The Scarlet Letter Best Quotes 💬

Quotes from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’ are theocratic and faith-based and show some hints of repressiveness in terms of freedom to independent life – with the foregoing typical to a puritan society such as is found in the book.

The Scarlet Letter

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Be that as it may, readers will no doubt find several quotes worthy of inspiring and enlightening them on certain subjects – and should generally expect these lessons to hit around theocratic communal living, Christian religion, sin and transgressions, confession and making reparations and righting wrongs. The best quotes in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’ have been carefully excerpted and analyzed below. 

Love and Hate 

‘Hatred, by a gradual and quiet process, will even be transformed to love, unless the change is impeded by a continually new irritation of the original feeling of hostility.

Even though they are not the most profound subjects of the book, love and hate have brief roles to play in certain scenes of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter.’

It is clear to the readers that Hester does not exactly love her husband, Roger Chillingworth, and may well have even started to hate him after he comes right out of the blues to blackmail her after gaining knowledge about her secret romance with Arthur Dimmesdale, her true love. 

Love, whether newly born or aroused from a deathlike slumber, must always create sunshine, filling the heart so full of radiance, that it overflows upon the outward world.

The excerpt exists to try and explain, in the slightest, the nature of feeling Hester finds with being with the preacher, Arthur Dimmesdale, as opposed to being with Chillingworth her husband.

Hawthorne never truly informs his readers about a  past or present romance between Hester and Chillingworth, and that’s perhaps because even though they are legally married, it was never out of love, for Chillingworth is cold, selfish, uncaring, and much older than Hester. 

Dimmesdale becomes the direct opposite of these to Hester, and this is the reason he manages to enchant her and wins her heart. 

A Drift Away From Morality 

She had wandered, without rule or guidance, into a moral wilderness…

Nathaniel Hawthorne uses Hester Prynne’s character to describe a woman who is strong, intrepid, and socially non-conformist.

In puritan times guided by a strict code of conduct and a clear outline for punishing wrongdoers, the norm is that everybody obeys and lives by the rules to avoid the consequences for not doing so.

But, Hester isn’t the person to bow to these rules, especially when what she believes in – such as love or freedom – is on the line. She doesn’t care about being labeled an outcast or an immoral woman by society, for she fights for her happiness and what she truly desires. 

Repercussions for Guilt

The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers…

If you go against government regulations, they will come after you. And there will be consequences. This is the same for Hester, who broke the moral code of the puritan authorities by having a secret romantic affair with one man while still being married to another. 

The repercussion for her crime is, among other things, to wear the Scarlet ‘A’ dress publicly, indicating that she is an adulterer. However, despite how demeaning and humiliating this feels, strong Hester somehow finds new strength in such dehumanization; quite uncharacteristic for women of her time. 

Social Pariah

In all her intercourse with society, however, there was nothing that made her feel as if she belonged to it… She stood apart from mortal interests, yet close beside them, like a ghost that revisits the familiar fireside…

Another excerpt from Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’ quite describes the peculiar personality of the book’s protagonist, Hester Prynne. 

This quote implies that Hester is not only strong and resilient but that she also has the mentality of a typical modern feminist. Although the puritan laws control the people of which she is part, she craves to make a difference, starting with her person and possibly extending to women such as herself. 

Patience will be Tested 

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…

Roger Chillingworth must have been mad and, at the same time, jealous of the feeling of love and care Hester channels to reverend Dimmesdale that he decides to test her patience. 

Chillingworth, realizing that his wife is crazily in love with another man (Dimmesdale), tries to get her to be untrusting of the man by making her feel like she’s been played by her lover and abandoned to endure the consequences of their shared sin alone.

Sin, Sometimes, is Visible 

…red-hot with infernal fire, and could be seen glowing all alight whenever Hester Prynne walked abroad in the nighttime.

Hawthorne uses this statement to create a mental picture of Hester’s scarlet letter ‘A’ dress, and by so doing, has simultaneously also given her sin of adultery some form of physical visibility.

The author uses a top descriptive technique to map out Hester’s sin, and by telling of its glimmers in the dark, he has measured out, for his readers, the degree of the severity of Hester’s sin – that is – one that is so serious it could be seen with the eyes and felt by the skin.

Physical Manifestations with Spiritual Roots

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.

Hawthorne draws from the popular Christian belief, which claims that events first play out in the spiritual realm before they manifest in our physical reality.

Chillingworth, who takes on the duty of a physician and now treating and caring for Dimmesdale, observes the disease history of Dimmesdale and is left with a theory that the roots are linked with Hester’s sin. 

Chillingworth is convinced that Dimmesdale’s failing health is the result of spiritual chastising caused by the guilty conscience of having done and concealing something bad and immoral. His hypothesis is found to be textbook perfect, in the end. 

A Heart of Contrition 

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!

Dimmesdale, although favored by the fact that his puritan society is more lenient with men, shows that his heart is fully contrite for his sin – even though he fails to announce it publicly – maybe for pride’s sake – so the people know he’s responsible for Hester’s baby.

FAQs 

What types of books did Nathaniel Hawthorne write about?

Books by Nathaniel Hawthorne border around a wide range of literary fiction genres – including gothic romanticism, horror, biography, critical parodies, etcetera. 

Are Nathaniel Hawthorne’s writings quote-worthy? 

Hawthorne is a classic author of American literature, and his novels and short stories are well acclaimed. His writings serve more than just escape to readers but have also inspired a legion of later authors in the industry. 

What is a predominant theme in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s literary works? 

At his prime, and by indication of most of his best works, Hawthorne’s creative focus had always revolved around his puritan heritage, religion, society, and the supernatural. 

Victor Onuorah
About Victor Onuorah
Victor is as much a prolific writer as he is an avid reader. With a degree in Journalism, he goes around scouring literary storehouses and archives; picking up, dusting the dirt off, and leaving clean even the most crooked pieces of literature all with the skill of analysis.
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