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Commentary on The Scarlet Letter Essay


The Scarlet Letter

Committing adultery in the novel The Scarlet Letter was frowned upon by all puritan community.

In the novel a young women named Hester Prynne is being publicly humiliated and punished by the Puritan community for committing adultery in mid-17th century Boston. In The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne provides his readers with three scaffold scenes, which hold a great importance to the novel. The scaffold serves as a place of public punishment and shame, there lies the center of all the action in the novel,as well as the progression of Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale over the course of the story . The first scene is shown at the beginning of the novel when Hester Prynne is first seen being punished for committing adultery and where the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale first acts as Hesters accuser, next is when Arthur Dimmesdale is seen at the scaffold in agony thinking about his sin, the last scene is at the end of the novel where Dimmesdale confesses his sin to all of the towns people.

The first scaffold scene takes place at the beginning of the story when Hester is forced to stand upon the scaffold in shame for three hours in front of a crowd of people. During Hester Prynnes three-hour public sentence, Dimmesdale openly denies his sin. Nathaniel Hawthorne made it obvious that a big secret lies hidden in Dimmesdales soul, although he doesnt reveal it at that time. Arthur Dimmesdale denies his sin when he charges Hester to speak out the name of thy fellow-sinner and fellow-sufferer(76). Arthur here is trying to make sure that none of the townspeople suspect him. It can be interpreted that Dimmesdale's speech is a hint for Hester to not mention his name. He feels he must deny his sin in order to keep his position/standing in the town. Dimmesdale believes that if the town were ever to find out his sin, the townspeople would hate him and that god would never forgive him for his sin. A part of him wants everyone to know his sin,but he feels more safe knowing that Hester won't expose him. In this scene in front of the town, Dimmesdale shows his original strength of character, Hesters public remorse, Dimmesdales reluctance to admit his own guilt, and the beginning of Chillingworths evil plot to find and punish Pearls father. Also this scene is a turning point because it introduces you to the scarlet letter. All of the events are based on the letter and what it symbolizes in the story. Hester is wearing it for the first time here. The scene is also a turning point because it shows the connection with Roger Chillingworth. The hidden relationship between Hester and Chillingworth will lead to many events and turn the story in a different direction that is not just about the scarlet letter, but about Hester's past.

In the middle of the night, seven years after Hesters punishment,Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale goes to the scaffold and holds a silent vigil for his self. Here he finally admits to his sin while standing on the scaffold, just like Hester did years before. Although he does not admit his sin to everyone in town he admits it to himself. He has felt terrible for his sin and feels he as well must be punished. During the scene Arthur Dimmesdale feels remorse for his sin while standing on the scaffold,in this vain show of explanation, Mr. Dimmesdale was overcome with a great horror, as if the universe were gazing at a scarlet token on his naked breast(163).He stands upon the scaffold and screams which he fears will awake the whole town. Hester and Pearl hear his crying as they are on their way home and go to him. There, at Dimmesdales request, that they join him on the scaffold where they stand in the darkness, holding each other. Pearl then asks her father wilt thou stand here tomorrow with mother and me, tomorrow at noontide?(168).Arthur tells his daughter that no he will not be joining them, but he will on judgment day. Pearl sees how he is reacting to what she said and points out his cowardness. She says that he is not brave. When Pearl says this, Dimmesdale is hurt. By Pearl telling him that he is not brave, it pushed him to confess sooner. This scene is a turning point in the story, because Dimmesdale's fear is at last revealed. Hester sees how their whole situation is affecting her lovers life,she starts to feel guilty although its as much his fault as it is hers. Yet it is her being publicly humiliated. Dimmesdale in this scene is trying to decide whether he should reveal his sin,making Hester and pearl happy as well as setting himself free, or keep his reputation and continue being admired and adored by the townspeople. This scene shows the progressive weakening of Dimmesdales continuous strengthening of his passionate side.

In the final scaffold scene Hester,Pearl,and Arthur finally stand together on the scaffold in front of the entire village. As Dimmesdale starts to talk, he also starts to confess his sin and how he was the one Hester committed adultery with. While Dimmesdale is confessing he says Behold me here, the one sinner of the world (280). Dimmesdale is after all this time confessing to his sin. Dimmesdale conquers his guilt and dies right there on the scaffold with an open conscience. Dimmesdale dies with a clear conscience and escapes Chillingworth's evil ways. Dimmesdale's death makes a dramatic change in the story, but also brings it to a close. It is a turning point because Hester and Pearl are left without him. His death brought together the lies,pain,his relationship with Pearl, and and the torture with Chillingworth. In just one scene, everything that happened in the story ended. Dimmesdale's relationship with Chillingworth ended, the confusing relationship with Pearl was no longer a threat, and Dimmesdales pain, physically and emotionally, was over after he confessed and passed away. For Pearl Dimmesdale's confession means that her father has finally acknowledged her, something she has been asking him to do for a long time. She gains a father and the rumors that she was a child of the devil are gone.

In conclusion , these few scenes made dramatic and very interesting twists through out the entire novel. Each scene had its own important role. In the first scaffold scene Dimmesdale is Hester's punisher, in the second Dimmesdale is the one in pain, the last scaffold scene Dimmesdale finally confesses his sin. Finally setting him free and letting him rest in peace. Each of the three scaffold scenes shows the changes that Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale goes through during the story. He goes from being a very strong man with a guilty conscience in the first scene to being completely worn down by that guilt in the second. In the third scene, he triumphs by finally freeing himself of his terrible guilt. These scenes teach a lesson of morality. Its not good to commit adultery, this is a sin and makes you a bad person with no morals.Its better to live with a clear conscience then to live in sin.

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