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Hawethorne's Scarlet Letter: Character Analysis - Chillingworth

Uploaded by Joe_Man500 on Oct 18, 2002

Chillingworth: A Symbol of Evil



In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne uses many literary tools to accomplish the points he’s trying to make. Among these is his use of symbolism. He uses allegorical images as well as rich and figurative language to convey his messages about sin and the nature of the human self. For example, Dimmesdale represents the power of guily; Pearl, truth. One of the most efficient characters to carry his message is Roger Chillingworth. Roger Chillingworth symbolizes the self-destructive power of revenge, as well as (in his aspect as the epitome of Puritan society) the innate evil found in every person. To accomplish this, Hawthorne emphasizes the deformity of Chillingworth’s body, as well as also incorporating deformities in his mind and soul.

The most obvious of Chillingworth’s deformities is the one that consumes his physical self. This is noted when Chillingworth is first introduced. While Hester is standing on the scaffold, the narrator describes her first impression of Roger Chillingworth:

He was small in stature, with a furrowed visage which, as yet, could hardly be termed aged. There was a remarkable intelligence in his features, as of a person who had so cultivated his mental part that it could not fail to mould the physical to itself, and become manifest by unmistakable tokens. Although, by a seemingly careless arrangement of his heterogeneous grab, he had endeavored to conceal or abate the peculiarity, it was sufficiently evident to Hester Prynne that one of this man’s shoulders rose higher than the other. Again, at first instant of perceiving that thin visage, and the slight deformity of the figure, she pressed her infant to her bosom with so convulsive a force that the poor babe uttered another cry of pain. But the mother did not seem to hear it (Hawthorne 56).

Here, Chillingworth is presented as an unimposing, if not ugly, man. He is “thin,” “small,” and possessed of an odd “peculiarity.” This physical mutation seems to single him out from society, though he tries with his mixed and “heterogeneous” clothes to conceal it. This deformity must be one of the “unmistakable tokens,” or signs, that have been left on Chillingworth because of his cultivation of the mind; something that makes him different from those around him. This “slight deformity” is described as one of Chillingworth’s “shoulders rose higher than the other.” It seems that the physical off-balance can be seen...

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Uploaded by:   Joe_Man500

Date:   10/18/2002

Category:   The Scarlet Letter

Length:   7 pages (1,520 words)

Views:   4706

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