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- Navigate Here - Context Plot Overview Characters Character Analysis Themes --- The Custom-House Chapters I and II Chapters III and IV Chapters V and VI Chapters VII and VIII Chapters IX and X Chapters XI and XII Chapters XIII and XIV Chapters XV and XVI Chapters XVII and XVIII Chapters XIX and XX Chapters XXI and XXII Chapters XXIII and XXIV --- Quotations Key Facts Study Quiz Further Reading Edition 11

Chapters IX–X
(Read: Chapter IX · Chapter X)

Summary

Chapter IX: The Leech

By renaming himself upon his arrival in Boston, Chillingworth has hidden his past from everyone except Hester, whom he has sworn to secrecy. He incorporates himself into society in the role of a doctor, and since the townsfolk have very little access to good medical care, he is welcomed and valued. In addition to his training in European science, he also has some knowledge of "native" or "natural" remedies, because he was captured by Native Americans and lived with them for a time. The town sometimes refers to the doctor colloquially as a "leech," which was a common epithet for physicians at the time. The name derives from the practice of using leeches to drain blood from their patients, which used to be regarded as a curative process.

Much to the community's concern, Dimmesdale has been suffering from severe health problems. He appears to be wasting away, and he frequently clutches at his chest as though his heart pains him. Because Dimmesdale refuses to marry any of the young women who have devoted themselves to him, Chillingworth urges the town leadership to insist that Dimmesdale allow the doctor to live with him. In this way, Chillingworth may have a chance to diagnose and cure the younger man. The two men take rooms next to the cemetery in a widow's home, which gives them an opportunity for the contemplation of sin and death. The minister's room is hung with tapestries depicting biblical scenes of adultery and its punishment, while Chillingworth's room contains a laboratory that is sophisticated for its time.

The townspeople were initially grateful for Chillingworth's presence and deemed his arrival a divine miracle designed to help Dimmesdale. As time has passed, however, rumors have spread concerning Chillingworth's personal history. Even more ominously, the man's face has begun to take on a look of evil. A majority of the townspeople begin to suspect that Chillingworth is the Devil, come to wage battle for Dimmesdale's soul.

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