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Justice in the Scaffold in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter Essay

Project id 1012363
Subject area Writing
Document type Essay
Words 2305
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Justice in the Scaffold at The Scarlet Letter Richard Harter Fogle admits the aspect of this superhuman as "the sphere of absolute insight, justice, and mercy: handful of Hawthorne's tales and romances can be satisfactorily considered without taking it into account" ("Realms of Being Dramatic Irony" 309). This superhuman facet surfaces through Divine Justice from The Scarlet Letter. On the flip side, the merely human application of justice emerges through the Puritan laws, or Earthly Justice. The battle for supremacy in the novel between Earthly and Divine Justice becomes a central theme, represented in numerous aspects of the plot. However, the focal point in this struggle manifests itself in the scaffold in Boston, where Divine Justice materializes and ultimately triumphs over Earthly Justice. The thematic struggle in the battleground of the scaffold unfolds and develops through Hawthorne's three scaffold scenes. Earthly Justice dominates the very first scene, in which the Puritans induce the stoic Hester Prynne, bearing the scarlet "A" on her bosom, to stand to the scaffold in the front of this cackling, condemning Puritan audience. Hawthorne clarifies that "shame...was the gist of the punishment" (41). Moreover, Ernest Sandeen verifies a sinner "feels shame before his fellowman and dread before his God" ("The Scarlet Letter as a Love Story" 360), meaning Earthly Justice causes shame as Divine Justice generates fear. As a result, since Hester's punishment reduced her to pity on the scaffold, Earthly Justice dispensed its punishment, claiming its power, in this first scaffold scene. Additionally, Dimmesdale's hesitation in this scene to acknowledge his guilt diminishes the hope for Divine Justice, which is fo...

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