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The Scarlet Letter Quotes

20 of the best book quotes from The Scarlet Letter
  1. #1
    “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.”
  2. #2
    “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.”
  3. #3
    “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.”
  4. #4
    “It is remarkable that persons who speculate the most boldly often conform with the most perfect quietude to the external regulations of society.”
  5. #5
    “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.”
  6. #6
    “She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom.”
  1. #7
    “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.”
  2. #8
    “Trusting no man as his friend, he could not recognize his enemy when the latter actually appeared.”
  3. #9
    “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!”
  4. #10
    “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!”
  5. #11
    “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!”
  6. #12
    “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”

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  1. #13
    “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!”
  2. #14
    “A pure hand needs no glove to cover it.”
  3. #15
    “Thou shalt forgive me! cried Hester, flinging herself on the fallen leaves beside him. Let God punish! Thou shalt forgive!”
  4. #16
    “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.”
  5. #17
    “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!”
  6. #18
    “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.”
  7. #19
    “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.”
  8. #20
    “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.”
Book Topics › forgiveness
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