The Scarlet Letter: Important Quotes Explained (2023)

Romance de 1850 de Nathaniel Hawthornea scarlet cardtells a story of love, collective punishment, and salvation in puritanical, colonial Massachusetts. Through the character of Hester Prynne, who was forced, as punishment for committing adultery, to wear a scarlet "A" on her chest for the remainder of her days in the colony, Hawthorne depicts the deeply religious and morally rigid world of the XVII century. . Boston.

The scarlet letter itself

“But the point which attracted all eyes, and, as it were, transfigured the wearer, so that the men and women who knew Hester Prynne familiarly were now as impressed as if they had seen her for the first time, was thatSCARLET LETTER,so fantastically embroidered and illuminated on your chest. It had the effect of a spell, taking her out of ordinary dealings with humanity and enclosing her in a sphere all by herself." (Chapter II, “The Market”)

This marks the first time the town has seen Prynne adorned with the eponymous item, which she must wear as punishment for giving birth to a child out of wedlock. In the city, which at the time was just a small colony on the edge of the Western world in what was known as the Massachusetts Bay Colony, this scandal causes quite a stir. As such, the effect of this token on the townspeople is quite strong, even magical: the Scarlet Letter had "the effect of a spell". This is remarkable because it reveals both the group's reverence and deference to higher, more spiritual, and unseen powers. Furthermore, it indicates how much power this punishment has over them as a way of deterring future transgressions.

The item's effect on its wearer is supernatural, as Prynne is said to be "transfigured" and taken "from common dealings with mankind" and locked "in a sphere alone". This transfiguration then plays out throughout the novel, as the town ignores her and Pearl, and she is forced to return, as much as possible, to her good graces through her charitable deeds. . The card itself is also noteworthy, as it's described as "fantastically embroidered" and "illuminated," a description that highlights the card's potent powers and makes it clear that this is no ordinary item. Furthermore, this focus on embroidery heralds the eventual development of Prynne's highly regarded needlework skills. As such, this passage establishes several of the book's salient themes and motifs early on.

"The Little Puritans"

“The truth is that the little Puritans, being the most intolerant race that ever lived, had a vague idea of ​​something strange, supernatural, or out of the ordinary fashions, in mother and child; and for this reason they despised them in their hearts, and not infrequently insulted them with their tongues. (Chapter VI, “Pearl”)

This passage provides insight into the highly moral world of the Massachusetts Puritans. This is not to say that the Puritans actually had the most adequate understanding of good and evil, just that they lived with a very strong sense of that distinction. For example, in the first sentence, the narrator describes the Puritans as "the most intolerant race that ever lived." This general bigotry thus described leads the group down a rather unpleasant path when applied to the specific situation of Prynne and Pearl. Because they disapprove of what Prynne has done, they feel that she and her daughter are "otherworldly", "weird", or "out of place" with the rules of the city. This is interesting in its own right, as a window into the collective psyche of the colony, but also in terms of the specific choice of words, as Prynne, once again, finds herself outside the realm of normal human relationships.

Thereafter, the townspeople turned their disapproval into outright hatred and "scorned" and "reviled" the mother and daughter. as well as his critical stance on this issue, which really has nothing to do with any of them in particular.

"A fountain of human tenderness..."

“Hester's nature was warm and rich; source of human tenderness, infallible for all real needs and inexhaustible for the greatest. Her chest, with the insignia of shame on her, was just the softest pillow for a head she needed. She called herself a Sister of Mercy, or, we can say, so ordered by the heavy hand of the world, when neither the world nor she expected this result. The letter was the symbol of her vocation. So much help was found in him, so much power to do and power to sympathize, that many people have refused to interpret the scarlet A in its original meaning. They said it means Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with the strength of a woman.” (Chapter XIII, “Another Vision of Hester”)

As the chapter title suggests, this moment shows how Prynne's position in the community has changed since she wore the scarlet letter. Although she was initially insulted and exiled, she has now regained some of the favor of the city. Although she wears a "badge of shame" (the letter) on her chest, she demonstrates with her actions that that name no longer really corresponds to her.

Interestingly, the narrator claims that the letter was the "symbol of his vocation," a claim that is as true now as it was originally, but for very different reasons. While he once identified her as the perpetrator of a crime, with the "A" presumably standing for "Adultery," it is now said to mean something quite different: "Able," a change that resulted from her having "so much power to do and power to sympathize”.

