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Chapter 4 Summary and Analysis

Following her ordeal on the scaffold, Hester grows agitated and must be placed on suicide watch in prison. Finally, the jailer decides to call a doctor. Hester's husband, a prisoner of a Native American tribe, happens to be staying in the prison while awaiting the negotiation of his ransom, so he comes to attend to Hester. He has taken an assumed name, Roger Chillingworth, so the guards don't know his true identity.

Chillingworth claims to heave learned much from the Native Americans, in terms of medicine. He examines the infant, asking Hester to administer the draught since he isn't the father and thus won't be able to soothe Pearl with his presence. He then gives Hester a draught. She briefly suspects that it's poison, but he assures her that this would be counter to his goal. He wants her to live and suffer under the weight of the scarlet letter. He admits, however, that it was wrong of him to marry her—a much younger woman—after she told him she didn't love him. Both parties apologize.

In the end, Chillingworth doesn't want Hester back. He wants the name of her lover, but she refuses to give him Dimmesdale's name. If she gets to keep Dimmesdale's secret, then Chillingworth thinks it only fair that she should keep his. He makes her promise not to reveal his true identity to anyone. She agrees, but wonders aloud if she has made a pact with the Devil.

Allusions
 
Lethe. In classical Greek mythology, the Lethe river is known as the river of forgetfulness. It's one of five rivers in the underworld, and the spirits of the dead are forced to drink the waters in order to forget their lives on earth. Chillingworth alludes to the river to suggest that he never forgets a slight.
 
Nepenthe. In Greek, nepenthe means...

(The entire section is 588 words.)