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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 each other in the story.  This scene is where Hester Prynne's sin first

appears in the novel.  The "Goodwives" of the congregation discuss Hester's

crime of adultery: "This woman has brought shame upon us all, and ought to

die" (Hawthorne 59).  The scaffold allows Hester Prynne's sin to be

publicized and marveled at by the New Englanders.  It is here that the

reader becomes aware of Hester being shunned as an outsider, when she is

placed on the scaffold: "Knowing well her part, she ascended a flight of

wooden steps, and was thus displayed to the surrounding multitude, at about

the height of a mans shoulders above the street . . . . The unhappy culprit

sustained herself as best a woman might, under the heavy weight of a

thousand unrelenting eyes" (63-64).  At the same time, the first scaffold

scene is the setting for the introduction of Roger Chillingworth,

Hester'shusband, and establishes his desire to punish the man who has

wronged both hi...


... middle of paper ...


...ficant in its own way. Without the scaffold's

presence, the novel, The Scarlet Letter, could not stand.

 

Works Cited and Consulted

Brodhead, Richard H., "New and Old Tales: The Scarlet Letter," Modern Critical Views Nathaniel Hawthorne, New York, Chelsea House Publishers, 1986.

Dibble, Terry J., Cliff Notes on The Scarlet Letter, Lincoln, Cliff Notes, Inc., 1988.

Fogle, Richard Harter, "The Scarlet Letter," Hawthorne's Fiction The Light and The Dark, Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1975.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. New York: St. Martins, 1991.

Matthiessen, F.O., "The Scarlet Letter," Critics on Hawthorne, Readings in Literary Criticism: 16, Coral Gables, University of Miami Press, 1972.

Matthiessen, F.O., Twentieth Century Interpretations of The Scarlet Letter, Englewood Cliffs, Prentice-Halls Inc., 1968.


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