Scarlet Letter: Reality vs Perception

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Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, a dark tale of sin and redemption, centers around the small Puritan community of Boston during the seventeenth century. In the middle of the town market place is a " . . .weather darkened scaffold. . . (234)" where sinners are made to face the condemning public. The people standing on the scaffold experience strange phenomena while on the scaffold. Some become braver, some meeker. And whether the people are looking at them or not, they becomes their true selves on the scaffold. In essence, everything that is real and true occurs on the scaffold, and everything that is illusion or hypocrisy occurs everywhere else.The forest is also a setting where characters find the truth about themselves. Most settlers to the forest are people who are outsiders from society. They are untainted by the views of the townspeople and can see beyond the lies and hypocrisy of the townspeople. The experiences of the people on the scaffold and in the forest lend themselves to a higher issue, reality vs. perception. In the Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne shows how people create their own reality with what they see.The Scaffold is not only a high view point the in market place but a site where one can see beyond the restraints of town and even time. For one person, " . . . the scaffold of the pillory was the point of view that revealed to Hester Prynne the entire track which she had been treading since her happy infancy (p65)". The experience of the scaffold has a profound effect on Hester. Living on the border between the town and the forest, she learns new freedom while seeing the conformist repression of the town. Hester sees what the townspeople ignore. She soon believes that because of her punishment on the scaffold and her perpetual reminder of it, the scarlet letter, she sees the sins of the entire townspeople and the hypocrisy of keeping them secret. Thus, her time on the scaffold has made her see the truth of the town and its...
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