In "The Scarlet Letter", describe Roger Chillingworth in the scene in which he visits Hester in jail. How did Hester feel about that?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Scarlet Letter" when R. C. visits Hester in Ch. IV, she is fearful after seeing him in the "audience" putting his finger to his lips. Even as she stood on that pedestal, Hester feels "It was better to stand thus, with so many betwixt him and her, than to greet him, face to face, they two alone." for the public exposure provides some "refuge." Ironically, as physician R.C. is called into her cell to treat her for the nervousness which he himself has caused by her recognition of him. Surprisingly, he enters the cell with the demeanor and speech of a physician, calm and in control of the situation, even when the jailer departs. Hester fears that he may harm both her and the child, but he assures her that he knows nothing about poisons; besides the child is "none of mine" he says, denoting his lack of interest in its fate. As he gives a doubtful Hester a drink, she warns the physician she considers death. Calmly, he asks, "Dost thou know me so little?" (he has already declared that he would help either of them no matter what the circumstances). Still, Hester fears that he will now deal with her as the wayward wife; he does, telling her he has expected her behavior. When he asks for the name of her lover and is denied, he tells H. "he must needs be mine!" H. says his deeds are kind, but his words terrorize her. R. C. asks her to keep him a secret; she agrees.

ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At first, Hester is frightened when she sees Chillingworth. She is afraid that he might hurt her child and also her. As they talk, it becomes apparent that Chillingworth is more interested in who the father of the child is than anything else. Hester reveals that she never loved, nor pretended to love the old man. Chillingworth says he shares part of the blame for thinking that such a young, and pretty girl such as Hester could have feeling for such a deformed, older man. However, once Chillingworth is convinced Hester is not going to divulge who Pearl's father is, Chillingworth becomes somewhat nasty. He says he doesn't want anyone to know he and Hester were married so he won't be "tainted' by her sin. Then he promises to get revenge "on the man that wronged us both." In other words, he will get his revenge on the father of Pearl. He makes Hester promise not to divulge his true identity ( as Roger Prynne ) and takes on the name Chillingworth--which foreshadows the "chilling" effect he will have on both Hester and Dimmesdale's life. Hester has little choice but to go along with Chillingworth's request and after that she seems to have a little contact as possible with the man she "used to call husband".

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The Scarlet Letter

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