The Scarlet Letter is a novel packed with religious symbolism, and Hawthorne subtly assigns the role of the devil to Roger Chillingworth. Throughout the novel, there are many references and associations that confirm the fact that Chillingworth is representative of the ultimate evil. First, Hawthorne sets Chillingworth up as the antithesis of Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, the obvious Christ-like symbol of the novel.
Chillingworth avidly sets out to ruin Dimmesdale. As the narrative voice says when referring to Chillingworth’s discovery of the Dimmesdale’s secret, “All that guilty sorrow, hidden from the world, whose great heart would have pitied and forgiven, to be revealed to him, the Pitiless, to him, the Unforgiving! ” (96). The capitalization of the words “Pitiless” and “Unforgiving” show that Chillingworth is the devil.
Symbolically, on another more obvious note, Chillingworth steals one of Dimmesdale’s gloves and drops it on the scaffold where sinners are shamed in front of the town. The sexton picks it up after recognizing it as Dimmesdale’s and returns it to its owner saying, “Satan dropped it there” (108). This is a very obvious pointer to the fact that Chillingworth is the devil. Second, Hawthorne’s use of imagery in describing Chillingworth points him out as the devil.
Chillingworth is described as misshapen and hunched. He is compared to weeds and such. His profession is described as being much like witchcraft. For example, he grasps a “dark, flabby leaf found near a grave. ” All of this darkness denotes the presence of evil. Third, Pearl’s reaction to Chillingworth shows his true face. When she sees him looking at her, she says, “Come away, or yonder old Black Man will catch you! He hath got hold of the Minister already” (93). This is another obvious statement.