Scarlet Letter

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Evan Mowrer Per. 3 Jr. English Scarlet Letter Jan.10, 1999 Word count 894 Arthur Dimmesdale, the principal character in Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter is a troubled individual, for in him rests the central conflict of the book. On the one hand, he is moved by his heart his love for freedom and his passion for Hester Prynne. On the other hand, he is ruled by his head, his knowledge of Puritanism and its denial of all fleshly love. He has committed sin of adultery but is unable to see divine forgiveness, believing as puritans did that that there was no grace for the sinner. His dilemma his struggle to cope with sin, is clearly evidenced in the three scaffold scenes depicted in the Scarlet letter. (These scenes form a progression through which Dimmesdale is shown at first to deny, then to accept reluctantly and finally to conquer his sin.)

The Scarlet Letter starts off with a scaffold scene. Where that Hester Pryne was forced to stand on a scaffold holding her new daughter Pearl. "People say," said another, "that the Reverend Master Dimmesdale, her godly pastor, takes it very grievously to heart that such a scandal should have come upon his conjuration." (pg.79) For committing the sin of adultery and not telling who the father was. Who is Arthur Dimmesdale a priest. While all the towns people looked, pointed and laughed at her and she was forced to wear the scarlet letter "A". . "On the other hand, a penalty which, in our days, would infer a degree of mocking infamy and ridicule, might then be invested with almost as stern a dignity as the punishment of death itself." (Pg. 77-78). The first scaffold scene starts with Hester walking from the prison through the marketplace showing off her scarlet "A". All the way to the scaffold. "When the young women-the mother of this child-stood fully revealed before the crowd, it seemed to be her first impulse to clasp the infancy closely to her bosom." (pg.80) Where she stands being humiliated, while Arthur Dimmesdale looks on watching her being humiliated but still will not admit to his sinful act.

The twelfth chapter is about the second scaffold scene where that Arthur Dimmesdale decides to go out at midnight and stand on the scaffold and admit his sin. "The minister might stand there, if so pleased him, until morning should redden in the east." (pg.167) To his surprise, there's nobody there to find him. Except Hester and Pearl who he asked to step up onto the scaffold with him so they can all be together. But they refused and ask him to come and stand with them the next day but he refused. "And thus, while standing on the scaffold, in this vain show of expiration, Mr. Dimmesdale was overcome with a great horror of mind, as if the universe were gazing at a scarlet token on his breast, right over his heart." (pg.168) Later that night Roger Chillingsworth comes to find him and takes him home to heal him, yet secretly kill him. "Poor, miserable man! What right had infirmity like his to burden itself with crime? Crime is for the iron-nerved, who have their choice either to endure it, or, if it press too hard, to exert their fierce and savage strength for a good purpose." (pg.168) That day Hester and Pearl are marched through the market place to stand on the scaffold once again and again asked to tell who Pearls father was, but once again Hester refused. This scaffold scene isn't the same as the first because the towns people don't make as big of deal about it because it's old news.

The third scaffold scene takes place at the end of the book. There was a big parade to elect a new mayor. " In the open air their rapture broke into speech. The street and market-place absolutely babbled, from side to side, with applause of the minister." (pg.261) And at the end of the parade Arthur, Hester and pearl where planning on going to England. And at the end of parade right before they were supposed to leave Arthur decides to finally admit that he is the father of Pearl. "Thus, there had come to the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale as to most men, in their various spheres, though seldom recognized until they see it far behind them- an epoch of life more brilliant and full of triumph than any previous one, or than any which could hereafter be." (pg.262) So he gets up onto the scaffold and starts to admit his guilt and then is joined by Hester and Pearl. And as a family they admit the sin. Then Arthur falls and as he dies. "Hush, Hester, hush!" said he, with tremulous solemnity. "The law we broke! - The sin here so awfully revealed! - Let these alone be in thigh thoughts!" (pg.269) He apologizes to Hester and Pearl for not admitting it sooner.

In the final scene, Dimmesdale overcomes the grip of Puritanism and turns directly to God. "With God's help, I will escape thee now," he says to Chillingworth. And, in fact, he does escape Satan, commending himself into the hands of grace. Dimmesdale is finally victorious over evil. With an open conscience, he faces God and dies knowing that there is salvation and freedom from sin.