The Scarlet Letter

by: Nathaniel Hawthorne

Roger Chillingworth

It irks me, nevertheless, that the partner of her iniquity should not, at least, stand on the scaffold by her side.(Chapter 3)

Chillingworth speaks this line as he watches Hester being publicly shamed. He acknowledges the obvious reality that Hester did not get into her situation by herself, and he wants to see her lover also be punished. Although Chillingworth initially seems like he is sympathetic to Hester, his comments reveal the darker reality that he is obsessed with uncovering the identity of his wife’s lover.

How could I delude myself with the idea that intellectual gifts might veil physical deformity in a young girl’s fantasy?(Chapter 4)

Chillingworth speaks this line to Hester, as he explains that he doesn’t blame her for being unhappy with their marriage. He assumes that his appearance made it impossible for her to love or desire him. Hester never confirms or denies whether his assumption is accurate, but over the course of the novel we see that the two should never have been paired together.

I shall feel him tremble. I shall feel myself shudder, suddenly and unawares. (Chapter 4)

Chillingworth speaks this line to Hester, explaining how he feels certain he will be able to sense it when he finds her lover. Chillingworth has a sinister, almost supernatural commitment to tracking down the man who fathered Hester’s child. This quote shows how Chillingworth’s dark obsession will drive the plot for the rest of the novel.

He chose to withdraw his name from the roll of mankind… and to vanish out of life as completely as if he indeed lay at the bottom of the ocean. (Chapter 9)

This quote describes how Chillingworth abandons his previous identity and adopts a new one. He does not want to be publicly recognized as Hester’s husband and is content to live a mysterious life in Boston. The only thing that matters to him is finding out the identity of Hester’s lover, and then tormenting whoever that man is.

He now dug into the poor clergyman’s heart, like a miner searching for gold. (Chapter 10)

This quote describes how Chillingworth exploits his cunning knowledge of human nature to torment Dimmesdale. Once he knows the minister’s secret, he knows exactly how to make him most distressed. While Hester and Dimmesdale use their knowledge of human nature to show empathy and compassion to others, Chillingworth uses his intelligence to destructive ends.

I have already told thee what I am! A fiend! Who made me so? (Chapter 14)

Chillingworth speaks this line to Hester when she confronts him about the way he is tormenting Dimmesdale. He seems resigned to the fact that he has become a dark and cruel man who only finds pleasure in hurting others. He also implies that he was a good man until Hester betrayed him, blaming her for his behavior rather than taking responsibility himself.