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...

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