Analysis of Scaffold Scenes

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In the first scaffold scene, Hester and Pearl stand alone, publicly humiliated, while Dimmesdale watches from the side, standing with the other leaders of the community. Emotionally and physically, he is separate from her, but she bravely bears her solitary suffering. Presented in all of its beauty, the scarlet letter symbolizes her artistry and imagination, showing her in contrast to her more conventional lover. From the sidelines, Chillingworth, Hester's husband, learns of his wife's transgression. An evil impulse almost immediately grows within his heart, as shown by the imagery of the "writhing," snake-like horror that moves from his face into the "depths of his nature."

The second scaffold scene contains nearly all the same elements. This time, though, the scene occurs at night, nearly seven years after the novel's action begins. Rather than highlighting Hester's suffering, this scene focuses on Dimmesdale's guilt and remorse, which have led him to the edge of insanity. While in the chapter preceding this one they were divided, here Hester, Pearl, and Dimmesdale stand hand-in-hand, forming an "electric chain." Hester learns the extent to which Chillingsworth has been torturing Dimmesdale, and she makes the important decision to save him from his enemy. However, Pearl shows that Dimmesdale's repentance isn't complete when she asks him if he'll stand on the scaffold with her and her mother in the light of day. He won't. Of course, Chillingworth, the embodiment of evil, is present once again on the sidelines. The scarlet letter makes an appearance as a glowing light in the sky, telling Dimmesdale that even nature knows of his guilt.

The final scaffold scene in some ways mimics the first. Once again, all the major characters meet in the marketplace in full daylight. Hester is again the object of unwanted attention due to the scarlet letter, making her an outcast, while Dimmesdale is exalted as a saint. But this scene is different, because Dimmesdale is...
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