The Scarlet Letter
The Scarlet Letter
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter Chapter 5 Quotes Page 2

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Quote 4

Throughout them all, giving up her individuality, she would become the general symbol at which the preacher and moralist might point, and in which they might vivify and embody their images of woman's frailty and sinful passion. Thus the young and pure would be taught to look at her, with the scarlet letter flaming on her breast,—at her, the child of honorable parents,—at her, the mother of a babe, that would hereafter be a woman, —at her, who had once been innocent, —as the figure, the body, the reality of sin. And over her grave, the infamy that she must carry thither would be her only monument. (5.1)

Hester isn't an individual woman anymore. Now she's just a Fallen Woman, an example to all the other girls who might be battling woman's "frailty and sinful passion." (No word on men's frailty and sinful passion, of course.)

Quote 5

Women derive a pleasure, incomprehensible to the other sex, from the delicate toil of the needle. (5.6).

Right, ladies? Don't you all just loooooove to sit down by the fire and do a little embroidery or—hey, let's not be greedy—even mend a few of your husband's shirts?

No? Huh. Okay, Hawthorne.

Quote 6

By degrees, nor very slowly, her handiwork became what would now be termed the fashion….But it is not recorded that, in a single instance, her skill was called in aid to embroider the white veil which was to cover the pure blushes of a bride. The exception indicated the ever relentless vigor with which society frowned upon her sin. (5.6).

Obviously. You can't have Hester's sinful, sexy hands embroidering a bride's veil. It might, like, infect her with cooties, or something. (Also, history fail: it's entirely unlikely that the Puritans actually wore bridal veils. It's cool, Hawthorne. We'll allow you some poetic license.)

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