Roger Chillingworth


Roger Chillingworth Essay, Research Paper

Roger Chillingworth The Scarlet Letter, a classic novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, depicts the sins of three individuals all tied together by common threads. Although the title emphasizes Hester Prynne s sin of adultery, symbolized by the scarlet “A” that she wears every day on the bodice of her dress, there is another character who the narrator gives the impression of creating greater sin. Roger Prynne, better known in the book as Roger Chillingworth, who is also Hester Prynne s husband that she thought had died. Chillingworth s character unravels throughout the story line; he starts out as tortured man who has overcome difficulties to meet his wife in the town of Boston, a few pages later the narrator reveals the sins of Chillingworth previous to Hester s life in Boston, and by the conclusion of the story he is portrayed as a fiend who has committed the greater sin of any individual in the book. At the introduction of Hawthorne s character, Chillingworth, he creates the character as more sinned against than the other people in the book. Roger Chillingworth had sent his wife to America and had planned on meeting her in Boston a short time after she arrived, but he was abducted and kept prisoner for over a year by ruthless Indians. Chillingworth finally arrived in Boston only to see his young wife on public display as an adulteress holding another man s baby in her arms. Hester Prynne had made the long voyage from Europe to the new America all by herself having been told by her husband that he would meet her in Boston relatively soon after, but he never arrived. Over two years had passed before she saw the man in the “civilized and savage costume” while standing atop the scaffold for all to see her and her lover s baby. This is one of the first scenes that appears to Chillingworth after being held captive for over a year by Indians. Hester had early on thought that her aged husband had not survived the trip. This hurts him so deeply that when he does communicate with her he makes the request to never be known as her husband and to not be called Roger Prynne but Roger Chillingworth. Chillingworth feels that being an adulterated husband is a greater humiliation than Hester s abasement. Chillingworth wanting to be in no way associated with Hester changes his name to a very empty, bone chilling name. These feelings of sadness do not last towards Chillingworth because his character quickly changes into a mean, damned man. Before Hester and Chillingworth recognized each other in Boston they had a life together in Europe. In these flashbacks the author starts to unravel Chillingworth s character for the reader to see his darker side. Chillingworth is the first to admit that, “[his] was the first wrong, when [he] betrayed the budding youth into a false and unnatural relation with [his] decay.” He then broke many rules not only of man but of God and nature also. Although the custom of those times, he was deep in his years when he married the teenager. With her new wisdom, somehow brought along with the scarlet letter, Hester realizes this also, because, “It seemed a fouler offense committed by Roger Chillingworth, than any which had since been done him, that, in the time when her heart knew no better, he had persuaded her to fancy herself happy by his side.” Chillingworth had preyed on innocence. He had stolen the essence of a young girl who would have been better suited for another. Chillingworth explains his marriage as such, “It seemed not so wild a dream,- old as I was, and sombre as I was, and misshapen as I was,….” He was not socially educated, he stayed inside and studied books for the majority of the time. Therefore, the world outside leather bindings was obsolete to Chillingworth, but this does not excuse his wrongs. Chillingworth later realizes his transgression but feels no need to correct his mistake.

When Chillingworth s revenge starts to take shape he commits more acts of sin. The narrator gives a name to Chillingworth s actions as the, “unpardonable sin.” Calling his sin unforgivable brings relations between the devil and Chillingworth together. Calling him the devil would do Chillingworth justice for his thoughts and actions and outward appearance seem as deep symbols for the demon. Not only can the reader see this dramatic change but also, “A large number . . . affirmed that Roger Chillingworth s aspect had undergone a remarkable change while he had dwelt in town, and especially since his abode with Mr. Dimmesdale. At first his expression had been calm, meditative, scholar-like. Now, there was something ugly and evil in his face, which they had not previously noticed, and which grew still the more obvious to sight the oftener they looked upon him.” This metamorphosis into a demonic creature is seen by most of the populace causing most to shy from him. This change does not come as a surprise for some having premonitions about his soul. After this transformation Chillingworth poses this question for Hester, ” Dost thou remember me? Was I not, Though you might deem me cold, never the less a man thoughtful for others, craving little for himself, -kind, true, just, and of constant if not warm affections? . . . And what am I now? . . . I have already told thee what I am! A fiend! Who made me so?!” Chillingworth admits to the creature that he is but is unable to take the credit for his change. Instead he holds Dimmesdale responsible. Hester does not make that connection and takes full burden of all that has occurred. Only when Chillingworth realizes his mistakes, and takes credit for what he has done not only to himself but to others, will God or any person give him forgiveness. In the end Arthur Dimmesdale accounts to Hester who the true protagonist is setting all questions to rest. He tells her simply, “We are not, Hester, the worst sinners in the world. There is one worse than even the polluted priest! That old man s revenge has been blacker than my sin. He has violated, in cold blood, the sanctity of the human heart. Thou and I, Hester, never did so!” In the conclusion of the story Hawthorne depicts Chillingworth as decrepit, withering, and shriveling away like he is already dead. Giving Roger Chillingworth the worst fate of all.

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