The Scarlet Letter
The Scarlet Letter
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter Chapter 17 Quotes Page 1

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"Thou shalt forgive me!" cried Hester, flinging herself on the fallen leaves beside [Dimmesdale]. "Let God punish! Thou shalt forgive!" (17.18).

When Dimmesdale finds out that Chillingworth's mental manipulation is all part of a twisted plot to seek revenge on his wife's lover, he not too happy. Okay, maybe it's not as bad as adultery, but it's still a major betrayal. But he decides to listen to Hester and leave the vengeance to God. It's too bad Chillingworth didn't come up with the same plan.

"[…] That old man's revenge has been blacker than my sin. He has violated, in cold blood, the sanctity of a human heart. Thou and I, Hester, never did so!" (17.21)

We imagine Chillingworth's Evil To-Do List goes something like this: (1) Maniacally stroke cat; (2) Violate sanctity of human heart.

"Had I one friend, —or were it my worst enemy! —to whom, when sickened with the praises of all other men, I could daily betake myself, and be known as the vilest of all sinners, methinks my soul might keep itself alive thereby. Even thus much of truth would save me! But now, it is all falsehood! —all emptiness! —all death!" (17.18)

Poor Dimmesdale. All he wants is for one person—anyone—to know just how bad he is. But instead, the entire town thinks he's basically an angel on earth. Must be hard.

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