The Scarlet Letter
by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Scarlet Letter Chapter 12 Quotes
How we cite the quotes:
Certainly, if the meteor kindled up the sky, and disclosed the earth, with an awfulness that admonished Hester Prynne and the clergyman of the day of judgment, then might Roger Chillingworth have passed with them for the arch-fiend, standing there, with a smile and scowl, to claim his own. So vivid was the expression, or so intense the minister's perception of it, that it seemed still to remain painted on the darkness, after the meteor had vanished, with an effect as if the street and all things else were at once annihilated. (12.34)
Who needs a flashlight when you've got the incredibly creepy face of a vengeful demon to light up the night? And we're not talking nice vengeance demons, either. We're talking a human man who's been so corrupted by his pursuit of personal vindication that he's no better than the devil himself.
"Nay; not so, my little Pearl!" answered the minister; for, with the new energy of the moment, all the dread of public exposure, that had so long been the anguish of his life, had returned upon him; and he was already trembling at the conjunction in which—with a strange joy, nevertheless—he now found himself. "Not so, my child. I shall, indeed, stand with thy mother thee one other day, but not to-morrow!" (12.17-28)
As our mother always said, "Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today," which in this case includes confessing your adulterous sin to your worshipful community. Dimmesdale, like us, should listen to our mother a little more often.
Poor, miserable man! what right had infirmity like his to burden itself with crime? Crime is for the iron-nerved, who have their choice either to endure it, or, if it press too hard, to exert their fierce and savage strength for a good purpose, and fling it off at once! (12.2)
In other words, if you feel guilty every time you steal a paperclip from the supply closet, then a life of crime is probably not for you.