It is said that the desire for revenge will turn a mans heart to evil. This is true in Nathaniel Hawthornes The scarlet Letter when Roger Prynne becomes consumed with revenge for the defilement of his marriage vowels. His quest for revenge took hold of his heart and eventually turned him in to a demon. He no longer could comprehend the difference between good and evil. He merely sought revenge and did everything he could to get it.
He tried to play God. In the process, he became a devil. The transformation of Roger Prynne starts with the first meeting with his wife. The first sign of change is in his name to Chillingworth, which sounds far from friendly. He did this because he did not want others to know who he was. This was the first step in his plan for revenge.
Once he saw his wife holding the baby, he was consumed with anger. He felt that the only way to find out what man had committed this adulteress act with his wife. If he had shown himself as who he was, he could not earn the trust of the adulterer. As Chillingworth, however, he could be a third party that could earn the trust of all. He bears no letter of infamy wrought into his garment, as thou dost; but I shall read it on his heart.
Chillingworth knows that he is the one that will be the one that will be punished in the afterlife, not Hester. Not thy soul. No, not thine!Chillingworth begins his search for the one who he wishes to destroy. It quickly becomes apparent that he might already know it is the minister Dimmesdale. He begins to get close to him.
He tries to act like a friend and physician. He wants Dimmesdale to feel that he can confide in him. Pearl alludes to what Chillingworth is becoming as she speaks to her mother, Hester. Come away, or yonder old Black Man will catch you! He hath got hold of the minister already. Pearl realizes that Chillingworth is slowly gaining control of Dimmesdales mind.
He is slowly driving the minister mad. He would have many conversations with the priest, always about sins. He was being a constant reminder to the sin. Roger often alluded that he knew what Dimmesdale had done. Dimmesdale, who did not where the scarlet A on his chest, was being eaten away by the guilt he felt.
It appears that it was easier on Hester because she was eventually forgiven by the townsfolk for her sin. Dimmesdale could never receive this forgiveness. With Chillingworth as a constant reminder, Dimmesdale had no other option than to lose control of his mind. Chillingworths plan for revenge was this slow torture. He ate away at the ministers soul, making him believe he was the ultimate sinner.
This plan of attack is psychological rather than physical abuse. By indirect references, he could successfully cause a great deal of agony. One such occasion is a conversation of mens hidden sins. Chillingworth tires to get Dimmesdale to reveal his secret.
He claims that he must know what ails him if he is to give Dimmesdale medical treatment that will work. Dimmesdale cries out that he will not reveal his secret to Chillingworth. An earthly physicianI commit myself to the one Physician of the soulBut who art thou, that meddlest in this matter? – That dares thrust himself between the sufferer and his God? As the men run from the room Chillingworth smiles at his success. He has just proven to himself that he has found the right man. As Chillingworth becomes more and more evil, his physical appearance changes as well. He begins as a hideous looking man.
This is due to his savage costumes from living with the Indians. He quickly reverts back to a civilized, intellectual manner. Even when he is dressed as a civilized man however, he is still not a sight to behold. He was a thin man with a hunch. His eyes were worn and tired. Yet, in these eyes, there was an intensity that testified to his vow for revenge.
He also looked as if he were an old man despite his age. As the story progresses, Hester notices a change in his physical appearance. He had lost his look of an intellectual. It was replaced with a look of pure evil. His eyes seem to testify to a flaming soul on the inside. But the former aspect of an intellectual and studious man, calm and quiet, which was she best remembered in him, had altogether vanished, and then succeeded by eager, searching, almost fierce, yet carefully guarded look.
there came a glare of red light out of his eyes; as if the old mans soul were on fire, kept on smoldering duskily within his breast, until by some casual puff of passion, it was blown into a momentary flame. In a word, old Roger Chillingworth was a striking evidence of mans faculty of transforming himself into a devil, if he will only, for a reasonable space of time, undertake a devils office. Chillingworth becomes more and more evil and his attacks hold a stronger effect on the minister. Chillingworth becomes more of a demon with time. Hawthorne refers to him as a poor forlorn creaturemore wretched than his victim. It is obvious that his life is consumed with this desire for revenge.
When Dimmesdale confesses, Chillingworths only reason for living is ended. Dimmesdale has escaped his tortured life through confessing. In doing so, he has ended the ability of Chillingworth to control him. Chillingworths sole purpose in life was to be evil towards Dimmesdale. Since he could no longer do this, his remaining few years were not those of a man.
He was merely a shriveled up body that died a fews years after its soul had.Bibliography: