The Scaffold in "The Scarlet Letter"

Essay by Laska_plHigh School, 12th gradeA-, September 2006

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"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. The first scene at the ominous platform

is Hester's first public appearance with the child and the scarlet letter.

Hester's husband, Roger Prynne (Chillingworth) makes a sudden reappearance

and is among the onlookers. The Reverend Mr. Dimmsdale is also there but

he does not stand with Hester on the scaffold, instead he stands on the

balcony with those who pass judgment on her.

During this time, Reverend Mr. Wilson demands that Hester give the

name of her lover. He gives her the chance to "take the scarlet letter off

[her] breast" if she were to "speak out his name"(64). Had she relented

and revealed his name she might never have had to endure the humiliation of

the scarlet letter. But she refused, and so her path was set.

The second time at the scaffold was a turning point for Hester.

She, Pearl, and Dimmsdale are together for the first time, "...the three

formed an electric chain" as if they were always meant to be together if

something, or someone, had not gotten in their way (140). But it is here

that Hester finally realizes the damage which hiding Chillingworth's

identity has caused Dimmsdale. Chillingworth was "a secret

enemy...continually at his side, under the semblance of a friend and

helper..." when...