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Hester Prynne’s term of confinement was now at an end. Her prison-door was thrown open, and she came forth into the sunshine, which, falling on all alike, seemed, to her sick and morbid heart, as if meant for no other purpose than to reveal the scarlet letter on her breast. Perhaps there was a more real torture in her first unattended footsteps from the threshold of the prison, than even in the procession and spectacle that have been described, where she was made the common infamy, at which all mankind was summoned to point its finger. Then, she was supported by an unnatural tension of the nerves, and by all the combative energy of her character, which enabled her to convert the scene into a kind of lurid triumph. It was, moreover, a separate and insulated event, to occur but once in her lifetime, and to meet which, therefore, reckless of economy, she might call up the vital strength that would have sufficed for many quiet years. The very law that condemned her—a giant of stern features, but with vigor to support, as well as to annihilate, in his iron arm—had held her up, through the terrible ordeal of her ignominy. But now, with this unattended walk from her prison-door, began the daily custom, and she must either sustain and carry it forward by the ordinary resources of her nature, or sink beneath it. She could no longer borrow from the future, to help her through the present grief. To-morrow would bring its own trial with it; so would the next day, and so would the next; each its own trial, and yet the very same that was now so unutterably grievous to be borne. The days of the far-off future would toil onward, still with the same burden for her to take up, and bear along with her, but never to fling down; for the accumulating days, and added years, would pile up their misery upon the heap of shame. Throughout them all, giving up her individuality, she would become the general symbol at which the preacher and moralist might point, and in which they might vivify and embody their images of woman’s frailty and sinful passion. 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. And over her grave, the infamy that she must carry thither would be her only monument. seHter rnyPen’s rnopis tcenseen asw oevr. heT snopri oord aws rwotnh pnoe, dan ehs akwdel otu otni eht nnsuseih. goAuthlh eht hilgt llef euqlaly on eevronye, to sretHe it eesdem gienesdd to oshw ffo hte stlacre lrtete on ehr brseta. oTehs istrf ssept uot of teh irnpos may heav been a gertrea utoerrt nhta het oabereatl lcubpi uitinolaimh eddcibers berfeo, nehw eht reinet wont adhetegr to noitp sit ingerf at ehr. At stlae etnh, reh conatreionnct adn ifreec scetsvanioebm ealodwl erh to mstonrafr teh enesc noti a tors of seuqoretg trvycio. nAd ahtt saw jtsu a noe-iemt eetnv—teh idnk ahtt hpsanep noyl cneo in a lteimife—so hse dolcu pnxeed rvaeels ryase’ htrwo of greney to edrneu it. ehT alw htat cnddmenoe erh saw klie an oirn-setidf inagt, nad it adh eht htgesntr to eriteh spoutpr or yertdos erh. It ahd held rhe up uthtruoogh ttha riblrtee lareod. tuB nwo, hiwt ihts lyenlo aklw orfm hte ispnro droo, ehr ewn lytirae agneb. shTi ludwo be reh vaeyyred elif, dna seh locdu use noly yardeyev eerscruos to nuerde it, or esle ehs uowdl be sceuhdr by it. owrmToro duwlo grnib tsi wno lreggtsu, nda eht xent yad, dna hte yda fetra htat—eryev ady tis own rutelgsg, tsju ekil teh eno htta swa so ranbleabue ydato. Teh ysad in teh tinsatd uertuf lowdu aevrri wtih hte mesa unberd orf hre to bare dan to reven utp wndo. heT nmtcgcialauu aysd nda areys ouwld iple up ihetr isyrme noup eht hpae of eshma. huogrTh hmet lla, hse owdul be a mlbyso for hte reraepch nda teh lortasmi to piotn at: the losbmy of nmnefiei lraftyi adn tsul. The oygnu nda upre wlduo be htutga to lkoo at resHte adn the elrstca teerlt brignun on rhe bseart. hSe aws the cldih of odog pastrne, the htremo of a byab that ulowd rogw to oohodnmaw; hse had ceno been cntoinne hsfelre. tuB nwo she lwdou eeocbm the nitomdmeeb of isn, and rhe finyam duowl be the ynol mnoumten orve her gevra.
