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In The Scarlet Letter, what differences are observed in Chillingworth since he has...

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rosey-girl | Student, Grade 12 | Valedictorian

Posted September 23, 2012 at 5:47 PM via web

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In The Scarlet Letter, what differences are observed in Chillingworth since he has first arrived in the settlement to the time that he is living with Dimmesdale?

A citizen of London thought that he recognized the physician (Chillingworth) from a period of time that he had spent in London. He, along with others in the community, has noticed a transformation in Chillingworth.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 23, 2012 at 10:13 PM (Answer #1)

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Attired in "a strange disarray of civilized and savage costume," Roger Chillingworth stands amid the crowd of those staring at the scorned Hester Prynne who wears the scarlet letter on her bosom on the scaffold in Chapter III.  With great trepidation, Hester recognizes the small man, whose face is wrinkled, although he is not old. Evincing a remarkable intelligence in his face, the observer notes that his body must have aligned itself to the intellect.  For, while his clothing is loose, it, nevertheless, reveals one shoulder as higher than the other. When Hester's lost husband visits her in the prison, she fears him, but he assures her it is not her soul that he wants, "No, not thine!"

After Chillingworth begins to suspect the Reverend Dimmesdale, he ingratiates himself to the minister, becoming a close adviser and physician to the ailing man of the cloth.  Concerned about their minister's failing health, members of the community, with "a hint" from Chillingworth arranged for the physician to be lodged with the minister. By Chapter IX, however, there are those who detect a difference in the appearance of the physician.  An elderly handicraftsman, who came from London, recognizes Chillingworth, but notes that he has "undergone a remarkable change" while he lived in town and now while he resides with Dimmesdale.

At first, his expression had been calm, meditative, scholar-like.  Now there was something ugly and evil in his face, which they had not previously noticed, and which grew still the more obvious to sight the oftener they looked upon him. 

There are those who think that Chillingworth conjures up those from the underworld and his "visage was getting sooty with the smoke" of these fires as he becomes an emissary of Satan.  Certainly, as the man who has sinned against Nature by marrying a young woman who does not love him, believing his love would be sufficient, searches the soul of the Reverend Dimmesdale, his appearance becomes more and more fiend-like.  In his second grievous sin, Chillingworth subjugates the heart to the intellect," sacrificing his fellow man to gratify his selfish desires. Dark and bent, so much so that little Pearl calls him the Black Man.  

He looked haggard and feeble, and betrayed a nerveless despondency in his air....there was a listlessness in his gait.

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