Cite a passage that indicates the isolation of Roger Chillingworth in The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, the passage that signifies Roger Chillingworth's complete isolation is in the final scaffold scene as the Reverend Dimmesdale, who has finished his Founder's Day sermon, walks towards the scaffold and stretches out his arm to Hester Prynne who stands holding her little Pearl.  Just then, Roger Chillingworth pushes his way through the crowd, 

or, perhaps, so dark, disturbed, and evil was his look, he rose up out of some nether region--to snatch back his victim from what he sought to do!  Be that as it might, the old man rushed forward and caught the minister by the arm.

"Madman, hold!....Wave back that woman!  cast off this child! All shall be well! ....I can yet save you!....

  But the minister repulses him, and he calls again to Hester to join him on the scaffold.  As they mount the scaffold "Old Roger Chillingworth" follows them:

"hadst thou sought the whole earth over, " said he looking darkly at the clergyman, "there was no one place so secret,--no high place nor lowly place, where thou couldst have escaped me,--save on this very scaffold!"

The three are united and whole on the scaffold, but Roger Chillingworth is alone.  He kneels down beside the Reverend with a blank,

"dull countenace, out of which the life seemed to have departed."

"Thou hast escaped me!" he repeated more than once.  "Thou hast escaped me!"

Another chapter in which Chillingworth is presented as a dark, alienated character is Chapter 14 in which Hester talks to Chillingworth on behalf of Mr. Dimmesdale.  As she looks steadily at the old man, she is struck with wonder to observe what a change had taken place in him.  As he speaks to Hester, he admits that he has been

"A mortal man, with once a human heart, [who] has become a fiend at his elbow!....

The unfortune physician, ...lifted his hands with a look of horror, as if he had beheld some frightful shape, which he could not recognise, ursurping the place of his own image in a glass.

Then, in Chapter 15, after Hester walks away, Chillingworth, now alone, gathers herbs.  As he does so, Hester wonders at what appears to be

...a circle of ominous shadow moving along with his deformity, whichever himself way he turned himself?


Perhaps the most spiritually isolated character of Hawthorne's novel, Roger Chillingworth has been set apart from his fellow man from his youth when he was a student.  Vowing revenge upon Dimmesdale and determined to learn his secret after returning to the colony, Chillingworth lives a life apart from others as he feigns being the physician of the minister.  His subjugation of his heart for his intellect furthers his alienation from the community of man in his quest for revenge, turning himself by his own admission into a fiend.  In the end, Chillingworth has alienated himself from his fellow man in his quest for his one victim and from his God.


Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I cannot give you an exact page number, but there are two chapters you may want to revisit.  The first part that shows his desire to be isolated is in Chapter 3 - in his conversation with Hester about keeping the secret of his identity.  This shows that he wishes to live among these people - but live in a lie.  In so doing, he seals his fate that he never be fully accepted or known.

This proves true in the very last scene of the book (chapter 23) when Dimmesdale approaches the scaffold.  Chillingworth desperately tries to stop him, then admits that this is the one place Dimmesdald could have escaped him.  The most public place in the entire colony is the one place that would have revealed truth - including Chillingworth's identity.

Finally, we see in the last chapter of the book, that once Chillingworth's life purpose (of revenge against Hester and Dimmesdale) is gone, he dies.  His entire reason for life was to be a silent punisher with no identity.  The only person in the entire town he has connected himself to (as he severed the connection with Hester, basically, in chapter 3) was Dimmesdale.  Once Dimmesdale was dead, Chillingworth, in his isolation, dies for lack of purpose.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial