The Scarlet Letter
The Scarlet Letter
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter Chapter 2 Quotes Page 1

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Quote 1

Stretching for the official staff in his left hand, he laid his right upon the shoulder of a young woman, whom he thus drew forward; until, on the threshold of the prison door, she repelled him, by an action marked with natural dignity and force of character, and stepped into the open air, as if by her own free will. (2.9)

We like to think of it this way. But seriously: "as if." Does that mean it's not actually free will? Or is it—and does actively choosing to be shamed and punished mean that she eventually gets forgiveness?

Quote 2

It had the affect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity and enclosing her in a sphere by herself. (2.11)

This is the scarlet letter: it's a "spell" that takes her out of the ordinary stuff of day-to-day life. But is Hester the only one under the letter's spell? And if Hester made the letter herself, who cast the spell?

Quote 3

It might be, too, that a witch, like old Mistress Hibbins, the bitter tempered widow of the magistrate, was to die upon the gallows. (2.1)

Nice, Hawthorne. But does he really believe that she's a witch—or is he just talking with the voice of the community, here?

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