The Scarlet Letter Essay
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne has many different characters that have each committed a sin. Each character’s sin has caused them to change throughout the novel. One character, Dimmesdale, changes significantly throughout each scaffold scene.
Sinners are expected to bare the punishment of humiliation by standing upon the scaffold for the townspeople to ridicule them. Dimmesdale changes from trying to act like he did not commit adultery, to realizing he did, to finally confessing the sin to the townspeople. At the first scaffold scene, Governor Bellingham calls Dimmesdale to the scaffold to “exhort [Hester] to repentance and to confession” (Hawthorne 46). As he was being summoned by the Governor, Dimmesdale “bent his head in silent prayer, as it seemed, and then came forward”, looking as though he was nervous or praying for help (Hawthorne 46). Dimmesdale begins pretending that he is not the father of the child when he says to Hester, “I charge thee to speak out thy name of thy fellow-sinner and fellow-sufferer” (Hawthorne 47).
He is trying to act as though he is not the father because he doesn’t want to be punished and he doesn’t want the townspeople to think bad of him because he is the Reverend. When Hester was being questioned she was refusing to answer so Dimmesdale quickly stated “she will not speak…wondrous strength and generosity of a woman’s heart! She will not speak!” (Hawthorne 48).
When Hester would not confess who the father was, Dimmesdale moved on so that he would not get questioned. At the second scaffold scene, Dimmesdale found himself “walking in the shadow of a dream…[he] reached the spot, where, now so long since, Hester Prynne had lived through her first hour of public ignominy” (Hawthorne 101). When he arrived at the scaffold he found that, “the town was all asleep” (Hawthorne 101).
Dimmesdale went to the scaffold because “he had been driven by the impulse of that remorse that dogged him” (Hawthorn 101). He was feeling so guilty that “he felt his limbs growing stiff with the unaccustomed chilliness of the night, and doubted whether he should be able to descend the steps of the scaffold” (Hawthorne 104). While Dimmesdale was on the scaffold Hester and Pearl came to him and he said to them “come up hither once again and we will stand all three together!” (Hawthorne 105). One reason Dimmesdale felt guilty was because Pearl was upset with him and said “thou wast not bold!–thou wast not true!..
. Thou wouldst not promise to take my hand, and mother’s hand, to-morrow noontide!” (Hawthorne 108). The third scaffold scene is when Dimmesdale finally confesses his sin. As he is approaching the scaffold in front of all of the townspeople he says “Hester…come hither! Come my little Pearl” (Hawthorne 172). As he confesses to everyone watching he says “I withheld myself from doing two years ago, come hither now and twine thy strength about me” (Hawthorne 173). “With a convulsive motion, he tore away the ministerial band from before his breast” he revealed his form of the scarlet letter that Hester was forced to wear-he had branded himself with the letter ‘A’ (Hawthorne 175). Dimmesdale finally accepted Hester and Pearl into his life when he allowed “Pearl [to kiss] his lips” (Hawthorne 175). Throughout the novel, Dimmesdale changes his perspective on the sin he committed with Hester.
The beginning of the novel is when Dimmesdale would not admit that he had committed a sin. The novel finishes with him admitting to himself and everyone else that sin that he committed. In the first scaffold scene, Dimmesdale convinces the townspeople that he was not the father of Hester’s child. He admits to himself and Hester that he was guilty of adultery in the second scaffold scene. In the third scaffold scene Dimmesdale confesses his sin to the townspeople and “[dies] this death of triumphant ignominy before the people” (Hawthorne 176). Works Cited Hawthorne, Nathaniel.
The Scarlet Letter. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, 2009. Print.