Chapter 9 – The Leech
Chillingworth has become a well-respected member of the community and the
townspeople feel he has been sent by God to cure their ailing Minister. However, this changes when Chillingworth takes up lodgings with Dimmesdale, and he now has a demeanor of evil. Some of the gossips
even suggest that he practices “the black art”. Others say that God has set the two against one another as a fight between good and evil, and they are sure that their pious Minister will obtain victory over
Physicians at this time frequently used leeches as cures for all sorts of
ailments, and therefore, the term leech means physician or doctor.
However, Hawthorne is clearly using a double meaning here because just as a leech is used to let blood from a patient, so does Chillingworth draw the life out of Dimmesdale.
In Chillingworth the townsfolk saw a heaven-sent physician. However,
they could not see past this fa'ade and when they did realize that he was evil, he already had a hold on their Minister and it was too late. Instead of taking action, they decided to leave the problem up to God.