Ironically, this shift in attitude toward Prynne stems from the same set of Puritan values ​​that doomed her to this fate in the first place, though in this case it's not the Puritans' sense of moral rectitude, but rather a respect for toughness. work and good works deeds. While other passages have shown the destructive nature of that society's values, here the restorative powers of those same values ​​are demonstrated.

all about the pearl

“If little Pearl were received with faith and trust, as a spiritual messenger no less than an earthly child, would it not be her mission to ease the sadness that was cold in her mother's heart and turn it into a grave? Is she overcoming her passion, once so wild, and yet neither dead nor asleep, but only a prisoner within the very tombstone of the heart? (Chapter XV, “Esther and Pearl”)

This passage touches on several interesting elements of Pearl's character. First, he highlights her not-quite-normal existence, referring to her as a "spiritual messenger" and as an "earthly child", a strange liminal state. This thing about Pearl being somehow demonic or wild or mystical is a common refrain throughout the book and stems from the fact that she was born out of wedlock, which in this world means out of God's order and therefore so much, of Mal., or otherwise. incorrect or abnormal-and that the identity of her father is largely a mystery.

Furthermore, her behavior goes against community standards, further highlighting her (and her mother's) status as an outsider, as well as her distance and isolation. Also notable is the way the passage acknowledges Pearl's two-edged relationship with her mother. The narrator states that Pearl's duty is, or may be, "to soothe the sadness that was cold in her mother's heart", which is a very kind role for a daughter to play for her mother, but somewhat ironically, as Pearl he is the living embodiment of Prynne's slings and arrows. She is the source and medicine of her mother's pain. This passage is yet another example of the two-faced nature of many of the elements in this book, showing that even as antithetical and divided as certain opposites-good and evil, religion and science, nature and man, earthly and heavenly- - can be, can be are also inextricably intertwined.


What are the most important quotes from The Scarlet Letter? ›

“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.”

What is an important quote from Chapter 3 of The Scarlet Letter? ›

The Scarlet Letter Chapter 3 Quotes

"When he found the eyes of Hester Prynne fastened on his own, and saw that she appeared to recognize him, he slowly and calmly raised his finger, made a gesture with it in the air, and laid it on his lips."

What is an important quote chapter 4 scarlet letter? ›

Chapter 4: "Thy acts are like mercy.... but thy words interpret thee as horror!" Hester says this quote to Chillingworth. He cares for baby Pearl's illness but at the same time he talks about taking his anger out on Pearl's father. He is a man of medicine but he talks about death.

What is an important quote from Chapter 16 of The Scarlet Letter? ›

“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. . . . It will not flee from me, for I wear nothing on my bosom yet!” This quote, taken from Chapter 16, “A Forest Walk,” is illustrative of the role Pearl plays in the text.

What are some important quotes in Chapter 10 of The Scarlet Letter? ›

Chapter 10 of The Scarlet Letter: Quotes

"He now dug into the poor clergyman's heart, like a miner searching for gold; or, rather, like a sexton delving into a grave, possibly in quest of a jewel that had been buried on the dead man's bosom, but likely to find nothing save mortality and corruption."

What is an irony quote in scarlet letter? ›

"I charge thee to speak out the name of thy fellow-sinner and fellow-sufferer." (Hawthorne, page 63 chapter 3) This is an example of irony because Dimmesdale is trying to get Hester to reveal the name of her child when little does he know, he happens to be the father of the child.

What is an important quote in The Scarlet Letter chapter 8? ›

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! Look thou to it! I will not lose the child!

What was Dimmesdale's death quote? ›

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!”

What is chapter 4 of The Scarlet Letter about? ›

Chapter 4 of The Scarlet Letter centers around Roger Chillingworth's visit to Hester in prison. He cares for her and the infant, and then they discuss their marriage and his desire for her not to reveal him as her husband.

What is chapter 7 scarlet letter about? ›

Summary: Chapter 7: The Governor's Hall

The townspeople reason that if Pearl is a demon-child, she should be taken from Hester for Hester's sake. And, they reason, if Pearl is indeed a human child, she should be taken away from her mother for her own sake and given to a “better” parent than Hester Prynne.

