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The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter


by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale Quotes

"I do forgive you, Hester," replied the minister, at length, with a deep utterance out of an abyss of sadness, but no anger. "I freely forgive you now. May God forgive us both!" (17.21)

Well, we're glad for Hester, but we're still not sure why she needs Dimmesdale to forgive her. (Okay, okay, beside the whole Chillingworth thing.) From our perspective, Dimmesdale is the one who really needs mercy.

"God knows; and He is merciful! He hath proved his mercy, most of all, in my afflictions. By giving me this burning torture to bear upon my breast! By sending yonder dark and terrible old man, to keep the torture always at red-heat! By bringing me hither, to die this death of triumphant ignominy before the people! Had either of these agonies been wanting, I had been lost for ever! Praised be his name! His will be done! Farewell!" (23.35)

If it weren't disrespectful, we might say that Dimmesdale and God sound like they have a pretty messed-up, abusive relationship: God sends "burning torture" and "triumphant ignominy," but Dimmesdale thinks he totally deserves it.

"May God forgive thee!" said the minister. "Thou, too, hast deeply sinned!" (23.28-29)

My, how the tables have turned. It's one thing to mercilessly pursue your enemy without compassion or forgiveness for seven years; it's quite another when all of a sudden you're the one who needs forgiveness. This reminds us of something. Oh yeah! The Golden Rule: one of the most important underpinnings of the entire Christian religion. Maybe Chillingworth should pick up the Bible now and then.