The Scarlet Letter
How we cite our quotes:
"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?
"With the superstition common to his brotherhood, he fancied himself given over to a fiend, to be tortured with frightful dreams, and desperate thoughts, the sting of remorse, and despair of pardon; as a foretaste of what awaits him beyond the grave. But it was the constant shadow of my presence!—the closest propinquity of the man whom he had most vilely wronged!--and who had grown to exist only by this perpetual poison of the direst revenge! Yea, indeed!—he did not err!—there was a fiend at his elbow! A mortal man, with once a human heart, has become a fiend for his especial torment!" (14.18)
Who needs the devil when you've got a friend like Chillingworth to take care of all your penance needs? This also raises a question: if you don't think that something is a sin, do you still need to be punished for it?
Thus the young and pure would be taught to look at her, with the scarlet letter flaming on her breast,—at her, the child of honorable parents,—at her, the mother of a babe, that would hereafter be a woman, —at her, who had once been innocent, —as the figure, the body, the reality of sin. (5.1)
"Sin" may be an abstract noun, but it's not abstract to the Puritan community. Now they've got Hester in their midst to make an example of. (Hey, every community needs a scapegoat.)