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I need an essay topic for "The Scarlet Letter," and I want it to based on the scaffold...

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bpem | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 6, 2009 at 5:11 PM via web

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I need an essay topic for "The Scarlet Letter," and I want it to based on the scaffold scenes.

I was planning on doing each of the three scenes seperately and the development of each of the characters during the scene, but when I outlined it, it came out very much like a summary. My teacher recommended that I try to divide the scenes in a way that I wouldn't be able to summarize too much. This is research paper, so any source recommendations (not a free essay site) would be incredibly helpful. Thanks for the time.

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ms-mcgregor | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 7, 2009 at 9:19 AM (Answer #2)

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Each one of the scaffold scenes shows the changes in both Dimmesdale and Hester. In the first scene, Hester comes out wearing a colorful dress with the "A" emblazened almost proudly on her breast. Later in the scene, Hester sees Chillingworth in the crowd and her demeanor changes. By the end of the scene, she is very distraught.

By the second scaffold scene, Hester is dressed much more conservatively and has been chosen by the town to sew the grave clothes of the widely respected Gov, Winthrop. It is obvious that the attitude of the townspeople have changed about her. When she returns from taking the former governor's measurements, she finds Dimmesdale on the scaffold in torment. This is quite a change from the first scaffold scene when he is standing above her on a balcony asking who the father of the child is. By the third scaffold scene, Dimmesdale is the own who is distraught. After he mounts the scaffold and finally reveals his sin publicly, he is lying on the scaffold with Hester kneeling above him. Hawthorne has made the two characters completely change identities in the eyes of the crowd. Hester is now "above" Dimmesdale. The thematic reason is because she has did not hide her sin and learned from it. Dimmesdale, on the other had, hid his sin and that action leads to his death. The guides below offer more information. I hope this helps.

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted January 7, 2009 at 9:19 AM (Answer #3)

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The scaffold scenes are the highpoints of the novel.  You could make the argument that the rising and falling action, or what leads up to and what is a result of each scaffold scene shows the major transitions in the book.  What are those transitions?  How about comparing and contrasting each of the scaffold scenes? Read the link below to get started.  Search a bit within enotes for more discussion on the significance of these scenes, and you'll have enough to work with.  

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 7, 2009 at 9:19 AM (Answer #4)

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Just as the scarlet A changes in meaning, each scaffold scene differs from the next in its symbolic meaning.  For instance, the first scaffold scene is more or less redundant since Hester has already been condemned by the matrons who are envious of her beauty (Ch. 1)and the stern "grey" Puritan code that allows no sin.   In contrast to the first scene which is open and in broad daylight, the second scaffold scene is clandestine:  Dimmesdale stands alone in the dark, answerable to no one--unlike Hester who is cruelly interrogated.  Yet Dimmesdale's scene is more tortured, is it not? Why?

Finally, the third scene--the significance of 3 cannot be ignored, the number of perfection, the Holy Trinity, etc--brings redemption in a sense, not condemnation.  The scaffold is the only place where Dimmesdale can escape Chillingworth's evil grasp.  His standing with Hester and Pearl in the night does not free him, but in the daylight he finds his symbolic acceptance of guilt.

Certainly, these scenes are KEY ones, very significant to the novel.  Do not forget this.  Reading some criticisms on enotes here (the first post gives you reference) should help.  Good Luck--yours is an intriguing topic.

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mshurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 15, 2009 at 4:03 AM (Answer #5)

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Here's another idea for you. You could focus on Dimmesdale only and examine him as a dynamic character. You could show the changes in his character by examining him in each of the scaffold scenes.

Where is he physically in each scene? How does he look? What does he say/do in each scene? Why is he there each time?

By examining these questions, you will be able to show how profoundly his character changes in the novel. Also, if you are writing a 3-point essay (introduction, conclusion, and 3 main body paragraphs), this plan would work nicely for you; each scaffold scene could comprise one main body paragraph.

 

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