Nathaniel Hawthorne Quotes

100+ of the best book quotes from Nathaniel Hawthorne
“The letter was the symbol of her calling. Such helpfulness was found in her, —so much power to do, and power to sympathize, —that many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said that it meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s strength.”
“Thou shalt forgive me! cried Hester, flinging herself on the fallen leaves beside him. Let God punish! Thou shalt forgive!”
“It was none the less a fact, however, that, in the eyes of the very men who spoke thus, the scarlet letter had the effect of the cross on a nun’s bosom.”
“Be not silent from any mistaken pity and tenderness for him; for, believe me, Hester, though he were to step down from a high place, and stand there beside thee, on thy pedestal of shame, yet better were it so, than to hide a guilty heart through life.”
“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!”
“They averred that the symbol was not mere scarlet cloth tinged in an earthly dyepot, but was red-hot with infernal fire, and could be seen glowing all alight whenever Hester Prynne walked abroad in the nighttime. And we must needs say it seared Hester’s bosom so deeply, that perhaps there was more truth in the rumor than our modern incredulity may be inclined to admit.”
“It is remarkable that persons who speculate the most boldly often conform with the most perfect quietude to the external regulations of society.”
“A bodily disease, which we look upon as whole and entire within itself, may, after all, be but a symptom of some ailment in the spiritual part.”
“This feeble and most sensitive of spirits could do neither, yet continually did one thing or another, which intertwined, in the same inextricable knot, the agony of heaven-defying guilt and vain repentance.”
“Else, I should long ago have thrown off these garments of mock holiness, and have shown myself to mankind as they will see me at the judgment-seat. Happy are you, Hester, that wear the scarlet letter openly upon your bosom! Mine burns in secret! Thou little knowest what a relief it is, after the torment of a seven years’ cheat, to look into an eye that recognizes me for what I am!”
“Trusting no man as his friend, he could not recognize his enemy when the latter actually appeared.”
“She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom.”
“Had I one friend, —or were it my worst enemy! —to whom, when sickened with the praises of all other men, I could daily betake myself, and be known as the vilest of all sinners, methinks my soul might keep itself alive thereby. Even thus much of truth would save me! But now, it is all falsehood! —all emptiness! —all death!”
“Pearl resembled the brook, inasmuch as the current of her life gushed from a wellspring as mysterious, and had flown through scenes shadowed as heavily with gloom. But, unlike the little stream, she danced and sparkled and prattled airily along her course.”
“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.”
“At the great judgment day, whispered the minister—and, strangely enough, the sense that he was a professional teacher of 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!”
“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”
“A pure hand needs no glove to cover it.”
“Poor, miserable man! what right had infirmity like his to burden itself with crime? Crime is for the iron-nerved, who have their choice either to endure it, or, if it press too hard, to exert their fierce and savage strength for a good purpose, and fling it off at once!”
“Better to fast and pray upon it; and still better, it may be, to leave the mystery as we find it, unless Providence reveal it of its own accord.”
“On he flew among the black pines, brandishing his staff with frenzied gestures, now giving vent to an inspiration of horrid blasphemy, and now shouting forth such laughter as set all the echoes of the forest laughing like demons around him. The fiend in his own shape is less hideous than when he rages in the breast of man.”
“With this excellent resolve for the future, Goodman Brown felt himself justified in making more haste on his present evil purpose. ”
“It was strange to see that the good shrank not from the wicked, nor were the sinners abashed by the saints.”
“At the word, Goodman Brown stept forth from the shadow of the trees, and approached the congregation, with whom he felt a loathful brotherhood, by the sympathy of all that was wicked in his heart. He could have well nigh sworn, that the shape of his own dead father beckoned him to advance, looking downward from a smoke-wreath.”
“Look up to Heaven, and resist the Wicked One!”
“By the sympathy of your human hearts for sin ye shall scent out all the places—whether in church, bedchamber, street, field, or forest—where crime has been committed, and shall exult to behold the whole earth one stain of guilt, one mighty blood spot.”
“Evil is the nature of mankind.”
“With Heaven above, and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!”
