The Scarlet Letter
by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Scarlet Letter Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale Quotes
"Is not this better," murmured he, "than what we dreamed of in the forest?"
"I know not! I know not!" she hurriedly replied. "Better? Yea; so we may both die, and little Pearl die with us!" (23.18-23)
Uh, we're going to go with no. No, it is not better for all three of them to die at the scaffold rather than run off and start a new life in England. But to Dimmesdale, it actually is better. Poor man.
"At the great judgment day!" whispered the minister, —and, strangely enough, the sense that he was a professional teacher of the truth impelled him to answer the child so. "Then, and there, before the judgment-seat, thy mother, and thou, and I, must stand together. But the daylight of this world shall not see our meeting!" (12.17-28)
All the judgment on earth is just preparation for the big judgment day, when it's not just a bunch of sour magistrates deciding your fate but God himself. We get the feeling that Hawthorne thinks that maybe the magistrates should leave the judging up to God.
The judgment of God is on me," answered the conscience-stricken priest. "It is too mighty for me to struggle with!"
"Heaven would show mercy," rejoined Hester, "hadst thou but the strength to take advantage of it." (17.43-44)
Where Dimmesdale can only see judgment, Hester sees mercy. Is mercy a kind of justice? Or does it operate on a totally different scale?