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In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne uses three scenes on the scaffold to emphasize suffering and torment in Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale. Throughout the book, the scaffold has been the symbol of puritan society?s harsh punishment for sinners. The three scaffold scenes in The Scarlet Letter convey the theme of sin not being tolerated whatsoever in Puritan Society.

Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale is tormented throughout the story and in all three scenes with the scaffold. In the second scaffold scene, Dimmesdale is ?overwhelmed with shame, and stand[s] where Hester Prynne had stood? (pg. 139). He ?shriek[s] aloud? (pg. 136) as he remembers the torture he had to endure during Hester?s derision. His lengthy torment of keeping his dark secret causes him a great deal of anguish. His position as a minister entitles him to be a role model for the Christian faith, but he feels unworthy because he is a sinner. In the last scene, Dimmesdale is so burdened with his ?heavy sin and miserable agony? (pg. 230), that he at last confesses his sin to the world. He is compelled to cease withholding his awful secret any longer from the dignified and venerable rulers, his fellow ministers, and his trusting congregation. The last scaffold scene is Dimmesdale?s release of his burden, which accumulates through the story. Dimmesdale?s torture is stretched throughout the story in all three scaffold scenes.

Another significant obstacle for Dimmesdale is to gain Pearl?s acceptance, which is accomplished in the last scaffold scene. The minister?s final speech is at last delivered, and pearl shows her acceptance when she ?kisse[s] his lips? (pg. 233). All other times that Dimmesdale seeks Pearl?s acceptance, she replies with references to the scaffold, further troubling him. The minister trembles at the thought of what could happen if the public would find out his secret. Pearl, who never ceases to be cheerful, is overjoyed in the last scene, ?and her tears [fall] upon her father?s cheek? (pg. 233). She has a true bond with Dimmesdale that is evident even in the second scaffold scene. Dimmesdale is aware of this because he never gets along with children, yet Pearl takes kindly to him (although does not yet fully accept him). This knowledge of Pearl?s longing for a bond punishes him throughout the story, because there is no way he can admit that Pearl is his own.

All three scenes in the novel also have the letter A present in some form to remind Dimmesdale of his own guilt. In the second scene, there is ?the appearance of an immense letter, – the letter A, – marked out in lines of dull red light? (pg. (143). This serves as an alternate way of branding the A into Dimmesdale?s mind. It is nighttime and Hester?s scarlet letter is not visible, so the meteor?s light reiterates the symbol. The first time the letter A comes into the story, it is ?elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread? (pg. 50), and the last time it is in the story, it is a ?ghastly miracle? (pg. 232) on Dimmesdale?s flesh. The original embroidered scarlet letter is the icon for Dimmesdale?s future haunting. Dimmesdale?s years of anguish include clutching his chest, where the symbol is located on Hester. The letter A curses Dimmesdale in all three scenes, and finally manifests itself physically on him.

All in all, Arthur Dimmesdale suffers the ultimate punishment for his sin. The haunting effect of the scarlet letter, distance from his child, and psychological torture are all things that he endure to not be known as a sinner among fellow puritans.


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