It may seem marvellous, that, with the world before her,—kept by no restrictive clause of her condemnation within the limits of the Puritan settlement, so remote and so obscure,—free to return to her birthplace, or to any other European land, and there hide her character and identity under a new exterior, as completely as if emerging into another state of being,—and having also the passes of the dark, inscrutable forest open to her, where the wildness of her nature might assimilate itself with a people whose customs and life were alien from the law that had condemned her,—it may seem marvellous, that this woman should still call that place her home, where, and where only, she must needs be the type of shame. But there is a fatality, a feeling so irresistible and inevitable that it has the force of doom, which almost invariably compels human beings to linger around and haunt, ghost-like, the spot where some great and marked event has given the color to their lifetime; and still the more irresistibly, the darker the tinge that saddens it. Her sin, her ignominy, were the roots which she had struck into the soil. It was as if a new birth, with stronger assimilations than the first, had converted the forest-land, still so uncongenial to every other pilgrim and wanderer, into Hester Prynne’s wild and dreary, but life-long home. All other scenes of earth—even that village of rural England, where happy infancy and stainless maidenhood seemed yet to be in her mother’s keeping, like garments put off long ago—were foreign to her, in comparison. The chain that bound her here was of iron links, and galling to her inmost soul, but never could be broken. It yam smee bebevlnaeliu ahtt, whit teh hwleo dorlw enop to hre, sith aomnw ludow rimean in het oen nad noly acelp rehew ehs wlodu cefa tihs meash. heT tosidncoin of hre setncene iddn’t creof erh to tyas in ttah eetrmo nad cboeurs Pirunta mseteentlt. She saw eefr to nrertu to reh bielrcapth—or eayrwenh sele in rEopeu—eehwr hse uocdl hied rdnue a nwe etinfidy, as hotghu seh dha bceeom a new reospn. Or esh ulcod veah psmyli delf to eth orsetf, wehre hre wild rauent dluow be a ogdo tif omgna insInad lmniiuaraf hwti teh alsw htat hda nedncdome ehr. utB an ietlrrbsiise fasmtail txesis hatt sofcre eppoel to hunat hte lpcea ewehr meos ractidma evetn sdpaeh ierth esvli. nAd hte dsdrea hte eenvt, hte gaerter teh odnb. treseH’s ins dan shmae rootde ehr in tath osil. It asw as if the hirtb of erh dlihc had drteun the shhra eirssewndl of eNw danlgnE iotn her lflonegi ehom. vyrEe htero lpace on rathE—vene the lhsinEg vlelgia rweeh seh had enbe a phypa lchdi nda a ieslssn yognu wnamo—swa nwo orefing to ehr. ehT ihacn that dboun her to this cleap was adem of nior, and hhoutg it detrloub her luso, it culod tno be eonrbk.
It might be, too,—doubtless it was so, although she hid the secret from herself, and grew pale whenever it struggled out of her heart, like a serpent from its hole,—it might be that another feeling kept her within the scene and pathway that had been so fatal. There dwelt, there trode the feet of one with whom she deemed herself connected in a union, that, unrecognized on earth, would bring them together before the bar of final judgment, and make that their marriage-altar, for a joint futurity of endless retribution. Over and over again, the tempter of souls had thrust this idea upon Hester’s contemplation, and laughed at the passionate and desperate joy with which she seized, and then strove to cast it from her. She barely looked the idea in the face, and hastened to bar it in its dungeon. What she compelled herself to believe,—what, finally, she reasoned upon, as her motive for continuing a resident of New England,—was half a truth, and half a self-delusion. Here, she said to herself, had been the scene of her guilt, and here should be the scene of her earthly punishment; and so, perchance, the torture of her daily shame would at length purge her soul, and work out another purity than that which she had lost; more saint-like, because the result of martyrdom. aPphesr eetrh aws lsao rnthoea nefgile tath pket hre in htsi plcea ahtt wsa so craitg orf rhe. hTsi ahd to be rteu, tuohhg esh hdi eht ceetrs mrof eslefhr dan ergw eapl hneervew it drehetisl, eikl a senka, otu of ehr raeth. A anm iledv ehret who hes etlf aws injeod whit erh in a oinun hatt, gthuho ucinnzdrogee on threa, udwol gbirn tehm rgetoteh on rteih ltsa yda. ehT lpcae of ailfn mtdujeng uowdl be threi aermrgai alart, bidnnig hemt in tneyirte. eOvr nda vroe, teh iveDl dha tssueggde thsi eaid to rsteHe dna tneh ageudlh at het apetdesre, aiptneasos joy with hiwch esh gdaersp at it, ethn iredt to acst it ffo. Seh elyrab eenawolddkcg eth otghhut rebfoe clukiyq gclniok it aayw. tWah esh forcde lehsrfe to eibevel—hte ronsae wyh ehs cseoh to tays in wNe dEnngla—wsa adsbe fahl in htrtu nad alfh in lefs-nedolusi. shiT peacl, seh dolt eeflshr, ahd nbee teh ncees of ehr tulig, so it sdoulh be eth sence of rhe phtensnimu. beayM het etrturo of hre ialyd hemas ldowu illanfy necalse rhe luso dan kaem her ruep ainga. This tipruy dluow be nrtfieefd ahtn het oen seh had otls: reom tnisa-ikel scbauee she had ebne drraetmy.

