Chapter 10: Interpret the quote - " Satan comports himself when a precious human soul is lost to heaven and won into his kingdom"The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter X of The Scarlet Lettter, "The Leech and His Patient," Roger Chillingworth perceives that the Reverend Dimmesdale has inherited "a strong animal nature" from his parents; thus, he suspects that there is something hidden in Dimmesdale's heart.  So, when afforded the opportunity, Chillingworth, in a circumvent manner, suggests to Dimmesdale that often a physical ailment has its roots in the soul, for spirit and body are connected.  Dimmesdale contradicts the physician's suggestion that the patient should reveal any spiritual illness by saying that a person who holds secrets in his heart will receive no retribution anyway, so he must hold these secrets until "that last day." Dimmesdale accuses the "leech":

"But who art thou, that meddlest in this matter?--that dares thrust himself between the sufferer and his God?"

Emotionally, Dimmesdale leaves the room as Chillingworth has touched upon the truth that lies within the minister's heart. Clearly, this action confirms the physician's suspicions that there is in Dimmesdale a "strange sympathy betwixt soul and body."  So, after some days have passed, Chillingworth finds Dimmesdale remarkably in a deep sleep.  The physician approaches the minister, laying his hand upon Dimmesdale's chest and pulls aside his "vestment" that has always covered him.  With a "wild look of wonder, joy, and honor," Chillingworth celebrates his discovery.  At this point, Hawthorne likens his joy to that of the Devil when he realizes that he has captured the soul of his victim.  Chillingworth now has accomplished what he told Hester he would do--"He will be mine":

Had a man seen old Roger Chillinworth, at that moment of his ecstasy, he would had no need to ask how Satan comport himself when a precious human soul is lost to heaven, and won into his kingdom.

The only difference between Satan and the dark physician, Hawthorne continues, is the "wonder" in Chillingworth.  For, he is amazed that what he has suspected--that connection of soul with body--has such strength as to manifest itself.

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The Scarlet Letter

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