The Scarlet Letter eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 247 pages of information about The Scarlet Letter.
Tomorrow 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 honourable 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.

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 birth-place, 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 colour 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 could never be broken.

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The Scarlet Letter from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.