The Scaffold of Sin in The Scarlet Letter Essay

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The Scaffold of Sin in The Scarlet Letter

"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
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"It irks me, . . . that the partner of her iniquity should not, at

least, stand on the scaffold by her side. But he will be known! - he will

be known! - he will be known" (69)! An example of the scaffold being a

constant reminder of sin is when Hester and her daughter, Pearl, stand

together on the platform. Pearl's presence, as a three month old child,

represents the birth of this sin between Hester Prynne and her lover. The

final way in which the first scaffold scene sets the stage for the novel is

by foreshadowing Reverend Dimmesdale, the town minister, as being Hester

Prynne's partner in crime. This is shown when Dimmesdale only asks Hester

to announce the name of her lover once, and gives up too easily instead of

pushing her further. Dimmesdale does not want her to confess her lover's

name because he knows that name would be his own.

The second scaffold scene is the turning point in the novel and

leads to the unraveling of the plot. In this scene Dimmesdale is

identified as Hester's lover, and therefore, a part of her sin.

Dimmesdale's role in Hester's mistake becomes clear during this scene: "

While standing on the scaffold, in this vain show of expiation, Mr.

Dimmesdale was overcome with a great horror of mind, as if the universe

were gazing at a scarlet token on his naked breast, right over his heart"

(144).