Character Evolution Through Three Scaffold Scenes

Topics: Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, Bowdoin College Pages: 3 (959 words) Published: April 29, 2002
Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts in 1804 (net). He attended Bowdoin College with famous writers such as Horatio Bridge and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (net). In 1850, Hawthorne published The Scarlet Letter (1222). It is considered by many that The Scarlet Letter, "represents the height of Hawthorne's literary genius. At this time, Boston was the center of a very Puritan society. Throughout the novel Hawthorne uses many symbols. For example, one prominent symbol is the scaffold. During this period in time, the scaffold was used for public humiliation. Those who had committed either a crime or a sin were forced to stand upon it in front of everybody in the town, as a form of confession or public recognition of one's sin. In The Scarlet Letter, the scaffold not only represents the act of confessing but it also can be seen as a symbol of the stern, inflexible doctrine of the Puritan faith. The Scarlet Letter is centered on the three scaffold scenes, which unite the work, beginning, middle, and end. Hawthorne uses these scenes to aid in his development of the main characters, Hester Pryne, the Reverend Mr. Dimmsdale, and to a lesser degree, Roger Chillingsworth.

In The Scarlet Letter, Reverend Dimmsdale commits the sin of adultery with Hester Pryne. As a result of this sinful act she bares a child which she names Pearl, the living evidence of their sin. The first scene takes place while Pearl is still an infant. Hester is made to climb the scaffold and stand with Pearl in her arms in front of the town. She is also made to where a red letter A on her dress for the remainder of her life as punishment, unless she were to, "Speak out the guilty name.(1342)" Among the members of the clergy urging her to speak is Dimmsdale. However, Hester does not give the crowd the name. In the Puritan faith it is considered a necessity to confess one's sins. To not do so, in their doctrine, would be harmful to the group. In this scene Dimmsdale...
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