The Scarlet Letter: the Scaffold

Topics: Confession, The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne Pages: 3 (507 words) Published: April 21, 2014
The Scaffold: Revision
In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter Hawthorne uses the recurring motif of the scaffolding in order to symbolize shame and public confession. Through various chapters Hawthorne uses the scaffolding to depict Hester’s shame, Dimmesdale’s struggle, and later his confession.

In the beginning of the novel the scaffold served to symbolize Hester’s public humiliation. As her punishment Hester had to stand on the scaffold as her form of public humiliation. The symbolism of the scaffold in this scene describes the public shaming that Hester was forced to endure. The scaffold is located in the market, the most populous area of the town, and serves as the center of the town as an area for public shame. During the first scaffold scene the reader notices that the scaffold is “as effectual an agent, in the promotion of good citizenship, as ever was the guillotine among the terrorists of France.” Towards the beginning of the novel the scaffold is used to symbolize public humiliation and shame, along with the strictness and severity of Puritan laws.

During the 2nd scaffold scene Dimmesdale stands up on the scaffold and lets out an agonizing scream due to his inner-turmoil. In this scene the scaffold is meant to represent shame, however while Hester’s shame was public, Dimmesdale’s is personal. Dimmesdale is struggling with his feelings of guilt and shame for his sin and for his cowardliness. The scaffold represents the guilt and shame that Dimmesdale feels for what he has done and that he cannot find the strength to confess, “And thus, while standing on the scaffold, in this vain show of expiation, Mr. Dimmesdale was overcome with a great horror of mind, as if the universe were gazing at a scarlet token on his naked breast, right over his heart” Hawthorne uses the second scaffold scene to depict how severe Dimmesdale’s battle within himself and the shame that is eating him away.

In the 3rd scaffold scene the symbolism of the scaffold...
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