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The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter


by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter Chapter 12 Quotes

How we cite the quotes:

Quote 1

It was, indeed, a majestic idea that the destiny of nations should be revealed, in these awful hieroglyphics, on the cope of heaven. A scroll so wide might not be deemed too expansive for Providence to write a people’s doom upon. The belief was a favorite one with our forefathers, as betokening that their commonwealth was under a celestial guardianship of peculiar intimacy and strictness. But what shall we say when an individual discovers a revelation, addressed to himself alone, on the same vast sheet of record! (12.32)

When Dimmesdale sees the meteoric "A," he thinks it's in reference to his own destiny. But most people don't believe that God would bother sending a message about your individual life: meteors and earthquakes are reserved for major communications about the fate of a nation.

“At the great judgment day,” whispered the minister—and, strangely enough, the sense that he was a professional teacher of truth impelled him to answer the child so. “Then, and there, before the judgment seat, thy mother, and thou, and I, must stand together. But the daylight of this world shall not see our meeting!” (12.28)

Check out the word "must": at some point, it's all going to be taken out of Dimmesdale's hand, and the whole mess will be revealed—to God. But at this point, he still seems to think that he doesn't have the will to reveal it himself.

Quote 3

There was witchcraft in little Pearl’s eyes, and her face, as she glanced upward at the minister, wore that naughty smile which made its expression frequently so elvish. She withdrew her hand from Mr. Dimmesdale’s and pointed across the street. (12.31)

Not that we think Pearl is a witch or anything, but we do almost get the feeling that Pearl conjures Chillingworth up. Our narrator gives us no clues as to Chillingworth's whereabouts prior to this moment, and we don't even see or hear Chillingworth approach. It's only after Pearl points at something that we realize the doctor is even there. Spoooooooky.

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