The Scarlet Letter | Study Guide

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Course Hero, "The Scarlet Letter Study Guide," July 28, 2016, accessed September 19, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Scarlet-Letter/.

Chapter 14 | Hester and the Physician

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of chapter 14 of Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter.

The Scarlet Letter | Chapter 14 : Hester and the Physician | Summary

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Summary

Shocked at how ill Dimmesdale looks, Hester decides to help him. Sending Pearl to play, Hester goes to speak with Chillingworth. When Chillingworth tells Hester that people are saying the officials may allow her to remove the scarlet letter, she replies, "It lies not in the pleasure of the magistrates to take off this badge." Hester berates Chillingworth for his cruelty toward Dimmesdale, but the doctor claims that he has saved the minister's life. Finally he admits that he is tormenting the minister but blames Dimmesdale for turning him into a "fiend." Hester takes some of the blame for Chillingworth's actions and says she must reveal that she is Chillingworth's wife. While not explicitly saying she can, he leaves it up to her.

Analysis

By torturing Dimmesdale, Chillingworth has become a fiend, an evil spirit from hell. Here the narrator again suggests that Chillingworth's sin is far greater than that of Hester or Dimmesdale, because theirs was a sin of love and passion, while his is a sin of revenge and hatred.

Chillingworth also reveals how hard-hearted he is by placing the blame on Hester—"By thy first step of awry, thou didst plant the seed of evil," he says. His lack of charity is also evident in his refusal to pardon Dimmesdale or to quit tormenting him. Finally he absolves himself of responsibility for what will come, leaving it to Hester to "deal as thou wilt with yonder man."

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