The Scarlet Letter | Study Guide

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Chapter 9 | The Leech

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of chapter 9 of Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter.

The Scarlet Letter | Chapter 9 : The Leech | Summary



Dimmesdale is thin and pale because of a strange illness, causing people to praise him as a saint. Chillingworth offers his medical assistance to the young man, which the Puritans applaud as they hope the doctor can cure their beloved minister. Dimmesdale holds his hand over his heart. Chillingworth moves into the minister's home so he can watch the minister more closely. As time passes though, the townspeople turn against Chillingworth, noting that his face has gotten "ugly and evil" and wonder if he is Satan or his agent.


The term leech has a double meaning. First it refers to a bloodsucking worm used by doctors in the 1600s to take blood from patients. This was believed to cure many illnesses. Because doctors used the worms, they themselves came to be called leeches. Chillingworth, a leech as a doctor, is a leech in another sense—he is sucking the life from Dimmesdale by preying on him, increasing his guilt and agony.

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