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Quotes

Quote #1

"The magistrates are God-fearing gentlemen, but merciful overmuch,—that is a truth," added a third autumnal matron. "At the very least, they should have put the brand of a hot iron on Hester Prynne's forehead. Madame Hester would have winced at that, I warrant me. But she,—the naughty baggage,—little will she care what they put upon the bodice of her gown! Why, look you, she may cover it with a brooch, or such like heathenish adornment, and so walk the streets as brave as ever!" (2.5)

Uh, we're glad that this lady isn't a magistrate. She thinks that being publicly shamed is just a little too merciful. Hey, at least she doesn't want Hester to be executed, which is what another woman suggests.

Quote #2

"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." (2.5-6)

Not everyone in the crowd wants to see Hester burn at the stake. This woman understand that Hester is so busy judging herself that she hardly cares what happens to her publicly.

Quote #3

Here, she said to herself, had been the scene of her guilt, and here should be the scene of her earthly punishment; and so, perchance, the torture of her daily shame would at length purge her soul, and work out another purity than that which she had lost; more saint-like, because the result of martyrdom. (5.3)

All the magistrates can do is force Hester to wear a scarlet letter: Hester is the one making herself endure the punishment of sticking around in a community that runs on judgment.

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