What is chapter 12 of the scarlet letter about? ›

Chapter 12 of The Scarlet Letter shows a metaphorical Judgment Day for Reverend Dimmesdale. The chapter is titled "The Minister's Vigil" because it focuses on Dimmesdale standing on the pillory as if he is confessing his sin and facing judgment before the town.

What is chapter 6 in the scarlet letter? ›

Chapter 6 in "The Scarlet Letter" is titled "Pearl" because readers are provided an in-depth look at Hester Prynne's child, named Pearl, who was born out of wedlock.

What is the significance of chapter 13 in The Scarlet Letter? ›

It is important to note the chapter title: "Another View of Hester." This chapter is a discussion of Hester's personality, character, and intellect as well as a summary and an update of her past four years (Pearl is now seven).

What is chapter 14 of The Scarlet Letter? ›

While walking on the peninsula with Pearl, Hester sees Chillingworth and sends Pearl down to play by the seashore while she speaks with her husband. She is surprised at the changes in Chillingworth just as she was shocked by Dimmesdale's spiritual ailment and aging.

What is chapter 18 of The Scarlet Letter about? ›

The minister takes courage from Hester's strength and resolves to leave the Puritan colony, but not alone. He reasons that if he is doomed irrevocably, why not be allowed the solace of a "condemned culprit before his execution?" Hester agrees with him and casts off the scarlet letter.

What is an important quote chapter 18 scarlet letter? ›

"Oh, Hester, thou art my better angel! 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! This is already the better life!"

Who dies in chapter 12 of the scarlet letter? ›

The structural juxtaposition of Governor Winthrop's death with Dimmesdale's crisis is significant.

What is the most important chapter in the scarlet letter? ›

In chapter 23 of Hawthorne's 'The Scarlet Letter,' Dimmesdale delivers his most powerful sermon ever, and then makes a choice that will forever change his fate, as well as Hester and Pearl's.

What are 2 examples of situational irony in The Scarlet Letter? ›

Dimmesdale's final scene on the scaffold, the appearance of the scarlet letter, and the change in symbolism, or the use of things in a story to represent a grander-scale idea, of the scarlet letter are all examples of situational irony, or when the audience does not expect a result, in The Scarlet Letter.

How is Pearls name ironic? ›

Pearl's name is ironic, since a pearl is typically associated with purity. However, Pearl is the offspring of an adulterous relationship and is viewed as evil and impure by the community. In the end, however, her good nature and spirit show that something beautiful can come from something as ugly as sin.

What is a metaphor in scarlet letter? ›

“Thou must gather thine own sunshine. I have none to give thee!” The sunshine is a metaphor for Pearl's happiness; Hester tells Pearl she has no happiness to share, so Pearl will have to find ways to make her own.

What is a quote by Hester Prynne? ›

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.”

What is the significance of the rosebush in The Scarlet Letter chapter 7? ›

The rose bush suggests the solace and compassion of the natural world. It comforts Hester as she is led from the prison to the scaffold. The rose bush is also associated with Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643), who fought for religious freedom in Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony.

What is chapter 9 of The Scarlet Letter? ›

What is Chapter 9 of The Scarlet Letter about? Chapter 9 of The Scarlet Letter is about Dimmesdale and Chillingworth moving in together. Chillingworth claims this is to better care for the Reverend, but in reality he wants to find out what Dimmesdale is hiding.

What kills Dimmesdale? ›

Dimmesdale s death is sudden and unexpected, aided by prolonged use of scopolamine.

What are some quotes in scarlet letter? ›

“We dream in our waking moments, and walk in our sleep.” “No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.” “She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom.”

Does Hester still love Dimmesdale? ›

Hester realizes that she still loves Dimmesdale, and she courageously tells him this, even as she reveals her silence concerning Chillingworth. Hawthorne contrasts their love — "which had a consecration of its own" — and Chillingworth's revenge and asks the reader which sin is worse.

What is chapter 3 of the scarlet letter about? ›

Inquiring, the man learns of Hester's history, her crime (adultery), and her sentence: to stand on the scaffold for three hours and to wear the symbolic letter A for the rest of her life. The stranger also learns that Hester refuses to name the man with whom she had the sexual affair.

