FC: The Scarlet Letter | Scaffold Symbol
1: The scaffold is used in the beginning of the novel as a symbol of condemnation. It "...constituted a portion of a penal machine."(ch.1 pg. 53) Hester Prynne is made to stand on the platform in front of the townspeople while holding her infant Pearl as punishment for her sin of adultery committed with the Reverend Dimmesdale.
2: Hester spots Roger Chillingworth, her husband, far out into the crowd while she is on the scaffold. The author states that Hester "...was at length relieved, by discerning on the outskirts of the crowd a figure which irresistibly took possession of her thoughts.(ch.3 pg.57) Chillingworth's position far out into the crowd away from Hester and Pearl represents how he is not yet of importance to Hester.
3: The Reverend Dimmesdale is seated on a balcony over top the scaffold Hester is standing on. Governor Billingham and John Wilson, the eldest clergyman, are also seated with Dimmesdale. Dimmesdale's position above Hester symbolizes his prominence over Hester at the beginning of the novel.
4: During the middle of the novel, the scaffold serves as a symbol of repentance. Dimmesdale goes to the scaffold in a vain "...show of expiation..."(ch. 12, pg 139) . | He suddenly becomes overwhelmed with the thought of everyone seeing him there and begins to frighten himself with his own thoughts of humiliation. Though a meteor appears in the sky as he is standing upon the scaffold symbolizing the recognition and forgiveness of his sin by God.
5: While standing on the scaffold Dimmesdale asks Hester and Pearl to get on the scaffold along side him. "The three formed an electric chain." (ch. 12 pg. 143) They all finally were on the same level where they should have been at the start of the novel. | Chillingworth makes his way to the scaffold to take Dimmesdale home but never ascends the scaffold. Chillingworth has symbolically gotten closer to the three but doesn't reach the same level they are on. He is still beneath them.
6: In the final scaffold scene, Hester, Pearl, and Dimmesdale are standing on the scaffold. Dimmesdale realizes that he's dying and it's his last chance to confess his sin to everyone. Dimmesdale is weak and falls. | “in the name of Him, so terrible and so merciful, who gives me grace, at this last moment, to do what – for my own heavy sin and miserable agony – I withheld myself from doing seven years ago..." Ch 23 Pg 237
7: Dimmesdale falling... | "This wretched and wronged old man is opposing it with all his might! – with all his own might and the fiend’s! Come, Hester, come! Support me up yonder scaffold!” Ch 23 Pg 237
8: "and God is merciful! Let me now do the will which he hath made plain before my sight. For, Hester, | I am a dying man So let me make haste to take my shame upon me." Ch 23 Pg 238
9: Dimmesdale's letter A is finally revealed. At the end Hester and Pearl are represented as being above everyone. Dimmesdale is below them, but not as low as Chillingworth. Chillingworth is below all of them. He no longer can torment Dimmesdale.