The Scarlet Letter: Significance of the Scaffold Scenes

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The Scarlet Letter

In the “Scarlet Letter” Nathaniel Hawthorne describes the consequences for sinning. The story takes place in a puritan community in Boston, Massachusetts in the 17th century. In the story the main character, Hester Prynne, commits adultery with the Reverend mr.Dimmsdale. As a result of their actions, Pearl is born. Hester is punished to wear the scarlet letter A, which stands for Adultery, on her breast. Hester’s husband, Roger Chillingworth, made her keep their marriage a secret to get revenge on Dimmsdale. His struggle to free himself of is sin is represented in three scaffold scenes, at first he is a coward, then he feels guilt and remorse, and finally frees himself of his sin through confession.

The first scene is on the platform for the crowd to witness Hester’s shame. The Reverend Mr. Dimmsdale is in great grief but he is not standing by her side, he is too much of a coward to come forward so gives a speech to convince Hester to name her partner in sin hoping she would say that he is the baby’s father “I charge thee to speak out the name of thy fellow sinner and fellow sufferer!” (47). Hester does not tell who the father is, leaving Dimmsdale with his hand on his heart and keeping the truth hidden.

The second time at the scaffold was a turning point for Dimmsdale. Dimmsdale is standing at the scaffold suffering his shame and hating himself. He feels this deep feeling of remorse which brings him to the scaffold at night; he wants to free himself of penitence. Dimmsdale lets out a scream of pain and torture, he hoped that the town would awake and find him there but only finds Hester and Pearl. Hester, Pearl, and Dimmsdale are together for the very first time. “The three formed an electric chain”, like they were meant to be together (105). This was his one moment of peace, until Pearl then asked the minister to stand with them tomorrow and the thought of the public finding out raced across his mind and he realized how dreadful it...
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