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The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter


by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale Quotes

"What evil have I done the man?" asked Roger Chillingworth again. "I tell thee, Hester Prynne, the richest fee that ever physician earned from monarch could not have bought such care as I have wasted on this miserable priest! But for my aid, his life would have burned away in torments, within the first two years after the perpetration of his crime and thine. For, Hester, his spirit lacked the strength that could have borne up, as thine has, beneath a burden like thy scarlet letter. O, I could reveal a goodly secret! But enough! What art can do, I have exhausted on him. That he now breathes, and creeps about on earth, is owing all to me!" (14.16)

Okay, well, that's one way to look at it: Chillingworth's vengeful attention has actually kept Dimmesdale alive. But, considering that he's made the poor guy's life a living hell, that might not be something to brag about.

"I have left thee to the scarlet letter," replied Roger Chillingworth. "If that have not avenged me, I can do no more!" (14.25)

Hmm. Chillingworth is obsessed with taking personal revenge on Dimmesdale, but he lets the community revenge itself on Hester. Does this mean that, deep down, he still loves her? Is wearing the scarlet letter worse than being secretly persecuted? Or is Chillingworth just not all that evil, after all? (Nah. We're pretty sure he's that evil.)

"If thou feelest it to be for thy soul's peace, and that thy earthly punishment will thereby be made more effectual to salvation, I charge thee to speak out the name of thy fellow-sinner and fellow-sufferer!" (3.26)

In today's legal system, there's a lot of talk about "victimless crimes," like certain drug offenses. By referring to Hester's "fellow-sinner," Dimmesdale seems to be suggesting that there's no such thing as a victimless sin: someone else is always dragged into it. Is that true? And is there really such a thing as a victimless crime?