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The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter


by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter Fate and Free Will Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)

Quote #7

It was, indeed, a majestic idea that the destiny of nations should be revealed, in these awful hieroglyphics, on the cope of heaven. A scroll so wide might not be deemed too expansive for Providence to write a people’s doom upon. The belief was a favorite one with our forefathers, as betokening that their commonwealth was under a celestial guardianship of peculiar intimacy and strictness. But what shall we say when an individual discovers a revelation, addressed to himself alone, on the same vast sheet of record! (12.32)

When Dimmesdale sees the meteoric "A," he thinks it's in reference to his own destiny. But most people don't believe that God would bother sending a message about your individual life: meteors and earthquakes are reserved for major communications about the fate of a nation.

Quote #8

She was self-ordained a Sister of Mercy; or, what we may rather say, the world’s heavy hand had so ordained her, when neither the world nor she looked forward to this result. The letter was a symbol of her calling. (13.3)

Hester becomes a kind of nurse, almost a nun—but she didn't want to be one, and it almost sounds like the world doesn't want her to be one, either. It's just out of their hands.

Quote #9

Yet, had little Pearl never come to her from the spiritual world, it might have been far otherwise. Then, she might have come down to us in history, hand in hand with Ann Hutchinson, as the foundress of a religious sect…Providence, the person of this little girl, had assigned to Hester’s charge the germ and blossom of womanhood, to be cherished and developed amid a host of difficulties. (13.7)

Question: does our narrator believe in fate? Here, it sound like he does. "Providence" gave Hester Pearl. But are we supposed to take this literally, or is it more true that Pearl is the way she is because of her crazy upbringing?

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