In The Scarlet Letter, is Chillingworth guilty of the manslaughter of Arthur Dimmesdale?
We are doing a court simulation in class, and I have been assigned the role of Chillingworth's defendant. I think I have found a good deal of informtion and quotes to back me up, but I'd love to hear any of the points supporting or opposing this charge.
Great exercise! I might be tempted to use that one myself when teaching this excellent novel! Let's start with the evidence that you can use to help defend Chillingworth, before moving on to the various pieces of evidence that you will need to rebutt in order to defend Chillingworth successfully.
Firstly, let us remember that, in Chapter 10, Chillingworth discovers that Dimmesdale is already a seriously disturbed individual because of the "A" that he carves into his own breast. This is something that Dimmesdale was doing without the "help" of Chillingworth in the first place and points to the way in which Dimmesdale is psychologically burdened and distraught because of the guilt weighing down upon him.
However, at the same time, as much as one could argue that Dimmesdale is the creator of his own instability and weakness, which leads to his death, at the same time we must be aware of the way in which the novel presents Chillingworth as a diabolical fiend who definitely helps to push Dimmesdale over the edge. Consider the following description of him in Chapter Ten and the way that he increasingly overshadows Dimmesdale:
Had a man seeen 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.
Chillingworth is therefore explicitly compared to the devil, and in the way he becomes more and more a presence that encroaches upon Dimmesdale could be said to be responsible for his death.