What is the main idea of chapter 2 of the scarlet letter? ›

Summary: Chapter 2: The Market-Place

From the women's conversation and Hester's reminiscences as she walks through the crowd, we can deduce that she has committed adultery and has borne an illegitimate child, and that the “A” on her dress stands for “Adulterer.”

What does the scarlet letter chapter 5 mean? ›

Whereas publicly the letter inflicts scorn on Hester, it also endows her with a new, private sense of others' own sinful thoughts and behavior; she gains a "sympathetic knowledge of the hidden sin in other hearts." The scarlet letter — what it represents — separates Hester from society, but it enables her to recognize ...

What is chapter 8 of The Scarlet Letter about? ›

In Chapter 8, Hester and Pearl go to the home of Governor Bellingham to investigate an apparent plan to remove Pearl from Hester's home. She meets with Chillingworth, Dimmesdale, Bellingham, and Wilson. Reverend Wilson asks Hester why she should be allowed to keep Pearl.

What is chapter 10 of the scarlet letter about? ›

In this and the next few chapters, Chillingworth investigates the identity of Pearl's father for the sole purpose of taking revenge. Adopting the attitude of a judge seeking truth and justice, he quickly becomes fiercely obsessed by his search into Dimmesdale's heart.

What is chapter 20 of the scarlet letter about? ›

Dimmesdale leaves the forest first, almost believing what has transpired has been a dream. When he looks back, he sees Hester weighed down with sadness and Pearl dancing because he is gone. Turning over their plan in his mind, he believes that going to Europe is the better choice.

What is chapter 17 scarlet letter about? ›

Summary: Chapter 17: The Pastor and His Parishioner

Hester tells Dimmesdale that Chillingworth is her husband. This news causes a “dark transfiguration” in Dimmesdale, and he begins to condemn Hester, blaming her for his suffering.

What is chapter 16 of the scarlet letter? ›

Summary: Chapter 16: A Forest Walk

Intent upon telling Dimmesdale the truth about Chillingworth's identity, Hester waits for the minister in the forest, because she has heard that he will be passing through on the way back from visiting a Native American settlement.

What is chapter 23 of the scarlet letter about? ›

Analysis: Chapter 23 The Scarlet Letter. Chapter 23 is where Dimmesdale finally confesses his sin to the whole town upon the scaffold after delivering his Election Day sermon. He chooses to confess his sin rather than take it to the grave with him.

What is chapter 11 of the scarlet letter about? ›

Feeling that he is in full possession of Dimmesdale's secret, Chillingworth begins his unrelenting torture of the minister, subtly tormenting him with comments designed to trigger fear and agony.

What is chapter 22 of the scarlet letter about? ›

As Pearl questions Mistress Hibbins about what the minister hides, the witch tells Hester that she knows the minister also has a hidden sin comparable to Hester's scarlet token. When pressed about how she knows this, Mistress Hibbins explains that intuitively recognizing a fellow sinner is not difficult.

What is the purpose of chapter 21 in the scarlet letter? ›

Chapter 21 is the first of several chapters that constitute the third scaffold scene and that lead to the climax of the novel. In these chapters, Hawthorne again brings together his main characters and, in these few pages, illustrates the major conflicts in the light of day and in a very public place.

What is Chapter 19 about in the scarlet letter? ›

Summary: Chapter 19: The Child at the Brook-Side

Hester calls to Pearl to join her and Dimmesdale. From the other side of the brook, Pearl eyes her parents with suspicion. She refuses to come to her mother, pointing at the empty place on Hester's chest where the scarlet letter used to be.

What does Pearl symbolize in the scarlet letter? ›

She is the physical consequence of sexual sin and the indicator of a transgression. Yet, even as a reminder of Hester's “sin,” Pearl is more than a mere punishment to her mother: she is also a blessing. She represents not only “sin” but also the vital spirit and passion that engendered that sin.

What does Hester decide to do at the end of Chapter 13? ›

Chillingworth's actions are making Dimmesdale's illness more dire and Hester's own feelings of helplessness and despondency grow. She decides to seek out Chillingworth to speak to him about revealing his true identity and the nature of his relationship with her to Dimmesdale.

What is chapter 23 of the scarlet letter called? ›

Summary: Chapter 23: The Revelation of the Scarlet Letter

As they move toward the town hall for the evening feast, Dimmesdale sees Hester and hesitates. Turning toward the scaffold, he calls to Hester and Pearl to join him.

