How is Roger Chillingworth is the antagonist in The Scarlet Letter?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Not only does Roger Chillingworth act against main character Hester Prynne, but he focuses his evil particularly against Arthur Dimmesdale.

There are two particular events that are salient in Chillingworth's quest to seek revenge. The first is when he makes Hester keep the secret of his true identity.

Recognise me not, by word, by sign, by look! Breathe not the secret, above all, to the man thou wottest of. Shouldst thou fail me in this, beware! His fame, his position, his life, will be in my hands. Beware!

This is a clear threat to both Hester and, unbeknownst to him, to Dimmesdale. Chillingworth has tied Hester to a secret that she knows will harm someone that she loves. Additionally, she fears that the identity of Dimmesdale is also uncovered by the anger of Chillingworth.

The second even that marks Chillingworth as an antagonist is his joy when he discovers the carved letter "A" on Dimmesdale's chest.

Had a man seen old Roger Chillingworth, at that moment of his ecstasy, he would have had no need to ask how Satan comports himself, when a precious human soul is lost to heaven, and won into his kingdom. But what distinguished the physician's ecstasy from Satan's was the trait of wonder in it!

The manner in which his discovery is described involves the mention of the devil himself; this is clearly an indication that Chillingworth is undoubtedly the antagonist of the novel.


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