Summary and Analysis
While walking on the peninsula with Pearl, Hester sees Chillingworth and sends Pearl down to play by the seashore while she speaks with her husband. She is surprised at the changes in Chillingworth just as she was shocked by Dimmesdale's spiritual ailment and aging. Realizing Chillingworth is in the grip of the devil, she feels responsible for "another ruin." According to Hester, her promise has caused Chillingworth to do evil to the minister, but Chillingworth denies his role at first. Then he admits that, although he used to be kind, gentle, and affectionate, he now allows evil to use him. The physician believes it his fate to become a fiend. He releases Hester from her promise of silence.
During these long seven years, Chillingworth has become obsessed with revenge, and this deadly sin has changed him considerably. He pities Hester because he feels she is not really sinful, and any breach with God's law has been paid many times over by her wearing of the scarlet letter. He further feels that if she had "met earlier with a better love than mine, this evil had not been." On the other hand, he also says it is his fate to change from a "kind, true, just" man to a fiend who does the devil's work.
By placing these two characters together in this chapter without Pearl, Hawthorne shows what the years have done to Chillingworth. We see a side of the old scholar that makes us pity him despite his treatment of Dimmesdale, and we feel that of them all, Hester has paid her dues and deserves our respect.