″‘My Faith is gone!’ cried he, after one stupefied moment. ‘There is no good on earth; and sin is but a name. Come, devil! for to thee is this world given.‘”
“The whole forest was peopled with frightful sounds—the creaking of the trees, the howling of wild beasts, and the yell of Indians; while sometimes the wind tolled like a distant church bell, and sometimes gave a broad roar around the traveler, as if all Nature were laughing him to scorn. But he was himself the chief horror of the scene, and shrank not from its other horrors.”
“let her cover the mark as she will, the pang of it will be always in her heart.”
Source: Chapter 2, Paragraph 9
“is there no virtue in woman, save what springs from a wholesome fear of the gallows? That is the hardest word yet!
Source: Chapter 2, Paragraph 12
“Not a stitch in that embroidered letter but she has felt it in her heart.”
Source: Chapter 2, Paragraph 18
A blessing on the righteous Colony of the Massachusetts, where iniquity is dragged out into the sunshine!
Source: Chapter 2, Paragraph 20
“Peradventure the guilty one stands looking on at this sad spectacle, unknown of man, and forgetting that God sees him.”
Source: Chapter 3, Paragraph 13
The penalty thereof is death. But in their great mercy and tenderness of heart, they have doomed Mistress Prynne to stand only a space of three hours on the platform of the pillory, and then and thereafter, for the remainder of her natural life, to wear a mark of shame upon her bosom.”
Source: Chapter 3, Paragraph 15
“Thus she will be a living sermon against sin, until the ignominious letter be engraved upon her tombstone.”
Source: Chapter 3, Paragraph 16
—“I have sought, I say, to persuade this godly youth, that he should deal with you, here in the face of Heaven, and before these wise and upright rulers, and in hearing of all the people, as touching the vileness and blackness of your sin.
Source: Chapter 3, Paragraph 22
“It is of moment to her soul, and therefore, as the worshipful Governor says, momentous to thine own, in whose charge hers is. Exhort her to confess the truth!”
Source: Chapter 3, Paragraph 27
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!
Source: Chapter 3, Paragraph 29
Be not silent from any mistaken pity and tenderness for him; for, believe me, Hester, though he were to step down from a high place, and stand there beside thee, on thy pedestal of shame, yet better were it so than to hide a guilty heart through life.
Source: Chapter 3, Paragraph 29
What can thy silence do for him, except it tempt him—yea, compel him, as it were—to add hypocrisy to sin?
Source: Chapter 3, Paragraph 29
“That little babe hath been gifted with a voice, to second and confirm the counsel which thou hast heard. Speak out the name! That, and thy repentance, may avail to take the scarlet letter off thy breast.”
Source: Chapter 3, Paragraph 32
“It is too deeply branded. Ye cannot take it off. And would that I might endure his agony, as well as mine!”
Source: Chapter 3, Paragraph 33
“And my child must seek a heavenly Father; she shall never know an earthly one!”
Source: Chapter 3, Paragraph 35
“Drink it! It may be less soothing than a sinless conscience. That I cannot give thee. But it will calm the swell and heaving of thy passion, like oil thrown on the waves of a tempestuous sea.”
Source: Chapter 4, Paragraph 14
“I have thought of death,” said she,—“have wished for it,—would even have prayed for it, were it fit that such as I should pray for anything. Yet if death be in this cup, I bid thee think again, ere thou beholdest me quaff it. See! It is even now at my lips.”
Source: Chapter 4, Paragraph 16
“Even if I imagine a scheme of vengeance, what could I do better for my object than to let thee live,—than to give thee medicines against all harm and peril of life,—so that this burning shame may still blaze upon thy bosom?”
Source: Chapter 4, Paragraph 17
“Live, therefore, and bear about thy doom with thee, in the eyes of men and women,—in the eyes of him whom thou didst call thy husband,—in the eyes of yonder child!”
Source: Chapter 4, Paragraph 17
I,—a man of thought,—the bookworm of great libraries,—a man already in decay, having given my best years to feed the hungry dream of knowledge,—what had I to do with youth and beauty like thine own!
Source: Chapter 4, Paragraph 19
Nay, from the moment when we came down the old church steps together, a married pair, I might have beheld the bale-fire of that scarlet letter blazing at the end of our path!”
Source: Chapter 4, Paragraph 19
My heart was a habitation large enough for many guests, but lonely and chill, and without a household fire.
Source: Chapter 4, Paragraph 21
Between thee and me the scale hangs fairly balanced.
