Friday, November 13, 2015

Is Chillingworth's Craziness Justified???

Throughout the course of the novel, Roger Chillingworth transforms from an intellectual old man to a fiend. When he first appears in the novel, he has a "scholar-like visage, with eyes dim and bleared by the lamp-light that had served them to pore over many ponderous books"(55). By the end of chapter 10, Chillingworth has "a ghastly rapture" which "burst[ed] forth through the whole ugliness of his figure"(121). This is due to his obsession in finding out the father of Hester's illegitimate child. Through his fixation on Reverend Dimmesdale, Chillingworth finally finds an answer. Hawthorne describes Chillingworth: "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" (121).

The progression of Chillingworth's journey into insanity hits a mark where he surpasses Hester in his sins. Chillingworth had "brought himself nearer to her[Hester's] level, or perhaps below it, by the revenge which he had stooped for" (146). This begs the question of whether Chillingworth's journey to insanity is justified. Why does vengeance cause him to fall that far into Satan's hands? Firstly, although Hester is Chillingworth's wife, the whole town doesn't even know that Hester's husband is alive, so the shame brought upon him isn't even legitimized by anyone but himself and God. I understand the part which he wants vengeance for the other sinner, but at the same time, Chillingworth seems to blame himself for Hester's case, "'I have left thee to the scarlet letter'"(151). If he thinks that it is his fault, why does he still manipulate Dimmesdale's life to make it a living hell? Personally, I think that Chillingworth has gone way too far. Theoretically, Dimmesdale holds the same amount of sin as Hester Prynne. Since Chillingworth had fallen below her on the "sin scale", then, in my opinion, it means that Dimmesdale has already received the punishment he needed and more, and Chillingworth has passed the degree of revenge he should have been implementing. Another opinion could be that Chillingworth is putting himself through insanity as a punishment for his causing of this whole scandal, what do you think?
Here is a picture of Chillingworth from the 1995 Scarlet Letter film and one of Satan from Google Images, do you spot any resemblances?


  1. Hi Elaine! I love how your post focuses on Chillingworth's change in character because it is one of the most interesting topics in "The Scarlet Letter". You did a great job of using textual evidence, and you made your opinions very clear.

  2. You make a great point here by asserting that over time, Chillingworth's pursuit of revenge arguably makes him a bigger sinner than Hester. What do you think Hawthorne is saying overall about the nature of sin, and which sins are the most heinous?