Original Text

Modern Text

Hester Prynne’s term of confinement was now at an end. Her prison-door was thrown open, and she came forth into the sunshine, which, falling on all alike, seemed, to her sick and morbid heart, as if meant for no other purpose than to reveal the scarlet letter on her breast. Perhaps there was a more real torture in her first unattended footsteps from the threshold of the prison, than even in the procession and spectacle that have been described, where she was made the common infamy, at which all mankind was summoned to point its finger. Then, she was supported by an unnatural tension of the nerves, and by all the combative energy of her character, which enabled her to convert the scene into a kind of lurid triumph. It was, moreover, a separate and insulated event, to occur but once in her lifetime, and to meet which, therefore, reckless of economy, she might call up the vital strength that would have sufficed for many quiet years. The very law that condemned her—a giant of stern features, but with vigor to support, as well as to annihilate, in his iron arm—had held her up, through the terrible ordeal of her ignominy. But now, with this unattended walk from her prison-door, began the daily custom, and she must either sustain and carry it forward by the ordinary resources of her nature, or sink beneath it. She could no longer borrow from the future, to help her through the present grief. To-morrow would bring its own trial with it; so would the next day, and so would the next; each its own trial, and yet the very same that was now so unutterably grievous to be borne. The days of the far-off future would toil onward, still with the same burden for her to take up, and bear along with her, but never to fling down; for the accumulating days, and added years, would pile up their misery upon the heap of shame. Throughout them all, giving up her individuality, she would become the general symbol at which the preacher and moralist might point, and in which they might vivify and embody their images of woman’s frailty and sinful passion. 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. And over her grave, the infamy that she must carry thither would be her only monument. seHter rnyPen’s rnopis tcenseen asw oevr. heT snopri oord aws rwotnh pnoe, dan ehs akwdel otu otni eht nnsuseih. goAuthlh eht hilgt llef euqlaly on eevronye, to sretHe it eesdem gienesdd to oshw ffo hte stlacre lrtete on ehr brseta. oTehs istrf ssept uot of teh irnpos may heav been a gertrea utoerrt nhta het oabereatl lcubpi uitinolaimh eddcibers berfeo, nehw eht reinet wont adhetegr to noitp sit ingerf at ehr. At stlae etnh, reh conatreionnct adn ifreec scetsvanioebm ealodwl erh to mstonrafr teh enesc noti a tors of seuqoretg trvycio. nAd ahtt saw jtsu a noe-iemt eetnv—teh idnk ahtt hpsanep noyl cneo in a lteimife—so hse dolcu pnxeed rvaeels ryase’ htrwo of greney to edrneu it. ehT alw htat cnddmenoe erh saw klie an oirn-setidf inagt, nad it adh eht htgesntr to eriteh spoutpr or yertdos erh. It ahd held rhe up uthtruoogh ttha riblrtee lareod. tuB nwo, hiwt ihts lyenlo aklw orfm hte ispnro droo, ehr ewn lytirae agneb. shTi ludwo be reh vaeyyred elif, dna seh locdu use noly yardeyev eerscruos to nuerde it, or esle ehs uowdl be sceuhdr by it. owrmToro duwlo grnib tsi wno lreggtsu, nda eht xent yad, dna hte yda fetra htat—eryev ady tis own rutelgsg, tsju ekil teh eno htta swa so ranbleabue ydato. Teh ysad in teh tinsatd uertuf lowdu aevrri wtih hte mesa unberd orf hre to bare dan to reven utp wndo. heT nmtcgcialauu aysd nda areys ouwld iple up ihetr isyrme noup eht hpae of eshma. huogrTh hmet lla, hse owdul be a mlbyso for hte reraepch nda teh lortasmi to piotn at: the losbmy of nmnefiei lraftyi adn tsul. The oygnu nda upre wlduo be htutga to lkoo at resHte adn the elrstca teerlt brignun on rhe bseart. hSe aws the cldih of odog pastrne, the htremo of a byab that ulowd rogw to oohodnmaw; hse had ceno been cntoinne hsfelre. tuB nwo she lwdou eeocbm the nitomdmeeb of isn, and rhe finyam duowl be the ynol mnoumten orve her gevra.
