The Scarlet Letter
Dimmesdale's Progression through the Scaffold Scenes
Nathaniel Hawthorne's dramatic novel, The Scarlet Letter, exposes the hypocrisy of a seventeenth-century Puritan society through the lives of two sinners, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale and Hester Prynne. Both have committed a sin that ultimately strengthens them. Although Dimmesdale conceals his sin from public scrutiny during the majority of his life, he undergoes a significant metamorphosis. Hawthorne utilizes the three scaffold scenes throughout the novel in order to manifest the progression of Dimmesdale from a craven, self-preserving, and religiously bound minister to a more candid and truly passionate father.
Unfortunately, Dimmesdale's positive change from a feeling of weakness and cowardice is belated; thus, he is unable to evade his intensifying guilt and prevent his ultimate death. Hawthorne manifests these characteristics of frailty through his descriptions of Dimmesdale during the first scaffold scene: "...apt to be tremulous, expressing both nervous sensibility and a vast power of self-restraint" (59). By characterizing Dimmesdale as a man lacking courage, Hawthorne introduces the disadvantage Dimmesdale will later face-his inner struggle with hidden sin. His "self-restraint" comes from...
Join Now to View Premium Content
GradeSaver provides access to 769 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 5131 literature essays, 1556 sample college application essays, 195 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.
Already a member? Log in