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The Scarlet Letter

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Hester caught hold of Pearl, and drew her forcibly into her arms, confronting the old Puritan magistrate with almost a fierce expression. Alone in the world, cast off by it, and with this sole treasure to keep her heart alive, she felt that she possessed indefeasible rights against the world, and was ready to defend them to the death. Hester grabbed Pearl, held her strongly, and looked with an almost fierce expression at the Puritan magistrate. Hester was an outcast, alone in the world, with only this treasure to keep her heart alive. She felt that she had an absolute right to her daughter, and she was ready to defend that right to the death.
“God gave me the child!” cried she. “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! Pearl keeps me here in life! Pearl punishes me too! 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? Ye shall not take her! I will die first!” “God gave me the child!” she cried. “He gave her to me as compensation for everything that you had taken from me. She is my happiness. She is my torture—but still! Pearl keeps me alive! Pearl punishes me too! Don’t you see that she is the scarlet letter? But I can love her, so she has the power to punish me for my sin a million times over. You will not take her! I will die first!”
“My poor woman,” said the not unkind old minister, “the child shall be well cared for!—far better than thou canst do it.” “My poor woman,” said the kind old minister, “the child will be well cared for, far better than you can care for her.”
“God gave her into my keeping,” repeated Hester Prynne, raising her voice almost to a shriek. “I will not give her up!”—And here, by a sudden impulse, she turned to the young clergyman, Mr. Dimmesdale, at whom, up to this moment, she had seemed hardly so much as once to direct her eyes.—“Speak thou for me!” cried she. “Thou wast my pastor, and hadst charge of my soul, and knowest me better than these men can. I will not lose the child! Speak for me! 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! Look to it!” “God gave her to me to care for!” repeated Hester Prynne, raising her voice almost to a shriek. “I will not give her up!” Without a thought, she turned to the young minister, Mr. Dimmesdale. Until now, she had barely looked at him. “Speak up for me!” she cried. “You were my pastor and you cared for my soul. You know me better than these men do. I will not lose the child! Speak up for me! You know—you have understanding that these men lack—you know what is in my heart. You know a mother’s rights and how strong they are when that mother has nothing but her child and this scarlet letter! Do something! I will not lose the child! Do something!”
At this wild and singular appeal, which indicated that Hester Prynne’s situation had provoked her to little less than madness, the young minister at once came forward, pale, and holding his hand over his heart, as was his custom whenever his peculiarly nervous temperament was thrown into agitation. He looked now more careworn and emaciated than as we described him at the scene of Hester’s public ignominy; and whether it were his failing health, or whatever the cause might be, his large dark eyes had a world of pain in their troubled and melancholy depth. After this wild and strange plea, which revealed that Hester Prynne’s situation had driven her to the brink of madness, the young minister stepped forward. He was pale and he held his hand over his heart, as he did whenever circumstances agitated his unusually nervous disposition. He looked thinner and more worn down with worry than when he had spoken at Hester’s public shaming. Either from his failing health or for some other reason, his large dark eyes had a world of pain in their troubled and melancholy depths.
“There is truth in what she says,” began the minister, with a voice sweet, tremulous, but powerful, insomuch that the hall reëchoed, and the hollow armour rang with it,—“truth in what Hester says, and in the feeling which inspires her! God gave her the child, and gave her, too, an instinctive knowledge of its nature and requirements,—both seemingly so peculiar,—which no other mortal being can possess. And, more over, is there not a quality of awful sacredness in the relation between this mother and this child?” “There is truth in what she says,” began the minister. His voice was sweet and delicate, but so powerful that the room echoed and the hollow armor rang with his words. “There is truth in what Hester says, and in the feeling that inspires her! God gave the child to her, and He gave her an instinctive knowledge of the child’s nature and needs. No other person could understand such a peculiar child. And doesn’t a sacred relationship exist between this mother and her child?”
“Ay!—how is that, good Master Dimmesdale?” interrupted the Governor. “Make that plain, I pray you!” “How do you figure, good Master Dimmesdale?” interrupted the Governor. “Please, explain what you mean!”
“It must be even so,” resumed the minister. “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? This child of its father’s guilt and its mother’s shame hath come from the hand of God, to work in many ways upon her heart, who pleads so earnestly, and with such bitterness of spirit, the right to keep her. It was meant for a blessing; for the one blessing of her life! 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! Hath she not expressed this thought in the garb of the poor child, so forcibly reminding us of that red symbol which sears her bosom?” “It has to be so,” the minister continued. “If we say it isn’t, doesn’t that mean God Himself—creator of all flesh—allowed a sinful act to happen without making a distinction between unholy lust and holy love? This child, born of its father’s guilt and its mother’s shame, came from the hand of God to work in many ways upon the mother’s heart, which pleads so passionately to keep her. This girl was meant as a blessing—the one blessing in her mother’s life! She was meant as a punishment too, just like her mother said. The girl is a torture in many idle moments: A pang, a sting, and a persistent agony in the midst of a troubled joy! Isn’t this exactly what the mother is trying to express with the child’s clothing? Isn’t she consciously reminding us of the red symbol that burns her breast?”
“Well said, again!” cried good Mr. Wilson. “I feared the woman had no better thought than to make a mountebank of her child!” “Well said again!” cried good Mr. Wilson. “I was worried that the woman was simply trying to make her child look like a clown!”
“O, not so!—not so!” continued Mr. Dimmesdale. “She recognizes, believe me, the solemn miracle which God hath wrought, in the existence of that child. And may she feel, too,—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! Therefore it is good for this poor, sinful woman that she hath an infant immortality, a being capable of eternal joy or sorrow, confided to her care,—to be trained up by her to righteousness,—to remind her, at every moment, of her fall,—but yet to teach her, as it were by the Creator’s sacred pledge, that, if she bring the child to Heaven, the child also will bring its parent thither! Herein is the sinful mother happier than the sinful father. For Hester Prynne’s sake, then, and no less for the poor child’s sake, let us leave them as Providence hath seen fit to place them!” “Oh, no! Not at all!” continued Mr. Dimmesdale. “Believe me, she recognizes God’s miracle in creating that child. And she may also feel—and I think this is the heart of the matter—this blessing was meant to keep her soul alive and out of the darker depths. Otherwise, Satan might have tried to plunge her deep in sin. So it is good for this poor, sinful woman that she has an infant soul entrusted to her care: to be raised by her in the path of virtue, to remind her constantly of her sin, but also to teach her that if she brings the child to Heaven, the child will bring its mother there. This is why the sinful mother is luckier than the sinful father. For Hester Prynne’s sake and for the sake of the young child, let us leave them as God has seen fit to place them!”

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