What is a quote from The Scarlet Letter that shows Roger Chillingworth has changed into a wretched old man bent on revenge?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As underpinning to his theme of "Be true! Be true!" Nathaniel Hawthorne, as instructive narrator also observes in Chapter XX of The Scarlet Letter,"

No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.

While these lines very aptly apply to the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale, they also are applicable to Roger Chillingworth, who has vowed of Hester's partner in sin, "He will be mine!" For, in his deceptive posing as the caring physician of the weakened minister, Chillingworth plays a false role for so long that his nature becomes "bewildered as to which may be the true" and he transforms physically. In Chapter XIV, "Hester and the Physician," Hawthorne writes that Hester has intentions of speaking to Roger Chillingworth in order to do what is in her power to save Dimmesdale from the physician's power. As Pearl plays in a tidal pool in "a retired part of the peninsula," Hester sees Chillingword stooping in search of roots and herbs, which he uses in his medicines. While she peers at the man who has been her husband, Hester is shocked to discern the changes wrought in him during the past seven years. The former scholarly aspect has been altered to a "fierce...guarded look."

In a word, old Roger Chillingworth was a striking evidence of man's faculty of transforming himself into a devil, if he will only, for a reasonable space of time, undertake a devil's office.

Chillingworth notices Hester's regard, and asks her, "What see you in my face...that you look at it so earnestly?" Later, however, he admits to Hester that he has the minister under his control, for that he lives is "owning all to me!" he tells her. Moreover, he admits that he has caused Dimmesdale much suffering although the minister does not realize it:

"...he [Dimmesdale] fancied himself given over to a fiend, to be tortured with dreams and frightful thoughts, the sting of remorse and the despair of pardon....But he knew not that the eye and hand were mine!....Yea,indeed!--he did not err!--there was a fiend at his elbow! A mortal man, with once a human hear, has become a fiend for his especial torment."

Later in their conversation in this same chapter, Chillingworth tells Hester, "I have already told thee what I am! A fiend! Who made me so?"

While he tries to blame Hester, she retorts that he has but to purge this hatred out of himself be re-transformed to a "wise and just man"; if he will only pardon Dimmesdale, Hester says, he will be restored to a man. But, Chillingworth replies, "It is not granted me to pardon. I have no such power...." Chillingworth says that Hester is not sinful except in a "typical illusion" (of Puritanical judgment) neither is he "fiend-like, who have snatched a fiend's office from his hands. "It is our fate. Let the black flower flossom as it may!" While he accepts fate, Hester rejects the idea that she is powerless.

Read the study guide:
The Scarlet Letter

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