Source: Chapter 4, Paragraph 23
“But, as for me, I come to the inquest with other senses than they possess. I shall seek this man, as I have sought truth in books; as I have sought gold in alchemy. There is a sympathy that will make me conscious of him. I shall see him tremble. I shall feel myself shudder, suddenly and unawares. Sooner or later, he must needs be mine!”
Source: Chapter 4, Paragraph 25
“He bears no letter of infamy wrought into his garment, as thou dost; but I shall read it on his heart.”
Source: Chapter 4, Paragraph 27
“Think not that I shall interfere with Heaven’s own method of retribution, or, to my own loss, betray him to the gripe of human law.”
Source: Chapter 4, Paragraph 27
“How is it, Hester? Doth thy sentence bind thee to wear the token in thy sleep? Art thou not afraid of nightmares and hideous dreams?”
Source: Chapter 4, Paragraph 36
O Fiend, whose talisman was that fatal symbol, wouldst thou leave nothing, whether in youth or age, for this poor sinner to revere?—such loss of faith is ever one of the saddest results of sin.
Source: Chapter 5, Paragraph 16
They averred, that the symbol was not mere scarlet cloth, tinged in an earthly dye-pot, but was red-hot with infernal fire, and could be seen glowing all alight, whenever Hester Prynne walked abroad in the night-time.
Source: Chapter 5, Paragraph 17
Her Pearl!—For so had Hester called her; not as a name expressive of her aspect, which had nothing of the calm, white, unimpassioned lustre that would be indicated by the comparison.
Source: Chapter 6, Paragraph 4
“Thou must gather thine own sunshine. I have none to give thee!”
Source: Chapter 7, Paragraph 13
The point hath been weightily discussed, whether we, that are of authority and influence, do well discharge our consciences by trusting an immortal soul, such as there is in yonder child, to the guidance of one who hath stumbled and fallen, amid the pitfalls of this world.
Source: Chapter 8, Paragraph 13
“Nevertheless,” said the mother, calmly, though growing more pale, “this badge hath taught me— it daily teaches me— it is teaching me at this moment— lessons whereof my child may be the wiser and better, albeit they can profit nothing to myself.”
Source: Chapter 8, Paragraph 16
Without question, she is equally in the dark as to her soul, its present depravity, and future destiny!
Source: Chapter 8, Paragraph 23
“He gave her in requital of all things else, which ye had taken from me. She is my happiness!—she is my torture, none the less!
Source: Chapter 8, Paragraph 25
See ye not, she is the scarlet letter, only capable of being loved, and so endowed with a million-fold the power of retribution for my sin?
Source: Chapter 8, Paragraph 25
“Thou knowest,—for thou hast sympathies which these men lack!—thou knowest what is in my heart, and what are a mother’s rights, and how much the stronger they are, when that mother has but her child and the scarlet letter!
Source: Chapter 8, Paragraph 28
“For, if we deem it otherwise, do we not thereby say that the Heavenly Father, the Creator of all flesh, hath lightly recognized a deed of sin, and made of no account the distinction between unhallowed lust and holy love?
Source: Chapter 8, Paragraph 32
It was meant, doubtless, as the mother herself hath told us, for a retribution too; a torture to be felt at many an unthought-of moment; a pang, a sting, an ever-recurring agony, in the midst of a troubled joy!
Source: Chapter 8, Paragraph 32
“What, methinks, is the very truth,—that this boon was meant, above all things else, to keep the mother’s soul alive, and to preserve her from blacker depths of sin into which Satan might else have sought to plunge her!”
Source: Chapter 8, Paragraph 34
“I could be well content, that my labors, and my sorrows, and my sins, and my pains, should shortly end with me, and what is earthly of them be buried in my grave, and the spiritual go with me to my eternal state, rather than that you should put your skill to the proof in my behalf.”
Source: Chapter 9, Paragraph 11
“Ah,” replied Roger Chillingworth, with that quietness which, whether imposed or natural, marked all his deportment, “it is thus that a young clergyman is apt to speak. Youthful men, not having taken a deep root, give up their hold of life so easily! And saintly men, who walk with God on earth, would fain be away, to walk with him on the golden pavements of the New Jerusalem.”
