Chillingworth – The Nature of Evil
In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne writes the vindictive and sly Roger Chillingworth mostly as a two-dimensional character. Throughout the course of the story, Chillingworth seems to become the representative of pure evil and malevolence. However, Chillingworth was not always this way. Before the present story even begins, Chillingworth was known as an intelligent and industrious scholar. The drastic change from the Chillingworth of the past and the Chillingworth by the end of book due to his lust for vengeance is a major part of what makes him a perfect symbol of the nature of evil.
Near the beginning of the novel, readers may interpret Roger Chillingworth as more of a victim of the actions of sinners since he was held captive by the Indians for many months and, although he managed to escape, was greeted to civilization with the discovery of his wife’s adulterous act. Through further analysis, it can be determined that this misfortune was largely due to Chillingworth’s foolishness in marrying a much younger wife and sending her to New England on her own. Although initially capable of loving, Chillingworth is inattentive and old. This very temperament of Chillingworth leads to the sadness present in Hester, provoking her decision to commit adultery. Chillingworth’s choice to marry such a young girl and then send her to Massachusetts by herself results in his first sin of the story. In seeking revenge upon Hester Prynne’s lover, Chillingworth changes his name from the previous “Roger Prynne” to “Roger Chillingworth” and also establishes himself as the town’s physician. Ironically, Chillingworth’s change in name symbolizes his lack of human warmth and compassion. By being able to deceive the colony of his true identity, Chillingworth resembles the Devil’s ability to disguise himself in order to tempt someone to perform an evil. He then offers to aid in treating Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale’s mysterious illness and is...
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