How has Chillingworth's wish to see justice done changed in The Scarlet Letter?

1 Answer | Add Yours

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Having told Hester Prynne in Chapter IV of The Scarlet Letter that he will find out the man with whom she has sinned, "Not the less he shall be mine!" Roger Chillingworth frightens Hester into fearing for "the ruin" of her soul; however, her husband tells it is not her soul that he seeks, "No, not thine!" but that of he who has shamed him so.

After this meeting with Hester, Chillingworth, then, seeks out the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale and becomes his physician so that he may become more intimate with the man he suspects as having cuckolded him. And, when Chillingworth discovers the secret that lies on the chest of Dimmesdale, he delights in the wonder of it. Convinced by this wondrous sight that Dimmesdale's soul will soon be his, 

He became, thenceforth, not a spectator only, but a chief actor in the poor minister's interior world. He could play upon him as he chose.

But, on the New England holiday, at the close of his eloquent Election Sermon, the Reverend Dimmesdale staggers toward the scaffold and calls out to Hester to come to him along with Pearl. At this moment, Roger Chillingworth pushes through the crowd, exhorting the minister to push back Hester and not bring infamy upon himself. Desperately, Dimmesdale appeals to Hester, telling her, "This wretched and wronged old man is opposing it with all his might!" As Dimmesdale mounts the scaffold, Chillingworth follows, looking darkly at the minister,

"Hadst thou sought the whole earth over...there was no one place so secret,--no high place not lowly place, where thou couldst have escaped me,--save on this very scaffold!"

The revenge, the "justice" of a cuckolded husband, has not come to Chillingworth; he is defeated by the minister.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,926 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question