Source: Chapter 9, Paragraph 12
“Nay,” rejoined the young minister, putting his hand to his heart, with a flush of pain flitting over his brow, “were I worthier to walk there, I could be better content to toil here.”
Source: Chapter 9, Paragraph 13
“Good men ever interpret themselves too meanly,” said the physician.
Source: Chapter 9, Paragraph 14
“They grew out of his heart, and typify, it may be, some hideous secret that was buried with him, and which he had done better to confess during his lifetime.”
Source: Chapter 10, Paragraph 11
“Wherefore not; since all the powers of nature call so earnestly for the confession of sin, that these black weeds have sprung up out of a buried heart, to make manifest an unspoken crime?”
Source: Chapter 10, Paragraph 13
“There can be, if I forebode aright, no power, short of the Divine mercy, to disclose, whether by uttered words, or by type or emblem, the secrets that may be buried with a human heart.”
Source: Chapter 10, Paragraph 14
“The heart, making itself guilty of such secrets, must perforce hold them, until the day when all hidden things shall be revealed.”
Source: Chapter 10, Paragraph 14
“Nor have I so read or interpreted Holy Writ, as to understand that the disclosure of human thoughts and deeds, then to be made, is intended as a part of the retribution.”
Source: Chapter 10, Paragraph 14
“A knowledge of men″s hearts will be needful to the completest solution of that problem.”
Source: Chapter 10, Paragraph 14
“No; these revelations, unless I greatly err, are meant merely to promote the intellectual satisfaction of all intelligent beings, who will stand waiting, on that day, to see the dark problem of this life made plain.”
Source: Chapter 10, Paragraph 14
“And I conceive, moreover, that the hearts holding such miserable secrets as you speak of will yield them up, at that last day, not with reluctance, but with a joy unutterable.”
Source: Chapter 10, Paragraph 14
And ever, after such an outpouring, O, what a relief have I witnessed in those sinful brethren! even as in one who at last draws free air, after long stifling with his own polluted breath.
Source: Chapter 10, Paragraph 16
How can it be otherwise? Why should a wretched man, guilty, we will say, of murder, prefer to keep the dead corpse buried in his own heart, rather than fling it forth at once, and let the universe take care of it!”
Source: Chapter 10, Paragraph 16
“Yet some men bury their secrets thus,”
Source: Chapter 10, Paragraph 17
“But, not to suggest more obvious reasons, it may be that they are kept silent by the very constitution of their nature. Or,—can we not suppose it?—guilty as they may be, retaining, nevertheless, a zeal for God’s glory and man’s welfare, they shrink from displaying themselves black and filthy in the view of men; because, thenceforward, no good can be achieved by them; no evil of the past be redeemed by better service. So, to their own unutterable torment, they go about among their fellow-creatures, looking pure as new-fallen snow while their hearts are all speckled and spotted with iniquity of which they cannot rid themselves.”
Source: Chapter 10, Paragraph 18
Their love for man, their zeal for God’s service,—these holy impulses may or may not coexist in their hearts with the evil inmates to which their guilt has unbarred the door, and which must needs propagate a hellish breed within them.
Source: Chapter 10, Paragraph 19
But, if they seek to glorify God, let them not lift heavenward their unclean hands!
Source: Chapter 10, Paragraph 19
If they would serve their fellow-men, let them do it by making manifest the power and reality of conscience, in constraining them to penitential self-abasement!
Source: Chapter 10, Paragraph 19
Wouldst thou have me to believe, O wise and pious friend, that a false show can be better—can be more for God’s glory, or man’s welfare—than God’s own truth?
Source: Chapter 10, Paragraph 19
Trust me, such men deceive themselves!”
Source: Chapter 10, Paragraph 19
“Come away, mother! Come away, or yonder old Black Man will catch you! He hath got hold of the minister already. Come away, mother, or he will catch you! But he cannot catch little Pearl!”
Source: Chapter 10, Paragraph 25
“But still, methinks, it must needs be better for the sufferer to be free to show his pain, as this poor woman Hester is, than to cover it all up in his heart.”
Source: Chapter 10, Paragraph 28
“The disorder is a strange one; not so much in itself, nor as outwardly manifested,—in so far, at least, as the symptoms have been laid open to my observation.”
