Richard Harter Fogle acknowledges the aspect of the superhuman as "the sphere of absolute insight, justice, and mercy: few of Hawthorne's tales and romances can be adequately considered without taking it into account" ("Realms of Being and Dramatic Irony" 309). This superhuman aspect surfaces through Divine Justice in The Scarlet Letter. On the other hand, the merely human application of justice emerges through the Puritan laws, or Earthly Justice. The struggle for supremacy in the novel between Earthly and Divine Justice becomes a central theme, reflected in multiple aspects of the plot. However, the focal point in this struggle manifests itself at the scaffold in Boston, where Divine Justice materializes and ultimately triumphs over Earthly Justice.
The thematic struggle at the battleground of the scaffold unfolds and develops through Hawthorne's three scaffold scenes. Earthly Justice dominates the first scene, where the Puritans force the stoic Hester Prynne, bearing the scarlet "A" on her bosom, to stand on the scaffold in front of the cackling, condemning Puritan crowd. Hawthorne explains that "shame...was the essence of this punishment" (41). Moreover, Ernest Sandeen verifies that a sinner "feels shame before his fellowman and fear before his God" ("The Scarlet Letter as a Love Story" 360), meaning that Earthly Justice induces shame as Divine Justice creates fear. Therefore, since Hester's punishment reduced her to shame on the scaffold, Earthly Justice dispensed its punishment, asserting its authority, in this first scaffold scene.
Also, Dimmesdale's reluctance in this scene to admit his guilt diminishes the hope for Divine Justice, which is fo...
... middle of paper ...
...werful yet merciful Divine Justice that unfailingly watched over them.
Abel, Darrel. "Hawthorne's Hester." The Scarlet Letter. 3rd ed. Eds. Seymour Gross, Sculley Bradley, Richard Croom Beatty, and E. Hudson Long. New York: Norton, 1988. 300-308.
Feidelson, Charles, Jr. "The People of Boston." The Scarlet Letter. 3rd ed. Eds. Seymour Gross, Sculley Bradley, Richard Croom Beatty, and E. Hudson Long. New York: Norton, 1988. 371-375.
Fogle, Richard Harter. "Realms of Being and Dramatic Irony." The Scarlet Letter. 3rd ed. Eds. Seymour Gross, Sculley Bradley, Richard Croom Beatty, and E. Hudson Long. New York: Norton, 1988. 308-315.
Sandeen, Ernest. "The Scarlet Letter as a Love Story." The Scarlet Letter. 3rd ed. Eds. Seymour Gross, Sculley Bradley, Richard Croom Beatty, and E. Hudson Long. New York: Norton, 1988. 350-361.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- The Scaffold and Forest in The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne's work, The Scarlet Letter, focuses on the small Puritan community of Boston during the seventeenth century. In the center of the town is a " . . .weather darkened scaffold. . . (234)" where sinners are made to face the condemning public. The accused experience strange phenomena while on the scaffold - some become braver, some meeker. And whether the public is looking at them or not, they become their true selves on the scaffold.... [tags: Scarlet Letter essays]
765 words (2.2 pages)
- Justice at the Scaffold in The Scarlet Letter Richard Harter Fogle acknowledges the aspect of the superhuman as "the sphere of absolute insight, justice, and mercy: few of Hawthorne's tales and romances can be adequately considered without taking it into account" ("Realms of Being and Dramatic Irony" 309). This superhuman aspect surfaces through Divine Justice in The Scarlet Letter. On the other hand, the merely human application of justice emerges through the Puritan laws, or Earthly Justice.... [tags: Scarlet Letter essays]
1226 words (3.5 pages)
- In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne characterizes the scaffold as a place of humility and remorse, as well as one of unity and freedom. Located “beneath the eaves of Boston’s earliest church,” the scaffold was a place of penal acts (51). Hester served part of her punishment on this scaffold in front a Puritan population that often came to watch the conviction of criminals. Although the adulterer was publicly humiliated on the scaffold, Hester was united with her daughter and lover on the footsteps of the sacred place.... [tags: scaffolds, Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne,]
648 words (1.9 pages)
- To the inhabitants of mid-17th century Boston, the scaffold is a place to gather, gawk, and gossip. In the puritanical society in which the novel is set, the scaffold serves the purpose of giving those who have committed a crime a place to stand and face their fellow citizens. Three times, the scaffold plays a role in a significant scene in the novel, not only elevating a criminal above the heads of others, but also revealing hidden truths. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, the scaffold scenes represent the theme that what happens in the dark will eventually come to light.... [tags: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Book Analysis]
1178 words (3.4 pages)
- ... However, because of this decision, she is not only tormented publicly, but also mentally as well. Mentally, she must keep her feelings for him hidden and carry the burden of knowing her secret lover’s true identity. On page twenty-two, during Hester’s inquisition, Hawthorne shows how Hester feels about her secret lover by having her say, “And so far as the name is concerned, I will endure his agony as well as mine. He may reveal himself if he wishes, but it would not be appropriate for me to do so.” However, Hester is not the only one who stands on the scaffold.... [tags: scaffold, torture, punishment]
591 words (1.7 pages)
- In the novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, we notice that action only happens in a few places, among which are the forest, the market place, the governor’s residence, and Dimmesdale’s house. Although all these locations are significant to the story, the most important symbol among them is certainly the scaffold in the market place, where the story begins and ends. The scaffold’s meaning changes throughout the story and has different values for different characters. It represents humiliation, then insight, and finally redemption for Hester and Dimmesdale, but for Chillingworth, it symbolizes birth of sin, growth of sin, and ultimately consummation by sin.... [tags: Nathaniel Hawthorne]
936 words (2.7 pages)
- Setting is the time and location in which the story takes place. The scaffold is an important setting in the novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The scaffold scenes are the most dramatic and foreshadowing and help highlight the most important events of the novel. This is evident in the beginning, middle and conclusion of the book. The main characters are present in these scenes and the main symbol, the scarlet letter. In the first scaffold scene, Hester Prynne stands at the scaffold holding her infant daughter pearl for public humiliation for her crime.... [tags: The Scarlet Letter]
538 words (1.5 pages)
- The Scaffold of Sin in The Scarlet Letter "This scaffold constituted a portion of a penal machine . . . . The very ideal of ignominy was embodied and made manifest in this contrivance of wood and iron" (Hawthorne 62-63). A scaffold's effect on the novel can be seen through an examination of the first, second, and third scaffold scenes. These sections mark the beginning, middle, and end of the novel. The novel The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is constructed around a scaffold, which provides the story with a constant reminder of sin.... [tags: Scarlet Letter essays]
1151 words (3.3 pages)
- The Scaffold in The Scarlet Letter The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is characterized by three major events that occur on the town scaffold. What takes place on this platform will determine the path which the three main characters, Hester Prynne, Mr. Dimmsdale, and their daughter Pearl will follow. The three scenes mark the beginning, middle, and end of their ignominy. The scaffold is a platform where criminals are punished before all the townspeople. In this case, the criminal is Hester Prynne and the crowd has gathered to witness her shame.... [tags: Scarlet Letter essays]
515 words (1.5 pages)
- The Scarlet Letter - Dimmesdale and the Scaffold Scenes In Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter," there are three very important scenes that all take place at the town scaffold, a place of great shame in their strict Puritan society. These scenes represent the progression of Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale over the course of the story. Each scene involves him in some way and one can easily see that he has changed dramatically in all three. The first scaffold scene takes place in the very beginning of the story.... [tags: Scarlet Letter essays]
410 words (1.2 pages)