In this novel, outward appearance often reflects the inner character of a person. Chillingworth, the cold-hearted scholar husband Hester finds difficult to love, is described as a small man with a "slight deformity of the figure" so that one shoulder is higher than another. He uses clothing to try to hide this oddity. He has a thin face that is "furrowed" with wrinkles, making him look older than he is.
Chillingworth's bodily deformities and deviations from norms of tall, virile masculinity reflect his secretive, devious, and ultimately immoral character, poisoned to the core by his desire to discover and then torment his wife's seducer. As we first meet him we learn that:
He was small in stature, with a furrowed visage, which, as yet, could hardly be termed aged. There was a remarkable intelligence in his features, as of a person who had so cultivated his mental part that it could not fail to mould the physical to itself, and become manifest by unmistakable tokens.
He is often physically associated with what at the time were symbols of the devil, such as Indians. For instance, when he arrives at the edge of the crowd watching Hester's public shaming for adultery, he is in the company of an Indian and wears "a strange disarray of civilized and savage costume." Such ambiguous dress conveys that he is an untrustworthy character.
He is also associated snakes. For example, as he sees his wife bearing the scarlet letter and begins to realize what is going on, a
writhing horror twisted itself across his features, like a snake gliding swiftly over them
He is, however, able very quickly to mask his shock, once again revealing his deceptive nature.
When he arrives at the prison where Hester is being kept with Pearl, he is described as having the "characteristic quietude" of a doctor. However, Hester shrinks away from his "cold" eyes and face. He is described as "calm" and "intent," but his appearance makes Hester "shudder."