"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.
The first scaffold scene sets the stage for the novel; it
establishes who the main characters are, and where they stand in relation
to each other in the story. This scene is where Hester Prynne's sin first
appears in the novel. The "Goodwives" of the congregation discuss Hester's
crime of adultery: "This woman has brought shame upon us all, and ought to
die" (Hawthorne 59). The scaffold allows Hester Prynne's sin to be
publicized and marveled at by the New Englanders. It is here that the
reader becomes aware of Hester being shunned as an outsider, when she is
placed on the scaffold: "Knowing well her part, she ascended a flight of
wooden steps, and was thus displayed to the surrounding multitude, at about
the height of a mans shoulders above the street . . . . The unhappy culprit
sustained herself as best a woman might, under the heavy weight of a
thousand unrelenting eyes" (63-64). At the same time, the first scaffold
scene is the setting for the introduction of Roger Chillingworth,
Hester'shusband, and establishes his desire to punish the man who has
wronged both hi...
... middle of paper ...
...ficant in its own way. Without the scaffold's
presence, the novel, The Scarlet Letter, could not stand.
Works Cited and Consulted
Brodhead, Richard H., "New and Old Tales: The Scarlet Letter," Modern Critical Views Nathaniel Hawthorne, New York, Chelsea House Publishers, 1986.
Dibble, Terry J., Cliff Notes on The Scarlet Letter, Lincoln, Cliff Notes, Inc., 1988.
Fogle, Richard Harter, "The Scarlet Letter," Hawthorne's Fiction The Light and The Dark, Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1975.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. New York: St. Martins, 1991.
Matthiessen, F.O., "The Scarlet Letter," Critics on Hawthorne, Readings in Literary Criticism: 16, Coral Gables, University of Miami Press, 1972.
Matthiessen, F.O., Twentieth Century Interpretations of The Scarlet Letter, Englewood Cliffs, Prentice-Halls Inc., 1968.
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