Source: Chapter 10, Paragraph 32
“I should deem you a man sore sick, it may be, yet not so sick but that an instructed and watchful physician might well hope to cure you.”
Source: Chapter 10, Paragraph 32
“Surely, it were child’s play, to call in a physician, and then hide the sore!”
Source: Chapter 10, Paragraph 35
“A bodily disease, which we look upon as whole and entire within itself, may, after all, be but a symptom of some ailment in the spiritual part.”
Source: Chapter 10, Paragraph 36
“Be it so! But, again! He to whom only the outward and physical evil is laid open, knoweth, oftentimes, but half the evil which he is called upon to cure.”
Source: Chapter 10, Paragraph 36
“Thus, a sickness,” continued Roger Chillingworth, going on, in an unaltered tone, without heeding the interruption,—but standing up, and confronting the emaciated and white-cheeked minister, with his low, dark, and misshapen figure,—“a sickness, a sore place, if we may so call it, in your spirit, hath immediately its appropriate manifestation in your bodily frame. Would you, therefore, that your physician heal the bodily evil? How may this be, unless you first lay open to him the wound or trouble in your soul?”
Source: Chapter 10, Paragraph 38
“Not to thee! But if it be the soul’s disease, then do I commit myself to the one Physician of the soul! He, if it stand with his good pleasure, can cure; or he can kill! Let him do with me as, in his justice and wisdom, he shall see good.
Source: Chapter 10, Paragraph 39
“A strange sympathy betwixt soul and body!
Source: Chapter 10, Paragraph 44
But what distinguished the physician’s ecstasy from Satan’s was the trait of wonder in it!
Source: Chapter 10, Paragraph 49
“Ye have both been here before, but I was not with you. Come up hither once again, and we will stand all three together!”
Source: Chapter 12, Paragraph 20
“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!”
Source: Chapter 12, Paragraph 31
“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!”
Source: Chapter 12, Paragraph 31
“Ye have both been here before, but I was not with you. Come up hither once again, and we will stand all three together!”
Source: Chapter 12, Paragraph 20
We men of study, whose heads are in our books, have need to be straitly looked after! We dream in our waking moments, and walk in our sleep.
Source: Chapter 12, Paragraph 47
Aha! see now, how they trouble the brain,—these books!—these books!
Source: Chapter 12, Paragraph 49
But, indeed, he was blind and foolish, as he ever and always is.
Source: Chapter 12, Paragraph 53
A pure hand needs no glove to cover it!”
Source: Chapter 12, Paragraph 53
“And since Satan saw fit to steal it, your reverence must needs handle him without gloves, henceforward,”
Source: Chapter 12, Paragraph 55
“But did your reverence hear of the portent that was seen last night?—a great red letter in the sky,—the letter A, which we interpret to stand for Angel. For, as our good Governor Winthrop was made an angel this past night, it was doubtless held fit that there should be some notice thereof!”
Source: Chapter 12, Paragraph 55
The links that united her to the rest of human kind—links of flowers, or silk, or gold, or whatever the material—had all been broken. Here was the iron link of mutual crime, which neither he nor she could break.
Source: Chapter 13, Paragraph 4
It was only the darkened house that could contain her.
Source: Chapter 13, Paragraph 8
“It lies not in the pleasure of the magistrates to take off this badge,” calmly replied Hester.
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 8
“Were I worthy to be quit of it, it would fall away of its own nature, or be transformed into something that should speak a different purport.”
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 8
“The letter is gayly embroidered, and shows right bravely on your bosom!”
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 9
The scarlet letter burned on Hester Prynne’s bosom.
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 12
Here was another ruin, the responsibility of which came partly home to her.
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 12
“Something that would make me weep, if there were any tears bitter enough for it,”
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 14
“You burrow and rankle in his heart!”
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 16
“Your clutch is on his life, and you cause him to die daily a living death; and still he knows you not.”
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 16
“In permitting this, I have surely acted a false part by the only man to whom the power was left me to be true!”
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 16
“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.
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 19
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!
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 19
“He has felt an influence dwelling always upon him like a curse.”
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 21
“He knew, by some spiritual sense,—for the Creator never made another being so sensitive as this,—he knew that no friendly hand was pulling at his heart-strings, and that an eye was looking curiously into him, which sought only evil, and found it.”
