How do the townspeople feel about Chillingworth in Chapter 9 of The Scarlet Letter?  

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

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The townspeople’s opinions about Chillingworth change greatly within Chapter 9 of The Scarlet Letter.  First, all of the townspeople seem to be thrilled with Chillingworth’s appearance because they know that he is known as a great doctor.  “He was now know to be a man of skill; . . . like one acquainted with hidden virtues to common eyes” (120).  Further, the townspeople’s feelings for their pastor (Dimmesdale) supersede their own needs as they begin to see God’s “Providence” in sending the physician to their ailing pastor’s side. “Individuals of wiser faith, indeed, . . . were inclined to see a providential hand in Roger Chillingworth’s so opportune arrival” in order for him to attend to their ailing clergyman, Dimmesdale (120).  It isn’t long before Chillingworth arranges to live in Dimmesdale’s very home “so that every ebb and flow of the minister’s life-tide might pass under the eye of his anxious and attached physician” (123).  “There was much joy throughout the town when this greatly desirable object was attained” (123).

However, “another portion of the community” soon began to take a different view because they “affirmed that Roger Chillingworth’s aspect had undergone a remarkable change while he had dwelt in town, and especially since his abode with Mr. Dimmesdale.  At first, his expression had been calm, meditative, scholar-like.  Now, there was something ugly and evil in his face which they had not previously noticed” (125-126).  Many said that Dimmesdale “was haunted either by Satan, himself, or Satan’s emissary, in the guise of old Roger Chillingworth.”  Therefore, by the end of the chapter, Chillingworth has gone from angel to devil in the eyes of the townspeople.