Dimmesdale vs. Chillingworth Near the end of the novel, Arthur Dimmesdale tells the following to his fellow adulteress Hester concerning Roger Chillingworth: 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 a human heart. He is referring to Roger Chillingworth’s malign behavior towards Hester and, especially, himself.
. In his priestly way, he has just made a comparative moral judgment. Although Chillingworth is indeed the one in pain because of being cheated, I feel that his actions are not entirely morally justified. Thus, I agree with Dimmesdale. Although Dimmesdale committed one the seven worst sins and broke one of the ten commandments (all while being a minister and reverend), he still chose to seek repentance and forgiveness (given ample time).
He lived ridden with guilt; this, however, could have been avoided had it not been for Chillingworth. He is, in part, an evil type that has a cold heart for observing but not feeling. As a wise man once said, He is all head, and no heart. Chillingworth’s very appearance is villainy with its smoldering eyes and dark, sooty face. Chillingworth’s appearance aside, his very singleness of purpose is inhuman. For seven years, he has only one thought: to find and torment the man who has betrayed him. Being a ‘wronged’ husband, his lust for revenge is therefore not unnatural, but his method of revenge is indeed unacceptable.
No sword or poison for Chillingworth. He takes the psychological approach. As far as being cutting with Hester, his kind actions and words later give way to deep and subtle purposes. There is apparently a big difference between what Chillingworth does and what he means. And Chillingworth goes beyond the relief of physical suffering.
For one brief moment, he offers Hester a fair measure of understanding. The husband takes it on himself to share the blame for his wife’s folly. We are left, instead, with a villainous fiend consumed with hate. All of the demonic imagery connotated with him is a sign of evil intent, for Chillingworth’s real purpose is for the pursuit of death, instead of the pursuit for life. He is planning revenge, though not against Hester, but her lover. Somewhere along the line, by intruding on Dimmesdale’s private life, Chillingworth has crossed a boundary.
He is not in the human realm any more, but in the demonic sphere of soul possession. If you look up the word leech in the dictionary, you will find at least two meanings: a blood-sucking insect, and a doctor. The title of two of the chapters point, on the one hand, to Chillingworth’s newly assumed career as a doctor, and, on the other hand, to his role as emotional parasite. He is now a man who lives off another’s suffering. His persistent adulating comments toward Dimmesdale are there only to set up his downfall.
They reflect the community’s reverence for Dimmesdale, and so keep the minister off guard. He almost hears Dimmesdale thinking. I feel that Chillingworth is guilty of more than a betrayal of friendship or an abuse of a doctor’s privilege. He is trespassing on holy ground by falsely entering another’s soul. The fires in Chillingworth’s laboratory are said to be fed with infernal fuel, and his face is getting dark and grimy from the smoke.
Revenge is his sole reason to exist. He starts uttering pious truths only to play on Dimmesdale’s guilt. It doesn’t even bother Chillingworth,though, that he is living a lie. The man is evil and insidious, yet his words often have the pure, crystal ring of truth. In one of the biggest paradoxes in the novel, Chillingworth, being a physician, has only been pretending to minister to Dimmesdale’s ailments while in reality adding to his distress.
The fact that Chillingworth isn’t willing to forgive the minister only makes him look worse. Being the parasite, he cannot live on without the minister. After the minister’s passing, Chillingworth shrivels up emotionally; he dies without confronting his true problems. Whereas the minister temporarily, in Hester’s arms, yielded to the claims of the flesh, he chose the path of repentance, which is more than one can say for Chillingworth.