Published in 1850, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a book based on sin, guilt, and redemption. A woman, Hester Prynne, must bear the guilt of sin by wearing a scarlet “A” on her bosom.
The reason she wears this letter is because she had a child by a man, Arthur Dimmesdale, who is not her husband, Roger Chillingworth. Although she has committed the sin of adultery with Dimmesdale, her husband is also guilty of being a sinner himself.According to the narrator in Chapter 14, “This unhappy person (Roger Chillingworth) had effected such a transformation by devoting himself for seven years to the constant analysis of a heart full of torture, and deriving his enjoyment thence, and adding fuel to those fiery tortures which he analysed and gloated over. ” would convince anyone that Chillingworth is the most sinful character in The Scarlet Letter.Three reasons for why he is the most sinful character would be that he deceives the colony with his untrue identity, stays in Boston to get revenge on Reverend Dimmesdale, and posses worldly and sometimes prohibited forms of knowledge. Roger Chillingworth comes to Boston two years after sending his wife, Hester.
When he gets in the town, there is a gathering at the scaffold. Upon the scaffold he sees Hester holding a baby, whom she calls Pearl, in her arms. Hester recognizes him in the crowd, yet he motions to her to not say anything.He first deceives the colony with his untrue identity Chapter 3 when he turns to a townsman and says, “I...
pray you, good Sir, who is this woman? –and wherefore is she here set up to public shame? ” By Chillingworth asking who Hester was, he has not revealed that he does indeed know her; and knows her to be his wife. Another time that he admits he has not been true about his identity is when he converses with Hester in the forest.
In Chapter 14, he says to her, “I have already told thee what I am! A fiend! ” When he says this, he admits that his whole demeanor has changed throughout his seven years in the colony.He has become absorbed in his surreptitious identity and also with trying to uncover Dimmesdale’s secret. He has gained pleasure in torturing Dimmesdale after he uncovered the secret. At first, Chillingworth stays in Boston to find Hester’s secret lover and get revenge. During his stay, he becomes Reverend Dimmesdale’s doctor because he is becoming ill. As his doctor, he decides to get to know as much as possible about Dimmesdale.
During this process, he realizes that Dimmesdale has a secret about something.After discovering one day that Dimmesdale is the one to commit adultery with Hester, Chillingworth plans to punish him to the fullest by getting revenge. The narrator describes it in Chapter 11 as, “The victim was for ever on the rack; it needed only to know the spring that controlled the engine: and the physician knew it well. ” Chillingworth knew exactly how to play mind games with Dimmesdale to drive him insane. Dimmesdale knew there was something evil surrounding hi
and he even questioned Chillingworth in his mind, but dismissed it because he could not prove it to be true.
In Chapter 14, Chillingworth comes clean about torturing Dimmesdale to Hester in the forest. As they converse with each other she asks him why he seeks revenge. In his response to her, he also replies, “A mortal man, with once a human heart, has become a fiend for his especial torment. ” He basically tells her that he once had a kind and loving heart, but the sin committed by Dimmesdale has caused him to become a cruel person that gives a special torture to the man who does not have to bear public shame like she.The third reason for why Dimmesdale is considered the most sinful character is that he posses worldly and sometimes prohibited forms of knowledge. He regularly conducts chemical experiments and medical practices that are occasionally on the verge of witchcraft and murder.
According to the narrator in Chapter 9, “he had gained much knowledge of the properties of native herbs and roots” when he had been captured by Indians on his way to the colony. He obtains much more knowledge with medicine than the people know.Also in Chapter 9, the narrator describes his laboratory as, “…not such as a modern man of science would reckon even tolerably complete, but provided with a distilling apparatus and the means of compounding drugs and chemicals, which the practised alchemist knew well how to turn to purpose. ” Chillingworth could very well use his laboratory and medicines as a key instrument to the torture or death of Reverend Dimmesdale if he wished. Chillingworth seems to obtain knowledge about things not outwardly spoken about.
When Hester had booked passage on a ship for Dimmesdale, Pearl, and herself, Chillingworth seemed to have found out about it and booked one as well. According to the shipmaster when he is talking with Hester in Chapter 21 he tells her, “Ay, ay, you must have known it; for he tells me he is of your party, and a close friend to the gentleman you spoke of…
” She is shocked by Chillingworth’s knowledge of their planned departure and happens to behold sight of him in a corner smiling at her.In conclusion, Roger Chillingworth’s misleading the colony with his untrue identity, planned vengeance on Reverend Dimmesdale, and possession of worldly and sometimes prohibited forms of knowledge makes him the most sinful character in The Scarlet Letter. After he found out about Hester and her daughter Pearl, he immediately planned vengeance instead of forgiveness. Throughout the whole book he tortured Dimmesdale without letting him know that he was.
He did not even disclose his identity to anyone besides Hester. He died full of sin; never coming clean about who he was or what he did.