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 21
“But he knew not that the eye and hand were mine!”
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 21
“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.”
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 21
“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!”
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 21
“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!”
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 21
“Has he not paid thee all?”
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 23
“Was I not, though you might deem me cold, nevertheless a man thoughtful for others, craving little for himself,—kind, true, just, and of constant, if not warm affections?”
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 24
“I have already told thee what I am! A fiend! Who made me so?”
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 26
“It was I, not less than he. Why hast thou not avenged thyself on me?”
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 27
“I have left thee to the scarlet letter,” replied Roger Chillingworth.
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 28
“What may be the result, I know not. But this long debt of confidence, due from me to him, whose bane and ruin I have been, shall at length be paid.
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 32
So far as concerns the overthrow or preservation of his fair fame and his earthly state, and perchance his life, he is in thy hands.
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 32
Nor do I,—whom the scarlet letter has disciplined to truth, though it be the truth of red-hot iron, entering into the soul,—nor do I perceive such advantage in his living any longer a life of ghastly emptiness, that I shall stoop to implore thy mercy.
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 32
There is no good for him,—no good for me,—no good for thee!
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 32
There is no path to guide us out of this dismal maze!”
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 32
“Thou hadst great elements. Peradventure, hadst thou met earlier with a better love than mine, this evil had not been.”
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 33
“And I thee,” answered Hester Prynne, “for the hatred that has transformed a wise and just man to a fiend! Wilt thou yet purge it out of thee, and be once more human? If not for his sake, then doubly for thine own! Forgive, and leave his further retribution to the Power that claims it!
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 34
I said, but now, that there could be no good event for him, or thee, or me, who are here wandering together in this gloomy maze of evil, and stumbling, at every step, over the guilt wherewith we have strewn our path.
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 34
It is not so! There might be good for thee, and thee alone, since thou hast been deeply wronged, and hast it at thy will to pardon. Wilt thou give up that only privilege? Wilt thou reject that priceless benefit?”
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 34
“By thy first step awry thou didst plant the germ of evil; but since that moment, it has all been a dark necessity.”
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 35
“It is our fate. Let the black flower blossom as it may!”
Source: Chapter 14, Paragraph 35
He needed to bask himself in that smile, he said, in order that the chill of so many lonely hours among his books might be taken off the scholar’s heart.
Source: Chapter 15, Paragraph 7
She deemed it her crime most to be repented of, that she had ever endured, and reciprocated, the lukewarm grasp of his hand, and had suffered the smile of her lips and eyes to mingle and melt into his own.
Source: Chapter 15, Paragraph 7
Let men tremble to win the hand of woman, unless they win along with it the utmost passion of her heart!
Source: Chapter 15, Paragraph 9
“Mother,” said little Pearl, “the sunshine does not love you. It runs away and hides itself, because it is afraid of something on your bosom. Now, see! There it is, playing, a good way off. Stand you here, and let me run and catch it. I am but a child. It will not flee from me; for I wear nothing on my bosom yet!
Source: Chapter 16, Paragraph 7
“Run away, child,” answered her mother, “and catch the sunshine! It will soon be gone.”
Source: Chapter 16, Paragraph 10
“How he haunts this forest, and carries a book with him,—a big, heavy book, with iron clasps; and how this ugly Black Man offers his book and an iron pen to everybody that meets him here among the trees; and they are to write their names with their own blood. And then he sets his mark on their bosoms!
Source: Chapter 16, Paragraph 18
And, mother, the old dame said that this scarlet letter was the Black Man’s mark on thee, and that it glows like a red flame when thou meetest him at midnight, here in the dark wood.
Source: Chapter 16, Paragraph 20
“If thou hadst a sorrow of thine own, the brook might tell thee of it,” answered her mother, “even as it is telling me of mine!
Source: Chapter 16, Paragraph 30
“And, mother, he has his hand over his heart! Is it because, when the minister wrote his name in the book, the Black Man set his mark in that place?”
Source: Chapter 16, Paragraph 35
“But why does he not wear it outside his bosom, as thou dost, mother?”
Source: Chapter 16, Paragraph 35
Were I an atheist,—a man devoid of conscience,—a wretch with coarse and brutal instincts,—I might have found peace, long ere now.
