The Hiding Place

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorHigh School, 11th grade February 2008

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The scaffold: the one place in the small Salem village where all things are revealed. Upon its wooded planks nothing is sacred; here the hypocrisy of Puritan morality falls to the feet of the scaffold's target. The first, second, and third scaffold scenes unite all themes of the novel and create a perfect balance between all its main characters. In the first scaffold scene the focus of attention is centered on Hester and the scarlet letter embroidered upon her bosom: "It had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity and enclosing her in a sphere by herself"(Hawthorne 61). Hester endures her transgression alone whereas her lover, Arthur Dimmesdale, shares her platform but not her communal degradation. All of the principal characters participation in the first scaffold scene, Hester's public atonement, Dimmesdale's guilty silence, and the foundation for Chillingworth's evil plot against Hester's lover.

The second scaffold scene provides another meeting point for all the main characters. In addition, this scene upon the forum of sin provides the most concrete images of the scarlet "A" of those throughout the novel: "The minister, looking upward to the zenith, beheld there the appearance of an immense letter-the letter "A"-marked out in lines of dull red light"(150). One has seen Dimmesdale attempt to deal with his guilty conscience however here one travels deep into his unconscious mind. In his saintly torment, he cries out to be heard by Pearl and Hester who soon join him upon his scaffold shame. Here Hester and Dimmesdale are finally united with their child between them while a fiendish face stands illuminated in the darkness watching them, the face of Chillingworth. They are all the personification of the "electric chain" of which Hawthorne paints so perfectly.

The final scaffold scene provides a climatic conclusion with a powerful scene: Pearl secures her humanity, Dimmesdale is set free, Hester loses her love, and Chillingworth loses his victim. The scaffold becomes Dimmesdale's place of confession yet, his escape from Chillingworth's wrath: "Thou hast escaped me!"(238). In this scene the entire anatomy of the story is bound together: the world of the Puritan village, the scarlet letter, and the scaffold.