Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Notes | Barron's Booknotes Downloadable/Printable Version only $1.75 for a limited time
CHAPTER 14: Hester And The Physician
Finding Chillingworth alone, Hester approaches him. He greets her kindly, compliments her behavior, and says he has heard talk about allowing her to remove the scarlet letter. Hester says that if she were worthy not to wear the letter, it would fall off of its own accord or be transformed into something different. In truth, it has been transformed, for when the townspeople look upon it now, they never think about its standing for Adultery.
Hester informs Chillingworth that she would like to break the vow given to him and reveal the truth of his identity to Dimmesdale. She implores Chillingworth to stop tormenting the minister and leave him to divine retribution. Hester truly feels that Dimmesdale has been made to suffer much more than the wrong he did to Chillingworth. At the same time, Hester accepts that Chillingworth has been wronged by her and that his changed situation from a calm and wise person to a demented demoniac is due to her. Just as she was shocked at Dimmesdale's situation, she is horrified at the evil transformation she sees in her husband. His face is cruel and fierce and his eyes glow red with his thirst for revenge.
Chillingworth boasts of his hold over Dimmesdale and admits that he has been scheming against him. He proudly declares that he allows the minister to lead a life of suffering without the grace of death; he wants to perpetually torment Dimmesdale, playing on his psyche and nerves. Finding it hopeless to plead for mercy on Dimmesdale's behalf, Hester merely begs him to free her from the oath of secrecy.
Chillingworth finally agrees to her request.
In this chapter, Hawthorne, through Hester's humility, hints that Chillingworth
is a wronged man. Hester accepts the responsibility of causing the change
in him from a kind and just person into an evil, vengeful devil. She is
horrified, however, that he boasts about torturing Dimmesdale and derives
sadistic pleasure from the minister's suffering. She tries unsuccessfully
to convince him to leave Dimmesdale alone. She does, however, gain release
to reveal Chillingworth's true identity.