Chapter 9 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on January 27, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 712

Roger Chillingworth is the "leech" of this chapter’s title. Following his meeting with Hester, Roger began working as a physician in Boston. While held captive by the Native Americans, he learned a great deal about natural medicine, which he uses in his practice. He quickly becomes renowned for his work,...

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Roger Chillingworth is the "leech" of this chapter’s title. Following his meeting with Hester, Roger began working as a physician in Boston. While held captive by the Native Americans, he learned a great deal about natural medicine, which he uses in his practice. He quickly becomes renowned for his work, which leads him to become Reverend Dimmesdale’s personal physician. The minister has some misgivings about the arrangement. He would much rather suffer without treatment and die as is, without medical intervention. Nevertheless, Chillingworth starts to treat him.

Chillingworth becomes fascinated with the minister. Dimmesdale, in turn, feels a certain intellectual curiosity toward Chillingworth, whose education as a physician intrigues the minister. They engage in many intellectual conversations about a wide range of topics, including ethics, religion, and even public affairs. Pleased by this friendship, the townspeople arrange for the two to lodge together in a small house owned by a Christian widow. Here, Dimmesdale takes a sunny room on one side of the house, while Chillingworth sets up a small laboratory on the other.

Not everyone thinks highly of Chillingworth, however. Some townsfolk suspect him of being evil, citing the changes in his appearance his face has undergone since he settled in Boston and became acquainted with the Reverend. It appears that Chillingworth and Dimmesdale are engaged in a sort of quiet, moral war of which only one of them can be the victor.

Alliteration

One good example of this can be found in the phrase "fed with infernal fuel."

Allusions

Bathsheba. Wife of David, King of Israel. When she met David, she was married to Uriah the Hittite, but David slept with her. In an attempt to cover up what had happened, David had Uriah murdered. David’s sin was discovered, and he was punished by the death of his and Bathsheba’s son. 
David. According to the Bible, King David was the second King of Israel and Judah and a great warrior in his own right. In the Book of Samuel, he’s said to have conquered the city of Jerusalem, which was founded by the Jebusites, a Canaanite tribe. His wife, Bathsheba, was previously married to Uriah, whom David had killed after he slept with Bathsheba. This story is alluded to in the large Gobelin tapestry hanging in the widow’s house.
Sir Kenelm Digby (1603–1655). An Englishman and scholar known for his extraordinary intellectual versatility. His primary work was as a diplomat and natural philosopher, and he’s well known for his contributions to science, in particular astrology, alchemy, and botany. He’s even credited with devising an early theory of plant photosynthesis. Hawthorne alludes to him to bolster Chillingworth’s reputation as a physician.
Gobelin. A family of dyers famed for their beautiful tapestries.
Isaac Johnson (?–1630). For more information on Isaac Johnson, see Chapter 1 Analysis: Allusions.
King’s Chapel. For more information on King’s Chapel, see Chapter 1 Analysis: Allusions.
Sir Thomas Overbury (1581–1613). An English poet and essayist. He’s perhaps best known for his death in the Tower of London. After being imprisoned there by James I, reports surfaced that one of the guards was feeding him poison. Rumors circulated that James I himself had a hand in the murder. Edward Coke, whom Hawthorne alluded to in chapter 7, uncovered the details of this murder and brought the perpetrators to justice.
Nathan the Prophet. A Biblical figure who appeared in the Books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. Hawthorne alludes to Nathan while touching on the story of David and Bathsheba, which is depicted on a tapestry.

Foreshadowing

When Dimmesdale tells Chillingworth that he would rather not be treated for his various ailments, he unwittingly foreshadows his death, which results in large part from Chillingworth’s decision not to treat the wounds Dimmesdale inflicts upon himself.

Metaphor

In the middle of the chapter, Hawthorne writes, "For the sake of the minister’s health, and to enable the leech to gather plants with healing balm in them, they took long walks on the sea-shore." When the narrator uses the word leech, he’s referring to Chillingworth, who gathers the medicinal herbs necessary to treat Dimmesdale. This metaphor equates Chillingworth with a blood-sucking parasite that will only bring harm to Dimmesdale. All in all, this is an accurate description.
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