The Scarlet Letter
The Scarlet Letter
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter Chapter 23 Quotes Page 2

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"God knows; and He is merciful! He hath proved his mercy, most of all, in my afflictions. By giving me this burning torture to bear upon my breast! By sending yonder dark and terrible old man, to keep the torture always at red-heat! By bringing me hither, to die this death of triumphant ignominy before the people! Had either of these agonies been wanting, I had been lost for ever! Praised be his name! His will be done! Farewell!" (23.35)

If it weren't disrespectful, we might say that Dimmesdale and God sound like they have a pretty messed-up, abusive relationship: God sends "burning torture" and "triumphant ignominy," but Dimmesdale thinks he totally deserves it.

"Hadst thou sought the whole earth over," said he, looking darkly at the clergyman, "there was no one place so secret,—no high place nor lowly place, where thou couldst have escaped me,—save on this very scaffold!" (23.18)

Dimmesdale finds forgiveness, though not from Chillingworth. Chillingworth admits that Dimmesdale has escaped his revenge. Is Chillingworth capable of forgiveness at this point?

"May God forgive thee!" said the minister. "Thou, too, hast deeply sinned!" (23.28-29)

My, how the tables have turned. It's one thing to mercilessly pursue your enemy without compassion or forgiveness for seven years; it's quite another when all of a sudden you're the one who needs forgiveness. This reminds us of something. Oh yeah! The Golden Rule: one of the most important underpinnings of the entire Christian religion. Maybe Chillingworth should pick up the Bible now and then.

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