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The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter


by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter Compassion and Forgiveness Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)

Quote #1

"Ah, but," interposed, more softly, a young wife, holding a child by the hand, "let her cover the mark as she will, the pang of it will be always in her heart." (2.6)

This woman might be the only person in the entire community who actually feels sorry for Hester. It is because she's young, and has a young child? Or does she maybe have some shameful secret of her own?

Quote #2

"What do we talk of marks and brands, whether on the bodice of her gown, or the flesh of her forehead?" cried another female, the ugliest as well as the most pitiless of these self-constituted judges. "This woman has brought shame upon us all, and ought to die. Is there no law for it? Truly there is, both in the Scripture and the statute-book. Then let the magistrates, who have made it of no effect, thank themselves if their own wives and daughters go astray!" (2.7)

Talk about legalistic: this woman actually name-checks both the Bible ("Scripture") and secular law ("the statute-book") to explain why Hester deserves to be executed. Way harsh. (Although check out Hawthorne's catty little moment when he basically accuses her of being jealous—she's the "ugliest" woman there, so we're supposed to think that she couldn't have had an affair even if she'd wanted to.)

Quote #3

"Be not silent from any mistaken pity and tenderness for him; for, believe me, Hester, though he were to step down from a high place, and stand there beside thee, on thy pedestal of shame, yet better were it so, than to hide a guilty heart through life. What can thy silence do for him, except it tempt him--yea, compel him, as it were--to add hypocrisy to sin?" (3.26)

Irony alert: Dimmesdale is practically begging Hester to reveal his name, so he won't be "compelled" to hide his sin. She sees it at compassion; he sees it as cruel.

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