"The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Significance of the Three Scaffold Scenes

Essay by ihate2readHigh School, 11th gradeA, May 2004

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Everyone as children have those special moments that make them feel like they are older. Getting an allowance, a later curfew, their first job: these are all big steps in one's life to maturing and becoming an adult. There are the important times that one never forgets because of their huge effect on that person's life. Nathaniel Hawthorne uses the three scaffold scenes in The Scarlet Letter to reveal to the readers three stages in each of the main characters' lives, and he also uses them to construct the beginning, the climax, and the end of the story. The very first scene that introduces us to the novel is that with Hester holding Pearl up on the scaffold. This significant scaffold is located right outside of the prison and is the place where sinners go to be displayed publicly. This first scene works perfectly to introduce the story because it introduces the sin that Hester committed, which is basically the center of the entire story.

The scene is used to show the four different characters at an early stage in each of their lives. For Hester, this is definitely the first day of the rest of her life. She is persecuted and sentenced to wear a scarlet "A" on her chest for the rest of her life. From here on out, her life is drastically changed forever because of the new way she will be viewed by her fellow townspeople. Also in this scaffold scene, she notices her husband, Chillingworth, watching in the crowd. Here he is first receiving knowledge of his wife's betrayal of him. Hearing this news, he is just setting out on his obsessive quest for revenge. And as for Dimmesdale, he is questioning Hester in the beginning to reveal who her lover is. This is...