Why does Pearl wash off Dimmesdale's kiss? ›

Why does Pearl wash off Dimmesdale's kiss? He smells funny.

What is chapter 17 called in the scarlet letter? ›

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "Chapter 17: “The Pastor and His Parishioner”." The Scarlet Letter. Lit2Go Edition. 1850.

What does Pearl do when Dimmesdale kisses her? ›

While Hester assures her that this admission will happen in the future, Dimmesdale kisses Pearl's forehead in an attempt to mollify her. Pearl immediately goes to the brook and washes off the kiss.

What is the most important part of the scarlet letter? ›

In order of occurrence, the scenes which have been deemed most important include, Hester on the scaffold holding Pearl as an infant, and Roger Chillingworth visiting Hester while she is still in the prison being two examples.

What are some important quotes in the scarlet ibis? ›

Pride is a wonderful terrible thing a seed that bears two vines life and death.” “There is within me a knot of cruelty borne by the stream of love, much as our blood sometimes bears the seed of our destruction ...” “All of us must have something or someone to be proud of.”

What quotes from the scarlet letter talk about the letter A? ›

This rag of scarlet cloth,—for time and wear and a sacrilegious moth, had reduced it to little other than a rag,—on careful examination, assumed the shape of a letter. It was the capital letter A.

What are 3 meanings of the A in the scarlet letter? ›

While the "A" initially symbolizes "adultery," later various people assign meanings such as "able" or "angel" to the letter, as the community's views of Hester change. For Governor Bellingham's servant, the letter signals Hester's upper-class ("aristocratic" or "authoritarian") status.

What is the most important conflict in The Scarlet Letter? ›

After introducing Hester as the book's protagonist, Hawthorne incites the central conflict of the book by bringing Hester in direct contact with her antagonist, Chillingworth, the husband she has betrayed by committing adultery.

What are the most important themes in The Scarlet Letter? ›

  • The Nature of Evil. The characters in the novel frequently debate the identity of the “Black Man,” the embodiment of evil. ...
  • Identity and Society. ...
  • Female Independence. ...
  • Guilt. ...
  • Nature vs Society. ...
  • Empathy.

Did Hester ever love Chillingworth? ›

Hester and Chillingworth are both aware that Hester never loved him. When they meet again in New England, she says “thou knowest that I was frank with thee. I felt no love, nor feigned any.” Chillingworth believes that Hester could not love him because of his deformity (one shoulder is higher than the other).

What is an important quote in The Scarlet Ibis about doodle? ›

Doodle was my brother and he was going to cling to me forever, no matter what I did, so I dragged him across the burning cotton field to share with him the only beauty I knew, Old Woman Swamp. It seemed so hopeless from the beginning that it's a miracle I didn't give up.

What are some pride quotes? ›

Use these pithy, quippy Pride captions as inspiration for your own witty captions.
  • “Pride is for everyone.”
  • “We're here. We're queer.”
  • “Born this way.”
  • “There's no such thing as being extra in June”
  • “We're coming out.”
  • “Yas.”
  • “Let's have a kiki.”
  • “Out and proud.”
May 27, 2022

What does The Scarlet Ibis symbolize quote? ›

When Brother discovers Doodle lifeless in the forest, he acknowledges the connection between Doodle and the bird. The scarlet ibis thus represents how something fragile and beautiful can be lost so easily.

What is an important quote chapter 8 scarlet letter? ›

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! Look thou to it! I will not lose the child!

What quotes from scarlet letter about Hester being punished? ›

Let her cover the mark as she will, the pang of it will be always in her heart.” This line is spoken by one of the townswomen when they are discussing Hester's punishment at the beginning of the novel.

What is the moral lesson of scarlet letter? ›

The moral of The Scarlet Letter is that secret sin leads to guilt and pain. Hester is publicly punished, which causes her pain, but through this, she is strengthened and gains independence.

What does the S stand for in Scarlet Letter? ›

The scarlet letter is meant to be a symbol of shame, but instead it becomes a powerful symbol of identity to Hester.

What does The Scarlet Letter A on her breast mean? ›

She wears an elaborately embroidered scarlet letter A — standing for "adultery" — on her breast, and she carries a three-month-old infant in her arms. Hester is led through the unsympathetic crowd to the scaffold of the pillory.


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