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 17
But, as matters stand with my soul, whatever of good capacity there originally was in me, all of God’s gifts that were the choicest have become the ministers of spiritual torment.
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 17
“As concerns the good which I may appear to do, I have no faith in it. It must needs be a delusion. What can a ruined soul, like mine, effect towards the redemption of other souls?—or a polluted soul towards their purification?”
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 19
“Canst thou deem it, Hester, a consolation, that I must stand up in my pulpit, and meet so many eyes turned upward to my face, as if the light of heaven were beaming from it!—must see my flock hungry for the truth, and listening to my words as if a tongue of Pentecost were speaking!—and then look inward, and discern the black reality of what they idolize?”
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 19
“I have laughed, in bitterness and agony of heart, at the contrast between what I seem and what I am!”
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 19
Of penance, I have had enough! Of penitence, there has been none!
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 21
Else, I should long ago have thrown off these garments of mock holiness, and have shown myself to mankind as they will see me at the judgment-seat.
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 21
Happy are you, Hester, that wear the scarlet letter openly upon your bosom! Mine burns in secret!
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 21
Thou little knowest what a relief it is, after the torment of a seven years’ cheat, to look into an eye that recognizes me for what I am!
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 21
But, now, it is all falsehood!—all emptiness!—all death!”
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 21
Truth was the one virtue which I might have held fast, and did hold fast, through all extremity; save when thy good,—thy life,—thy fame,—were put in question!
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 28
“That old man’s revenge has been blacker than my sin.”
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 35
“There is a strange secrecy in his nature,” replied Hester, thoughtfully; “and it has grown upon him by the hidden practices of his revenge.
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 42
“He will doubtless seek other means of satiating his dark passion.”
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 42
“And I!—how am I to live longer, breathing the same air with this deadly enemy?”
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 43
“Thy heart must be no longer under his evil eye!”
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 45
Shall I lie down again on these withered leaves, where I cast myself when thou didst tell me what he was?
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 46
“The judgment of God is on me,”
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 48
“Heaven would show mercy,” rejoined Hester, “hadst thou but the strength to take advantage of it.”
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 49
“Doth the universe lie within the compass of yonder town, which only a little time ago was but a leaf-strewn desert, as lonely as this around us?”
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 51
“until, some few miles hence, the yellow leaves will show no vestige of the white man’s tread. There thou art free!”
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 51
“Is there not shade enough in all this boundless forest to hide thy heart from the gaze of Roger Chillingworth?”
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 51
“So brief a journey would bring thee from a world where thou hast been most wretched, to one where thou mayest still be happy!”
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 51
And what hast thou to do with all these iron men, and their opinions? They have kept thy better part in bondage too long already!”
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 53
“I am powerless to go! Wretched and sinful as I am, I have had no other thought than to drag on my earthly existence in the sphere where Providence hath placed me.
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 54
Lost as my own soul is, I would still do what I may for other human souls!
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 54
The future is yet full of trial and success.
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 55
Exchange this false life of thine for a true one.
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 55
Give up this name of Arthur Dimmesdale, and make thyself another, and a high one, such as thou canst wear without fear or shame.
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 55
Why shouldst thou tarry so much as one other day in the torments that have so gnawed into thy life!—that have made thee feeble to will and to do!—that will leave thee powerless even to repent!
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 55
“thou tellest of running a race to a man whose knees are tottering beneath him!
Source: Chapter 17, Paragraph 56
I seem to have flung myself—sick, sin-stained, and sorrow-blackened—down upon these forest-leaves, and to have risen up all made anew, and with new powers to glorify Him that hath been merciful!
Source: Chapter 18, Paragraph 12
See! With this symbol, I undo it all, and make it as it had never been!”
Source: Chapter 18, Paragraph 13
And see with what natural skill she has made those simple flowers adorn her! Had she gathered pearls, and diamonds, and rubies, in the wood, they could not have become her better.
Source: Chapter 19, Paragraph 4
“How my heart dreads this interview, and yearns for it!
Source: Chapter 19, Paragraph 9
“I have a strange fancy,” observed the sensitive minister, “that this brook is the boundary between two worlds, and that thou canst never meet thy Pearl again. Or is she an elfish spirit, who, as the legends of our childhood taught us, is forbidden to cross a running stream? Pray hasten her; for this delay has already imparted a tremor to my nerves.”
