The Scarlet Letter: The Scaffold's Power
Recurring events show great significance and elucidate the truth beneath
appearances. In The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne chooses the scaffold
scenes to show powerful differences and similarities. Each scaffold scene
foreshadows the next and brings greater understanding of the novel. By
beginning with the first, continuing with the middle, and ending with the last
platform scene, we can gain a better understanding of this masterpiece.
At the beginning of the book, Hester is brought out with Pearl to stand on
the scaffold. Here the scarlet letter is revealed to all. Reverend Dimmesdale,
Pearl's Father, is already raised up on a platform to the same height as Hester
and Pearl; and Roger Chillingworth, Hester's lost husband, arrives, stands below
and questions the proceedings. As Hester endures her suffering, Dimmesdale is
told to beseech the woman to confess. It was said "So powerful seemed the
ministers appeal that the people could not believe but that Hester Prynne would
speak out the guilty name." His powerful speech shows Dimmesdale's need to
confess. This scene sets the stage for the next two scenes.
A few years later the event is again repeated. It is very similar to the
other and helps us understand the torment of Dimmesdale. As before the
tortured Reverend Dimmesdale goes first on to the platform. He seeks a
confession of his sins a second time by calling out into the night. He then
sees Hester and Pearl coming down the street from the governor's house. As
before, they are asked to go up on the scaffold and be with the minister. At
this time Pearl questions the minister if he will do this at noontide and he
answers no. He once again is too much of a coward to confess out in the open.
The similarities continue with a revelation of another scarlet letter. Up in
the sky a scarlet "A" shines forth. Roger Chillingworth arrives and tells the
minister to get down from the scaffold. Chillingworth pleads for this so that
he can still torment the reverend. As the two men leave, the scene ends and
leaves us with additional information. It foreshadows a bigger and more
powerful scaffold scene.
The last scaffold scene is the most important and greatest event in the
novel. It starts with the end of Dimmesdale's great election speech. When he is
finished, he grows weak and limps towards the scaffold. He can no longer bear
the burden of his sins. He again asks Hester and Pearl to join him.
Chillingworth begs the minister not to do this, but the reverend thanks God for
leading him to a place where he could escape from the leech. Helped by Hester
and Pearl he climbs the scaffold and confesses. One last time a new scarlet
lettter is supposedly revealed on his chest. This voluntary confession makes
this time unique. As the scene ends Dimmesdale again leaves Hester and Pearl;
but this time, it is forever into the after life.
These three important events in the novel have great significance. The
first one signifies love. Hester had such strong love that she would not make
Dimmesdale go through what she was going through. The second scaffold scene
signifies cowardice. The reverend was suffering much and yet would not relieve
his suffering through confession. The ending event signifies bravery. Even
though he didn't have to confess, Dimmesdale did.
The Scarlet Letter's recurring event was very potent. It gave new aspects
and meanings to the story that were integral to the book's power. Truth