Delve into the mind of Roger Chillingworth, commenting on how he feels up to chapter 17 of The Scarlet Letter.The information should connect to the text and expand on information by exploring the...

Delve into the mind of Roger Chillingworth, commenting on how he feels up to chapter 17 of The Scarlet Letter.

The information should connect to the text and expand on information by exploring the character's most inner thoughts. Please help!

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Hester has her interview with Roger Chillingworth in Chapter IV of The Scarlet Letter, she asks him,

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

"Not thy soul," he answered, with another simile.  "No, not thine!"

Then, in Chapter X, Roger Chillingworth, who throughout life

had been calm in temperament, kindly, though not of warm affections, but every, and in all his relations with the world, a pure and upright man

has begun his investigation into the soul of Arthur Dimmesdale with the "equal integrity of a judge"; however, as he lives and consults with the minister, Chillingworth becomes more drawn to "violating the sanctity of the human heart."  At the end of Chapter X, for instance, Chillingworth seems powerless to resist the temptation to look at the sleeping minister's chest.  And, when he does so, Hathorne describes him as like Satan who has captured a soul.  This idea of Chillingworth's becoming against his own will a fiend is clearly expressed in Chapter XIV in which 

old Roger Chillingworth was a striking evidence of man's faculty of transforming himself into a devil, if he will only, for a reasonable space of time, undertake a devil's office.

In a scene which does arouse the reader's sympathy along with condemnation, Chillingworth, who now has "a red light out of his eyes," speaks of fate as he asks Hester "What choice had you?" in keeping quiet about Dimmesdale at her trial.  Then, when Hester suggests that Dimmesdale would have been better off dead than under the care of the physician, Chillingworth admits,

“Better had he died at once! Never did mortal suffer what this man has suffered. And all, all, in the sight of his worst enemy! He has been conscious of me. He has felt an influence dwelling always upon him like a curse. He knew, by some spiritual sense,—for the Creator never made another being so sensitive as this,—he knew that no friendly hand was pulling at his heart-strings, and that an eye was looking curiously into him, which sought only evil, and found it. But he knew not that the eye and hand were mine!.... But it was the constant shadow of my presence!—the closest propinquity of the man whom he had most vilely wronged!—and who had grown to exist only by this perpetual poison of the direst revenge! Yea, indeed!—he did not err!—there was a fiend at his elbow! A mortal man, with once a human heart, has become a fiend for his especial torment!”

At this moment, Hester and Chillingworth share mutual pity as Chillingworth looks inward at himself with horror, recognizing his transformation from a man "thoughtful of others" to this "fiend."  As Hester argues that she must reveal the secret of Chillingworth's identity, the physician tells her,

Do with him as thou wilt! There is no good for him,—no good for me,—no good for thee! There is no good for little Pearl! There is no path to guide us out of this dismal maze!”... Forgive, and leave his further retribution to the Power that claims it! I said, but now, that there could be no good event for him, or thee, or me, who are here wandering together in this gloomy maze of evil, and stumbling, at every step, over the guilt where-with we have strewn our path.

Clearly, Chillingworth perceives himself as an agent of fate, a fiend, who possesses no freedom of will as he is powerless to resist the dictates of fate.

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The Scarlet Letter

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