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Some people, seek vengeance when they suffer a wrong. In the novel The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the character Roger Chillingworth is no exception, but the burden of his revenge becomes so heavy that it leads to a transformation of character that is unprecedented. Though at first a humble physician, Roger Chillingworth, slowly, through acts of his seeking revenge on his wife’s lover, Arthur Dimmesdale, he transforms into a parasitic leech, which eventually leads to his downfall.
In the beginning of the novel, Roger Chillingworth is a humble, old physician. For example, on the night after Hester’s shame on the scaffold. Roger Chillingworth is called to treat Hester and her baby as he acts as he acts as her physician.
[Chillingworth] ‘Prithee, friend leave me alone with my patients […] my old studies and alchemy observed he, and my sojourn for above a year past, among a people well versed in the kindly propertied of simples have made a better physician of me then many that claim the medical degree […] What should ail me, to harm this misbegotten and miserable babe? The medicine potent for good as it were my child […] I could do no better’ (Hawthorne 66-67).
Chillingworth’s humble beginning is also depicted when he is introduced by Hawthorne as the physician that he is, and telling about the great knowledge of the herbs that he beholds.
The only surgeon was one who combined the occasional exercise of that noble art with the daily and habitual flourish of a razor. To such a professional body Roger Chillingworth was a brilliant inquisitor. He soon manifested his familiarity with the ponderous and imposing machinery of antique physique; in which every remedy contained in multitude a far fetched and heterogeneous ingredients […] He had gained much knowledge of the properties of native herbs and roots(Hawthorne 108-109).
Roger Chillingworth’s reputation as a good doctor becomes more evident when the townspeople see him as a savior to Arthur Dimmesdale, and encourage both of them to live together.
Why in such rank of the learned world whose sphere is great cities, be seeking in the wilderness? In answer to this query a rumor gained grown, and however absurd, was entertained by some very sensible people.
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Due to these facts, it is clear that before the consumption of Chillingworth’s soul he was a humble physician.
As the book progresses Roger Chillingworth starts to become morbidly obsessed with extracting revenge of his wife’s secret lover. This obsession is first represented when he had just treated Hester and her baby, and begins to interrogate Hester on the name of her secret love.
‘We have wronged each other,’ answered he. “Mine was the first wrong, when I betrayed thy budding youth! […] I seek no vengeance, plot no evil against thee. Between thee and me, the scales hang fairly balanced. But Hester, the man lives who has wronged us both! Who is he? […] Never sayest though? […] Never know him! Believe me, Hester there are a few things, - whether in the outward world, or to a certain depth, in the invisibly sphere of thought, - a few things hidden from the man who devoted himself earnestly unreservedly to the solution of a mystery. […] I shall see him tremble […] sooner or later he must needs be mine!” (Hawthorne 70).
The fact that Roger Chillingworth becomes consumed by revenge is clearly evident when he begins to conduct his investigation of the dark secrets of Hester and he unknown lover.
He had began an investigation, as he imagine, with the severe integrity of a judge […] but, as he proceeded, a terrible fascination, a kind of fierce though still calm, necessity ceased the old man within its grip and never setting him free again until he had done all his biddings (Hawthorne 117).
This obsession is depicted for the third time when Hester happens across the once humble physician and a retired part of the peninsula, and Chillingworth confesses his wrong doings toward the preacher.
‘Oh I could reveal a godly secret! But enough! What art can do, I have exhausted on him. That he now breathed, and creeps about on earth is owning all to me! […] Better he had died at once! Never did mortal suffer what this man has suffered. […] But it was the constant shadow of my presence! The closest propinquity of the man whom he had most viable wronged! And who had grown to exist only by this perpetual poison of the direst revenge!’ (Hawthorne 155).
Due to the evidence presented by Nathaniel Hawthorne it is clearly evident that Roger Chillingworth had become morbidly obsessed with the distraction of revenge of his wife’s Casanova.
As watching Chillingworth seek his revenge of his wife’s lover it is clearly presented that this morbid obsession begins to consume his soul and transform him into a parasitic leech. The transformation to the once humble physician becomes noticeable to Hester as she is at the governors hall delivering a pair of gloved and ready to plead with him over the remaining of her daughter with her.
‘Old Roger Chillingworth, with a smile on his face, whispered something in the young clergyman ear. Hester Prynne looked at the man of skill, and even then, with her fate hanging in the balance was startled to perceive what a change had come over his feature, how much uglier they were, how dark his complexion seemed to have grown dustier, and his figure made more misshapen (Hawthorne 102).
The ugly transformation of the humble physician is depicted again after Chillingworth had just finished confessing his evil deeds to Hester while in a retired part of the peninsula.
‘He has not paid thee all? No he has but increased the debt!’ answered the physician. […] Dost though remember me, Hester, as I was nine years agone? […] But all my life had been made up of earnest, studious thoughtful years […] And what am I now? Demanded he […] I have already told thee what I am a fiend!’ (Hawthorne 156).
Last of all we see Chillingworth’s tragic flaw take its toll, death on the now fiendish parasitic leech. T This fall becomes evident shortly after Dimmesdale’s death, when the narrator describes the conclusion to this whole affair.
Nothing was more remarkable than the change which took place, almost immediately after Mr. Dimmesdales death […] Chillingworth’s strength and energy all his vital and intellectual force seemed at once to desert him in so much that he positively withered up, shriveled away, and almost vanished from mortal sight, like an uprooted weed that lies wilting in the sun (Hawthorne 232).
Due to these facts it is a easy conclusion to draw that because of the consumption of Chillingworth’s soul in an unfashionable way probably leads to his early death.
All in all, due to all the details in the book it is easy to see several things. The first thing noticeable is that Chillingworth starts off as just a humble physician that only wants to help the hurt and sick. The next thing that the reader can sense is Roger Chillingworth’s morbid obsession with extracting revenge on the secret lover of Hester Prynne. Also, the final thing that is noticed is the dreadful transformation that Roger Chillingworth undergoes changing him into a fiend. Just like in real life when too much power is extracted a deep corruption of the human soul occurs.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. New York: Bantam Dell. 2003.