The Scarlet Letter

The Significance of Roger Chillingworth in The Scarlet Letter 11th Grade

The literature of the American Renaissance is rich in symbolism, and in no author's work is this more evident than in that of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Perhaps the most popular of his works, The Scarlet Letter has long been dissected and analyzed by scholars and critics; repeatedly, its characters have been torn apart and examined for their symbolic meaning. Of those characters, one of the most fascinating and controversial is Roger Chillingworth. In this novel, Hawthorne uses Chillingworth as both a symbol of evil and an embodiment of guilt.

Hawthorne exploits Chillingworth throughout the story as a personification of guilt. From the beginning, Chillingworth is described as "a deformed, old figure, with a face that haunted men's memories longer than they liked" (Male 30). A parallel can clearly be drawn here, as guilt has a tendency to linger on the conscience and haunt the soul of the transgressor. In extreme circumstances, guilt can, as with Roger Chillingworth, become a leech which drains its host of nerve, will, and physical energy. As guilt, Chillingworth invades the dwelling place, which is commonly used as a symbol of the heart in Hawthorne's fiction (Male 30). Early in the novel, Chillingworth appears from nowhere to...

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