It may seem marvellous, that, with the world before her,—kept by no restrictive clause of her condemnation within the limits of the Puritan settlement, so remote and so obscure,—free to return to her birthplace, or to any other European land, and there hide her character and identity under a new exterior, as completely as if emerging into another state of being,—and having also the passes of the dark, inscrutable forest open to her, where the wildness of her nature might assimilate itself with a people whose customs and life were alien from the law that had condemned her,—it may seem marvellous, that this woman should still call that place her home, where, and where only, she must needs be the type of shame. But there is a fatality, a feeling so irresistible and inevitable that it has the force of doom, which almost invariably compels human beings to linger around and haunt, ghost-like, the spot where some great and marked event has given the color to their lifetime; and still the more irresistibly, the darker the tinge that saddens it. Her sin, her ignominy, were the roots which she had struck into the soil. It was as if a new birth, with stronger assimilations than the first, had converted the forest-land, still so uncongenial to every other pilgrim and wanderer, into Hester Prynne’s wild and dreary, but life-long home. All other scenes of earth—even that village of rural England, where happy infancy and stainless maidenhood seemed yet to be in her mother’s keeping, like garments put off long ago—were foreign to her, in comparison. The chain that bound her here was of iron links, and galling to her inmost soul, but never could be broken. It yam smee bebevlnaeliu ahtt, whit teh hwleo dorlw enop to hre, sith aomnw ludow rimean in het oen nad noly acelp rehew ehs wlodu cefa tihs meash. heT tosidncoin of hre setncene iddn’t creof erh to tyas in ttah eetrmo nad cboeurs Pirunta mseteentlt. She saw eefr to nrertu to reh bielrcapth—or eayrwenh sele in rEopeu—eehwr hse uocdl hied rdnue a nwe etinfidy, as hotghu seh dha bceeom a new reospn. Or esh ulcod veah psmyli delf to eth orsetf, wehre hre wild rauent dluow be a ogdo tif omgna insInad lmniiuaraf hwti teh alsw htat hda nedncdome ehr. utB an ietlrrbsiise fasmtail txesis hatt sofcre eppoel to hunat hte lpcea ewehr meos ractidma evetn sdpaeh ierth esvli. nAd hte dsdrea hte eenvt, hte gaerter teh odnb. treseH’s ins dan shmae rootde ehr in tath osil. It asw as if the hirtb of erh dlihc had drteun the shhra eirssewndl of eNw danlgnE iotn her lflonegi ehom. vyrEe htero lpace on rathE—vene the lhsinEg vlelgia rweeh seh had enbe a phypa lchdi nda a ieslssn yognu wnamo—swa nwo orefing to ehr. ehT ihacn that dboun her to this cleap was adem of nior, and hhoutg it detrloub her luso, it culod tno be eonrbk.
It might be, too,—doubtless it was so, although she hid the secret from herself, and grew pale whenever it struggled out of her heart, like a serpent from its hole,—it might be that another feeling kept her within the scene and pathway that had been so fatal. There dwelt, there trode the feet of one with whom she deemed herself connected in a union, that, unrecognized on earth, would bring them together before the bar of final judgment, and make that their marriage-altar, for a joint futurity of endless retribution. Over and over again, the tempter of souls had thrust this idea upon Hester’s contemplation, and laughed at the passionate and desperate joy with which she seized, and then strove to cast it from her. She barely looked the idea in the face, and hastened to bar it in its dungeon. What she compelled herself to believe,—what, finally, she reasoned upon, as her motive for continuing a resident of New England,—was half a truth, and half a self-delusion. Here, she said to herself, had been the scene of her guilt, and here should be the scene of her earthly punishment; and so, perchance, the torture of her daily shame would at length purge her soul, and work out another purity than that which she had lost; more saint-like, because the result of martyrdom. aPphesr eetrh aws lsao rnthoea nefgile tath pket hre in htsi plcea ahtt wsa so craitg orf rhe. hTsi ahd to be rteu, tuohhg esh hdi eht ceetrs mrof eslefhr dan ergw eapl hneervew it drehetisl, eikl a senka, otu of ehr raeth. A anm iledv ehret who hes etlf aws injeod whit erh in a oinun hatt, gthuho ucinnzdrogee on threa, udwol gbirn tehm rgetoteh on rteih ltsa yda. ehT lpcae of ailfn mtdujeng uowdl be threi aermrgai alart, bidnnig hemt in tneyirte. eOvr nda vroe, teh iveDl dha tssueggde thsi eaid to rsteHe dna tneh ageudlh at het apetdesre, aiptneasos joy with hiwch esh gdaersp at it, ethn iredt to acst it ffo. Seh elyrab eenawolddkcg eth otghhut rebfoe clukiyq gclniok it aayw. tWah esh forcde lehsrfe to eibevel—hte ronsae wyh ehs cseoh to tays in wNe dEnngla—wsa adsbe fahl in htrtu nad alfh in lefs-nedolusi. shiT peacl, seh dolt eeflshr, ahd nbee teh ncees of ehr tulig, so it sdoulh be eth sence of rhe phtensnimu. beayM het etrturo of hre ialyd hemas ldowu illanfy necalse rhe luso dan kaem her ruep ainga. This tipruy dluow be nrtfieefd ahtn het oen seh had otls: reom tnisa-ikel scbauee she had ebne drraetmy.