Source: Chapter 19, Paragraph 13
“The mid-ocean shall take it from my hand, and swallow it up forever!”
Source: Chapter 19, Paragraph 28
So it ever is, whether thus typified or no, that an evil deed invests itself with the character of doom.
Source: Chapter 19, Paragraph 29
“At least, they shall say of me,” thought this exemplary man, “that I leave no public duty unperformed, nor ill performed!”
Source: Chapter 20, Paragraph 6
“And does he now summon me to its fulfilment, by suggesting the performance of every wickedness which his most foul imagination can conceive?”
Source: Chapter 20, Paragraph 13
“A good man’s prayers are golden recompense!”
Source: Chapter 20, Paragraph 30
“And in the deep forest, where only the old trees can hear, and the strip of sky see it, he talks with thee, sitting on a heap of moss!”
Source: Chapter 21, Paragraph 15
“But here, in the sunny day, and among all the people, he knows us not; nor must we know him!”
Source: Chapter 21, Paragraph 15
“Dost thou think I have been to the forest so many times, and have yet no skill to judge who else has been there? Yea; though no leaf of the wild garlands, which they wore while they danced, be left in their hair! I know thee, Hester; for I behold the token. We may all see it in the sunshine; and it glows like a red flame in the dark. Thou wearest it openly; so there need be no question about that. But this minister! Let me tell thee, in thine ear! When the Black Man sees one of his own servants, signed and sealed, so shy of owning to the bond as is the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale, he hath a way of ordering matters so that the mark shall be disclosed in open daylight to the eyes of all the world! What is it that the minister seeks to hide, with his hand always over his heart? Ha, Hester Prynne!”
Source: Chapter 22, Paragraph 19
“Do not blacken your fame, and perish in dishonor!”
Source: Chapter 23, Paragraph 16
“Hester Prynne,” cried he, with a piercing earnestness, “in the name of Him, so terrible and so merciful, who gives me grace, at this last moment, to do what—for my own heavy sin and miserable agony—I withheld myself from doing seven years ago, come hither now, and twine thy strength about me! Thy strength, Hester; but let it be guided by the will which God hath granted me!”
Source: Chapter 23, Paragraph 19
“Hadst thou sought the whole earth over,” said he, looking darkly at the clergyman, “there was no one place so secret,—no high place nor lowly place, where thou couldst have escaped me,—save on this very scaffold!”
Source: Chapter 23, Paragraph 21
“For, Hester, I am a dying man. So let me make haste to take my shame upon me!”
Source: Chapter 23, Paragraph 26
Lo, the scarlet letter which Hester wears! Ye have all shuddered at it! Wherever her walk hath been,—wherever, so miserably burdened, she may have hoped to find repose,—it hath cast a lurid gleam of awe and horrible repugnance round about her. But there stood one in the midst of you, at whose brand of sin and infamy ye have not shuddered!”
Source: Chapter 23, Paragraph 28
But he hid it cunningly from men, and walked among you with the mien of a spirit, mournful, because so pure in a sinful world!—and sad, because he missed his heavenly kindred!
Source: Chapter 23, Paragraph 30
He tells you, that, with all its mysterious horror, it is but the shadow of what he bears on his own breast, and that even this, his own red stigma, is no more than the type of what has seared his inmost heart!
Source: Chapter 23, Paragraph 30
“My little Pearl,” said he, feebly,—and there was a sweet and gentle smile over his face, as of a spirit sinking into deep repose; nay, now that the burden was removed, it seemed almost as if he would be sportive with the child,—“dear little Pearl, wilt thou kiss me now? Thou wouldst not, yonder, in the forest! But now thou wilt?”
Source: Chapter 23, Paragraph 36
Surely, surely, we have ransomed one another, with all this woe!
Source: Chapter 23, Paragraph 39
“It may be, that, when we forgot our God,—when we violated our reverence each for the other’s soul,—it was thenceforth vain to hope that we could meet hereafter, in an everlasting and pure reunion.
Source: Chapter 23, Paragraph 40
“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!
Source: Chapter 23, Paragraph 40
“Be true! Be true! Be true! Show freely to the world, if not your worst, yet some trait whereby the worst may be inferred!”
Source: Chapter 24, Paragraph 7

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