The Scarlet Letter
The Scarlet Letter
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter Chapter 14 Quotes Page 1

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“Peace, Hester, peace!” replied the old man, with gloomy sternness. “It is not granted me to pardon. I have no such power as though tallest me of. (…) Ye that have wronged me are not sinful, save in a kind of typical illusion; neither am I fiendlike, who have snatched a fiend’s office from his hands. It is our fate. Let the black flower blossom as it may. Now go thy ways, and deal as thou wilt with yonder man.” (14.32)

Okay, since the evil Chillingworth obviously thinks that he and everyone else are ruled by fate, we're going to go out on a limb and say that Hawthorne is coming down on the side of free will. He totally does have control of his actions.

"What choice had you?" asked Roger Chillingworth. "My finger, pointed at this man, would have hurled him from his pulpit into a dungeon, —thence, peradventure, to the gallows!" (14.14)

We know that Chillingworth could have gotten revenge by making sure that Dimmesdale was thrown in prison or hanged (really?), but he doesn't. Why? What makes this psychological revenge so much sweeter?

"What evil have I done the man?" asked Roger Chillingworth again. "I tell thee, Hester Prynne, the richest fee that ever physician earned from monarch could not have bought such care as I have wasted on this miserable priest! But for my aid, his life would have burned away in torments, within the first two years after the perpetration of his crime and thine. For, Hester, his spirit lacked the strength that could have borne up, as thine has, beneath a burden like thy scarlet letter. O, I could reveal a goodly secret! But enough! What art can do, I have exhausted on him. That he now breathes, and creeps about on earth, is owing all to me!" (14.16)

Okay, well, that's one way to look at it: Chillingworth's vengeful attention has actually kept Dimmesdale alive. But, considering that he's made the poor guy's life a living hell, that might not be something to brag about.

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