In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter what does Chillingworth most closely resemble? a) a fiend b)pearl c)devil

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a story of love, sin, forgiveness, and repentance. One of the three main characters is known as Roger Chillingworth; he is the protagonist of the story.

When Hester Prynne is on the scaffold, she sees a familiar but unexpected face in the crowd below her. 

He was small in stature, with a furrowed visage, which as yet could hardly be called aged. There was a remarkable intelligence in his features, as of a person who had so cultivated his mental part that it could not fail to mould the physical to itself....

One of the man's shoulders is higher than the other, rather like a hunchback, though his odd and rather primitive clothing disguises the deformity. Whatever she sees in this man makes Hester instinctively clasp her child so closely to her bosom that the child cries.

The next time Hester sees the man, he is visiting her in jail. His name is Roger Chillingworth, and we discover that he is Hester Prynne's husband. She is appalled to see him because she has had a child with another man in her husband's absence. 

He promises not to reveal his true identity, and she agrees to do the same. Chillingworth vows, with a frightening intensity, to find Hester's adulterous partner, and Hester says his acts seem merciful but his words are more like "a terror."

Before leaves, Hester wonders why Chillingworth smiles so oddly at her, disturbed by the "expression of his eyes." Then she asks,

"'Art thou like the Black Man [Satan] that haunts the forest round about us? Hast thou enticed me into a bond that will prove the ruin of my soul?'"

This is the first time Chillingworth is compared to Satan (the devil). I gather you are in the early chapters of the reading, so beware of the potential spoiler below unless you are past chapter ten in your reading.   

**In chapter eleven, when Chillingworth makes a dramatic discovery, Hawthorne's description of Chillingworth compares him more vividly to Satan. 


mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

According to what Chillingworth himself says, he is a fiend.

While Roger Chillingworth is referred to as a "diabolical agent" who "burrows into the clergyman's intimacy and plots against [his] soul" in Chapter IX, in Chapter XIV when Hester finds him as he gathers herbs, he bears "a striking evidence of man's faculty of transforming himself into a devil." Hester implores him to release the minister from his torture, saying that she has kept her promise of not revealing the name of her husband and that he has tortured the Reverend Dimmesdale enough for his sin, Chillingworth at first argues that he has prevented the man from going to the gallows and he has kept him alive because he lacks the spirit to hold up under the pressure of what has happened. But, Hester asks her husband if the minister has not now paid his debt, and the physician cries "No!...He has but increased the debt!"because Dimmesdale has made him change from a man who was thoughtful of others, true, and just.

As he speaks to Hester, Chillingworth has a realization of what he now has become,

“And what am I now?” demanded he, looking into her face, and permitting the whole evil within him to be written on his features. “I have already told thee what I am! A fiend! Who made me so?”

Hester tells Chillingworth that she pities him for having wasted his good nature and having "transformed a wise and just man to a fiend!" Further, she states that she will reveal Chillingworth's identity to Dimmesdale and begs him to release the minister. He replies that he cannot because "It is our fate."

browneyedsusans | Student

I'm afraid the question you have provided is a perfect example of a poorly-worded multiple choice question.  Both eNotes Educators are correct in their answers and used substantial evidence as proof.  Chillingworth can be seen as EITHER a fiend OR the devil depending on the quotation provided. 

Perhaps we could say that the use of the word "fiend" is a literal description while the use of the word "devil" is a metaphorical one.  The actual word "fiend" is used within the description.  This is significant.  The actual word "devil" is used as well, also in reference to Chillingworth.  The ultimate irony?  The devil, himself, is often described as a fiend! 

Perhaps to correctly answer this question, we could say that the only WRONG answer would be b) Pearl.  And yet another irony is that I could also support THAT answer with evidence of mischievous (evil?) behavior comparing those two characters.

The only real solution:  kick this question to the curb and start over.  Perhaps a full analysis of the diction used to describe Chillingworth throughout the novel would be a perfect way to start.

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The Scarlet Letter

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