Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Scaffold Scenes

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A scaffold is a place where sinners go to relieve their guilt. Many also had to endure public humiliation. It took a lot of courage for someone to admit their sins and stand in front of a judgmental public. Often times, they were looked down upon and not well liked by many in their Puritan society. In the novel, The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the scaffold scenes are immensely important to the book. We are introduced to all of the main characters and we see how they change from the first scaffold scene to the last, and how each of the scaffold scenes are significant.

During the first scaffold scene, it introduces the main character, Hester Prynne, her symbols of her sin, and is just beginning to show us just how strong of a character she really is. The symbols of her sin are her scarlet letter “A” and her daughter, Pearl. Hester has committed the crime of adultery and her punishment is that she has to wear an embroidered, scarlet “A” on her clothing. Hester has to stand on the scaffold for three hours with the public staring and talking about her. She undergoes harsh criticism by the public, especially the jealous women. One woman said, “At the very least, they should have put the brand of a hot iron on Hester Prynne’s forehead.” Just by this sentence, you can understand the feeling these women have toward Hester. While she was undergoing this harsh criticism she thought back to her previous life in England, which helped her not to give in. Arthur Dimmesdale is her pastor and the father of Pearl, which we haven’t heard of yet. He stands upon the scaffold, not to admit his own guilt, but as her priest trying to defend a member of his congregation. We also hear of the “misshapen scholar” who is Hesters husband, Roger Chillingworth, which is the character who represents evil in this book.

While all of the principle characters are here again, during this second scaffold scene, there is a feeling of togetherness among Hester, Pearl, and Dimmesdale. The difference between this scene and the first one is that Dimmesdale is holding hands with Pearl and Hester and acknowledging them unlike the first time. Even though there isn’t a crowd, Dimmesdale cries out very loudly, and Mr. Wilson, another minister, is the only other person who hears him. He wants to admit to the public of his sin but he is too afraid of what they will think because he is not as strong as Hester is. Pearl asks Mr. Dimmesdale if he will join Hester and her there at noontide but he says that they will meet on the judgment day instead of in daylight. Then, all of sudden, a bright meteor burns through the sky and a red lighted “A” appears. This is but one of the transformations of the scarlet letter “A”. While all of this is happening, Pearl is pointing to Chillingworth, who is looking up at them with a devilish grin.

This is the final scaffold scene and Dimmesdale regains his soul by confessing. The main characters are here again but this time he confesses about his scarlet letter. Over the past few years, his health was slowly getting worse and worse while he was under the care of the evil physician, Chillingworth. After seven long years, the pain inside him had built up so much that he felt like he had to confess to the public before he died. Even though people looked down upon him for keeping this secret for so long, he was very relieved to finally come clean. Dimmesdale confessed not only for himself but also for the sake of Hester and Pearl. He finally escapes the evil of Chillingworth, who without his victim, shrivels up and dies. This shows the end of evil on earth. Dimmesdale leaves his fate up to God to decide if he will go to heaven or not. Pearl finally kisses Dimmesdale and accepts him as her father. This symbolizes that everything will be all right for her and that she will lead a normal life even though she was an abnormal child.

In conclusion, the scaffold scenes are a very important, contributing part to the book because they show what happens to the sinners and how it changed from the first to the last scene. In the first scaffold scene, Hester is all alone holding Pearl without Dimmesdale acknowledging them. However, in the second scaffold scene Dimmesdale holds hands in hope to someday be with them forever in another life. Dimmesdale regains his soul and everyone’s problems seem to be solved in this last scene. Mr.Chillingworth, who represents evil in this book, dies because Dimmesdale overcomes his evil, which was committing the sin with Hester and keeping it to himself. The scaffold was an important place because sinners went there to relieve their guilt and often times had to endure public humiliation. No matter the reason sinners went there, the scaffold helped them overcome their sins.

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