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What are the significance of the three scaffold sences? What do they reveal about the...
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The three scenes form a kind of tri-colon, a balanced presentation that is often used in strong rhetorial presentations (Lincoln's Second Inaugrial Address has some wonderful examples). Hawthorne uses them to tie the main characters together. In the first he presents the character of Hester and shows her ambiguity in the face of what the townspeople think should be her shame. All the main characters are there, but the emphasis is on Hester and the revelation of her guilt; we get to learn about the other adult characters through what they have to say about Hester.
In the second scaffold scene all the characters are there, but Hester and Arthur have switched places as he goes through the sham admission of guilt that he thinks (?) might free him from his real burden. Once again Chillingworth is set off from the scene, not a participant in any real suffering, but this time Pearl is older and she can ask the question whether the minister will join hands with them at noon in the town (this, if you can believe that Pearl is capable of such thinking at her young age.)
All the characters come together in the final scaffold scene, this time in the light of day. Chillingworth is a more active participant in this scene, but only to try to continue the sufferings of Dimmesdale. This brings the story to some kind of "resolution" --- for the first time Pearl seems like a real person, Dimmesdale is freed from his guilt through death, and Chillingworth, although not free at the moment, has lost all interest in life since his "purpose" is gone, and will die before long, only to leave everything to Pearl.
It's a great way to frame a story. Hope this helps.
Posted by timbrady on February 14, 2012 at 12:50 PM (Answer #1)
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