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The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Fate and Free Will Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

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

“God gave her into my keeping,” repeated Hester Prynne, raising her voice almost to a shriek. “I will not give her up!”—And here, by sudden impulse, she turned to the young clergyman, Mr. Dimmesdale, at whom, up to this moment, she had seemed hardly so much as once to direct her eyes. (8.24)

This "sudden impulse" makes it sound a lot like Hester is possessed—that she's not actually operating out of her own will. Maybe it's just a mother's love—or many it's something a lot bigger. (Is there anything bigger?)

Quote #3

“Better to fast and pray upon it; and still better, it may be, to leave the mystery as we find it, unless Providence reveal it of its own accord.” (8.37)

Chillingworth is desperate to find out who Pearl's father is, but Mr. Wilson thinks that they need to let God reveal it. God, or maybe Jerry Springer. What happens to free will in an era of DNA testing?

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