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MonkeyNotes-The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne-Free Book Notes
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CHAPTER 9: The Leech

Summary

This chapter depicts the growing familiarity between Roger Chillingworth, the physician, and the ailing Arthur Dimmesdale. The townspeople feel that Providence has brought Chillingworth to Boston to care for their young minister, whose health is failing. Dimmesdale protests Chillingworth's concern for him and says he does not need a doctor; the church elders disagree and give Chillingworth permission to treat Dimmesdale. The two men begin spending much time together and finally set up residence in the same house.

Chillingworth's growing interest in learning the truth about Dimmesdale's ill-health is pointed out in detail. He applies all the resources at his disposal to learn more about the young pastor. The harder he works at uncovering the details of Dimmesdale's life, the uglier and more evil he appears. Before long the townspeople notice the change in Chillingworth's face and begin to have suspicions about him. Some think that he practices the black art of magic, and others think he is Satan's emissary sent to torture Dimmesdale. No matter who he is, Chillingworth is obviously not helping the young minister, who seems to grow sicker and gloomier with each passing day.


Notes

Leech, the chapter title, is a Puritan word for physician, as well as a blood-sucking worm; both meanings aptly apply to Chillingworth. He is a medical doctor by profession, but he is also a man thirsty for revenge, who is striving to suck the life- blood from Dimmesdale like a parasite. The chapter shows how Chillingworth at first convinces the parishioners that he should care for the ailing health of their minister; then it shows how Chillingworth manages to convince Dimmesdale that they should live under the same roof so he can constantly care for him. The irony is that Dimmesdale does not need to have his body healed; it is his soul that is sick. His hidden and unconfessed sin is eating away at his being, making him suffer even more greatly than Hester, who has been forced to openly confess her sin.

It is not just Dimmesdale who goes through physical changes. As Chillingworth manipulates the young minister and seeks his revenge, his appearance also deteriorates; he grows more twisted and ugly. The evil of his soul is also reflected in his face to such a degree that the townspeople begin to think he must practice black magic or be a representative of Satan.

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