Roger Chillingworth and Hester Prynne Relationship in Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'The Scarlet Letter '

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, little Pearl assesses Roger Chillingworth as a black man. She calls him the Black Man who has got hold of minister and who may catch Hester. Undoubtedly Pearl is right. The primary and deadly evil of Roger Chillingworth has evil effects on the other three characters.

Roger Chillingworth married Hester into an unnatural and "pseudo" relationship. He did not love her and she did not love him. He married a wife a generation younger than he. Hester's unhappiness, due to a mismatched matrimony, leads her to become an adulteress. Chillingworth makes Hester to be unhappy. Her initial sadness, along with the three year absence of her husband, resulted in adultery. After his discovery, "Chillingworth moves closer to the scaffold and imperiously bids her to name the father of her child" (Martin 113). Chillingworth repressed his instinctive emotional response to the situation. He was disappointed that his hope of gaining his wife's affection upon arrival was destroyed and he hated the man who had gained that affection.

Chillingworth’s indifference to Hester is responsible for the birth of the illegitimate child, Pearl. The rigid Puritan society doesn’t welcome her. Usually a child is treated as an angel. But instead of it, she becomes the symbol of a sin. She has to face some uncommon questions like who is her father, from where she comes. Other children don’t play with her. She has no place in gentleman’s society. No one welcome them. Instead of love there is agony and abhorrence in everyone’s eye. Hostile environment surrounds her. Moreover Chillingworth reveals as the threat to her mother’s life which makes Pearl more unsecured. So, Chillingworth is the devil in Pearl’s life.

Chillingworth begins to suspect that Dimmesdale is Pearl's father when Reverend Wilson and Governor Billingham are trying to take Pearl away from Hester. Dimmesdale gives an eloquent representation for Hester, and Chillingworth says "You speak, my friend, with a strange earnestness" (1217). It is with this suspicion that Chillingworth begins to show "special interest" in Dimmesdale.

When Chillingworth first appears in the community he is well received. The town needs a doctor and the members of the town feel that it is an act of God that he arrives when Reverend Dimmesdale is becoming ill. The fact that Chillingworth shows a special interest in Dimmesdale helps his acceptance in the community, but the community did not know his intentions.

Chillingworth's quest is to find out if his suspicion is, in fact, reality. In order to find this out, he must get closer to Dimmesdale: "The mysterious illness of Dimmesdale--mysterious to the town-- is something he says he can treat, and so he becomes the minister's physician; he even lives with him" (Doren 150). While living together, Chillingworth constantly digs for Dimmesdale to release his secret, but he will not reveal it, and his condition becomes worse. Finally, Chillingworth catches Dimmesdale sleeping and thrust aside the vestment to discover the letter "A" upon his chest.

With no doubt in Chillingworth's mind about Dimmesdale's relation to Pearl, his torment toward him increases. Chillingworth is now in complete control of Dimmesdale, whose health is deteriorating.

Hester notices the deterioration of Dimmesdale's health, and she thinks that her faithfulness, in keeping Chillingworth's identity a secret, is to blame. When she goes to Chillingworth and speaks to him about revealing his identity, he neither condones nor condemns her decision. While listening to the old man, she noticed how much he had changed over the past seven years.

“Roger Chillingworth was a striking evidence of man's faculty of transforming himself into a devil.”

Hester finally tells Dimmesdale about Chillingworth's true identity. This new knowledge does not free Dimmesdale of Chillingworth's control. Constantly spying on the minister’s movements and on those of Hester, he has come to know of their plans to flee from Bosto by ship, and he succeeds in thwarting this plan. But he need not have taken the trouble of doing so because the minister has in the meanwhile made up his mind to make a public confession of his guilt. When he tries to restrain the minister from making his intended confession, it is certainly not for a good that he means towards the priest but to prevent him from slipping from his hands. Eventually when the minister has made his confession, Chillingworth says to him more than once, “thou hast escaped me! Thou hast escaped me!” There is no mercy in Chillingworth's heart even at this stage.

Ultimately, Chillingworth represents true evil who affects the other three characters. He is interested in revenge, not justice, and he seeks the deliberate destruction of others rather than a redress of wrongs. His desire to hurt others stands in contrast to Hester and Dimmesdale’s sin, which had love, not hate, as its intent.