The Scarlet Letter
How we cite our quotes:
"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.
"I have left thee to the scarlet letter," replied Roger Chillingworth. "If that have not avenged me, I can do no more!" (14.25)
Hmm. Chillingworth is obsessed with taking personal revenge on Dimmesdale, but he lets the community revenge itself on Hester. Does this mean that, deep down, he still loves her? Is wearing the scarlet letter worse than being secretly persecuted? Or is Chillingworth just not all that evil, after all? (Nah. We're pretty sure he's that evil.)