The Scaffold's Power in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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The Scaffold's Power in The Scarlet Letter

Recurring events show great significance and elucidate the truth beneath

appearances. In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne chooses the scaffold

scenes to show powerful differences and similarities. Each scaffold scene

foreshadows the next and brings greater understanding of the novel. By

beginning with the first, continuing with the middle, and ending with the last

platform scene, we can gain a better understanding of this masterpiece.

At the beginning of the book, Hester is brought out with Pearl to stand on

the scaffold. Here the scarlet letter is revealed to all. Reverend Dimmesdale,

Pearl's Father, is already raised up on a platform to the same height as Hester

and Pearl; and Roger Chillingworth, Hester's lost husband, arrives, stands below

and questions the proceedings. As Hester endures her suffering, Dimmesdale is

told to beseech the woman to confess. It was said "So powerful seemed the

ministers appeal that the people could not believe but that Hester Prynne would

speak out the guilty name." His powerful speech shows Dimmesdale's need to

confess. This scene sets the stage for the next two scenes.

A few years later the event is again repeated. It is very similar to the

other and helps us understand the torment of Dimmesdale. As before the

tortured Reverend Dimmesdale goes first on to the platform. He seeks a

confession of his sins a second time by calling out into the night. He then

sees Hester and Pearl coming down the street from the governor's house. As

before, they are asked to go up on the scaffold and be with the minister. At

this time Pearl questions the minister if he will do this at noontide and he

answers no. He once again is too much of a coward to confess out in the open.

The similarities continue with a revelation of another scarlet letter. Up in

the sky a scarlet "A" shines forth. Roger Chillingworth arrives and tells the

minister to get down from the scaffold. Chillingworth pleads for this so that

he can still torment the reverend. As the two men leave, the scene ends and

leaves us with additional information. It foreshadows a bigger and more
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