Within the Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne the imagery of revelation works as a reoccurring theme to bring the reader into the characters view of the incidences going on before them. These ‘revelations’, scattered throughout the story, work as awakenings or realizations of the current situation that the character is presently in or situations they may have to face in the future. All of the characters presented into the story have revelations of some sort. One key discovery theme used in this story is the realization of identification; this is presented as the characters previously thinking they knew somebody and what they stood for, yet they are proved wrong in their beliefs. Another recurrence of a theme, used in the story, is the usage of the scaffolding in the center of town to unfold a revelation in the characters lives. The scaffolding situation takes place three times within the story, each time with a different circumstance and a change of the witnesses to the scene; but with a revelation that slightly changes the character from what they were before they stood upon the scaffolding.
The first instance when the scaffolding appears is the beginning of the story when Hester Prynne is sentenced to stand upon it, bearing her child and the ominous letter ‘A’, for a set time as her punishment for adultery. This takes place during the day as the entire town is placed before to observe. The second scene of scaffold revelation brings the Reverend Dimmesdale to the top of the platform alone as he attempts to lift the weighty guilt off of his chest. Finally, towards the end of the story, we see Hester, Reverend Dimmesdale, and their child, Pearl standing together in front of the judging crowd. In each of these scenes the revelations captured in that moment by the character or characters remain pivotal parts of story and ultimately of the characters lives.The first scaffolding scene serves as a revelation to, I believe, everyone in the town. Hester’s crime surely must have touched somebody in the large crowd with a revelation of their own guilt.
Shame for a past covered sin or perhaps contempt, as even contempt is a sin that should yield shame, for Hester, herself, was most likely felt in many of the townsfolk that day. Yet, the main revelations coming forth in this scene were brought forth by the realizations of the situations each character found his or herself presently in. Hester, Revered Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth all decide at that very moment what needed to be done to conceal themselves and how their demeanor must be hence forth. Hester, at one point, touches the ‘A’ upon her chest to assure herself that it is truly there. Realization of this mark now sets her to thinking about the future and the concealment of the father of her child. Here and now she decides how to reply when questioned about her crime and her partner within the crime. Acceptance of the mark has now set in and she realizes that she deserves this letter and must wear it as a constant reminder in her everyday life.
Perhaps too, the revelation of the babe being a living ‘scarlet letter’ has already placed itself into her mind. Dimmesdale’s revelation surely unfolded from the time that he first saw Hester with the child, to when she stood alone on the scaffolding, to when he is urged, in front of the crowd, to question her directly about the father of her baby. With each instance more weight was set upon the reverend’s heart. His realization of what he must now conceal and lie about, everyday, surely beings its deep burrow into his soul here, if not much earlier. Hester’s husband, Roger Chillingworth, revels in the circumstance before him when he first walks back into town.
Was that truly his wife? Indeed, his wife had a child and was openly being punished. His revelation also comes with realization of the situation. He realizes that to completely punish Hester, he must now conceal who he really is to the townspeople and allow her to suffer alone. The revelation at during the second scaffolding scene occurs mainly within Revered Dimmesdale; but perhaps serves as a small revelation to Hester as she may now realize what a burden the secret is to the minister. Since the reverend is, at first, alone in this presentation, one can question if he is essentially already at the end of his rope, willing to give up and die here; or perhaps he comes alone because he is not entirely ready for the unveiling of his expiation.
At first since no one can see or hear him; his only thoughts may be that he is weak and unworthy of his position in the community. Is he essentially mocking himself with penitence? He indeed had thought many times how he had wished to exploit himself and his wrong doing but this minor presentation seems as if he wishes the burden to be lifted just by standing upon the scaffolding alone. This vain attempt of redemption seems to wear him down as if he was to give up everything.