and reacts to what he sees, he looks, says Hawthorne, just like Satan does when he steals a soul from God.

After a brief pause, the physician turned away.

But with what a wild look of wonder, joy, and horror! With what a ghastly rapture as it were, too mighty to be expressed only by the eye and features, and therefore bursting forth through the whole ugliness of his figure, and making itself even riotously manifestby the extravagant gestures with which he threw up his arms towards the ceiling, and stamped his foot upon the floor! Had a man seen old Roger Chillingworth, at that moment of his ecstasy, he would have had no need to ask how Satan comports himself, when a precious human soul is lost to heaven, and won into his kingdom.

But what distinguished the physician's ecstasy from Satan's was the trait of wonder in it!

Chillingworth does a kind of evil dance of joy which contorts his already contorted features, making him look (there is the physical aspect of your question) just like Satan doing a similar dance of joy when a soul is lost. 

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