In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s, The Scarlet Letter, the author uses three scaffold scenes to mark the development of Hester Prynne. The image of Hester atop the scaffolding is a metaphor for her forced solitude; for her banishment from society; and for the futility of her punishment. In the first scene, Hawthorne uses the scaffold to explain how Hester can not believe that the “A” and the baby are real. In the second scaffold scene, Hawthorne tries to convey to the reader that Hester has fully repented for her sin, however this is not true. In the final scaffold scene, Hester does not yet fully repent for her sin because her love for Dimmesdale is still strong. Through Hester, Hawthorne is trying to communicate to the reader that it difficult for Hester to repent the sin of adultery.
In the first scaffold scene, the author writes “Could it be true? She clutched the child so fiercely to her breast, that it sent forth a cry; she turned her eyes downward at the scarlet letter, and even touched it with her finger, to assure herself that the infant and shame were real. Yes!-these were her realities-all else had vanished” (page 41) From this quote the reader learns that Hester is just beginning to deal with the shame of her sin. It is evident from this quote that she has not yet come to grips with her actions. She is in an utter state of shock, and it seems as if she is trying to find a way to forget about her sins. What is also learned from this quote is that Hester, is a proud women. This quote symbolizes Hester’s pride because even though her life is at a low ebb, and, she faces the reality of the Scarlet Letter, she attempts to hold her head and the head of her infant high. Here the scaffold represents her unwillingness to accept her sin.
In the second scaffold scene, it seems as if Hester has changed from sinner into a citizen who now has a job in society, and that she no longer yearns for Dimmesdale and Dimmesdale no longer covets her. However, this is not true. Hawthorne writes, “The moment that he did so, there came what seemed a tumultuous rush of new life, other life than his own, pouring like a torrent into his heart, and hurrying through all his veins…The three formed an electric chain.” (page 105) The reader learns from this quote that Dimmesdale and Hester still have a great love for each other. It is also from this quote that the “A” on Hester has not worked as well as it was intended. Hester still has a great love for the man with whom she had an affair and this may never change. Furthermore, her banishment has given her time to focus on her love for Dimmesdale. Here the scaffold represents Hester’s unwillingness to not love Dimmesdale.
In the third scaffold scene, the Hester remains unchanged. She still has her love for Dimmesdale. “Shall we not meet again?… Shall we not spend our immortal life together? Surely, surely we have ransomed one another, with all this woe! Thou lookest far into eternity, with those bright dying eyes!” (page 175) From this last quote it is again apparent that Hester and Dimmesdale still love each other. Hester, the adulteress is contemplating spending her eternal life with her lover. The scaffold represents how futile the punishment is because it does not change Hester in any way.
In conclusion, Hawthorne uses three different scaffold scenes to mark the development of Hester Prynne. The embarrassment atop the scaffold is supposed to punish Hester and make her repent yet it does not. Hester is too proud and too strong to be hurt by the taunting of others. Also, the scarlet letter has not changed Hester’s love towards Dimmesdale or her desire to be with him. The scarlet letter, like the scaffold just portrayed the futility of the punishment.