Comment on the spiritual, psychological, and moral effects of the second scaffold scene in The Scarlet Letter.

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In the dramatic second scaffold scene, the dying Dimmesdale cries out:

I withheld myself from doing seven years ago, come hither now, and twine thy strength about me! Thy strength, Hester; but let it be guided by the will which God hath granted me! This wretched and wronged old man is opposing it with all his might!—with all his own might, and the fiend's! Come, Hester, come! Support me up yonder scaffold!

He mounts and stands on the scaffold supported by Hester and Pearl. He dramatically does what he could not do years before, confessing to his own adultery and revealing his own scarlet letter to the astonished crowd below.

He dies, but his confession and death bring spiritual, psychological, and moral healing. Chillingworth, as he understands, loses his power to torment Dimmesdale once Dimmesdale has confessed to his crime. Chillingworth says:

“Thou hast escaped me!” he repeated more than once. “Thou hast escaped me!”

Pearl, the odd, impish child of nature, can now fully accept Dimmesdale and love him as her father. She kisses him, cries tears over him, and their relationship is healed. Dimmesdale and Hester look into one another's eyes as he dies, and she tells him she is sure they will see each other in heaven.

This scene shows the power of honest confession to heal a tormented heart and a family unit—Hester, Pearl, and Dimmesdale—torn apart by secrets. The devil—Chillingworth—loses its grip, and the whole scene exudes a sense of purification and release.

The novel shows that while Hester bore a heavy price for her adultery, at least by facing it honestly, she was able to find a needed peace of mind and atone for what she had done. Dimmesdale, by pretending to be what he was not to his community, suffered a great anguish and punishment, but with his confession the moral weight is lifted and he is spiritually freed.

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