The Scarlet Letter

Lesson 6


Analyze Hawthorne’s characterization of Roger Chillingworth.

Readings and Materials

Target Task


Question 1

What does the phrase, “I might have beheld the bale-fire of that scarlet letter blazing at the end of our path,” on p. 16, most suggest about Chillingworth?


He regrets that he ever married Hester.


He is questioning his faith in God.


He partially blames himself for Hester’s adultery.


He is astounded that he failed to recognize her evil before now.

Question 2

It can be reasonably inferred from this chapter that Chillingworth has come to town to


meet the baby he thinks might be his own.


hide from the Indians who were holding him prisoner.


confess to Hester the guilt he feels about his role in her situation.


seek the identity of, and get revenge on, Hester’s secret lover.

Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?


p. 14 (“He was lodged…respecting his ransom.”)


p. 15 (“’The medicine…better for it.’”)


p. 16 (“’Mine was the first…no evil against thee.’”)


p. 18 (“’Not thy soul…not Thine!’”)

Question 3

What kind of person is Roger Chillingworth? Explain using evidence from the novel to support your answer.

Key Questions


  • Look back at pp. 7 and 9. What do we know so far about this stranger in the crowd? What don’t we know? Track any information we get on who he is and his motivation for being in this small town at this moment.

  • How does the narrator describe Hester and the baby in the first paragraph of p. 14? How does Hester change when the “doctor,” Roger Chillingworth, enters?

  • What does his name imply about this character? Track the diction used by the author to show his “chilling” impact on Hester and on the mood of the scene?

  • What does he mean on p. 15, “It may be less soothing than a sinless conscience.”?

  • What do we learn about the doctor—his identity and his motivation, specifically—on pp. 15 and 16?

  • Chillingworth wants revenge on Hester’s lover but not on Hester. Why?

  • What does Chillingworth mean when he says, “No matter of love or hate…and where he is,” on p. 17? What does this reveal about Chillingworth? About the relationship between love and hate as he sees it?

  • What secret does Chillingworth want Hester to keep? Why? (Make sure to capture two reasons.)

  • Who is the Black Man Hester mentions on p. 18?

  • What does the forest/wilderness represent? Look back at the mentions of the forest and wilderness on pp. 9, 15, 16, and 18. What happens there?

  • Hawthorne juxtaposes the forest/wilderness against the Puritan town. What does the town represent?

  • How does the author characterize Chillingworth? What seems to be the author’s general tone toward Chillingworth?

  • Why is this chapter called, “The Interview”? What does this choice of diction suggest?