Hawthorne's novel "The Scarlet Letter" was published in 1850 and when it was first released it did not do well. It was not until later that it became popular and a success as a book. Although Hawthorne wrote many novels, none of them were as successful as "The Scarlet Letter". It was set in Puritan Boston in the early years of a Massachusetts Bay Colony. Many things can affect what happens in a story and one of those things is setting. In the Scarlet Letter, there is the symbolic significance of various settings: the scaffold; the forest, which ironically becomes an oasis of freedom for Hester and Dimmesdale, though everyone else views it as the devil's territory. .
The scaffold in the town center symbolizes the harsh judgments in Puritan society. Puritan culture exhibits an unforgiving policy for those who do not do what Puritanism says is right and holy. The scaffold is a place in the Scarlet Letter in which Puritan punishment takes its course, through the scorn that the townspeople provide to the victim on the pillory. During Hester's first encounter with the pillory, just after she is released from prison bearing the scarlet A, her reception by the townspeople is defined as "Meagre, indeed, and cold, was the sympathy that a transgressor might look for, from such bystanders at the scaffold. On the other hand, a penalty which, in our days, would infer a degree of mocking infamy and ridicule, might then be invested with almost as stern a dignity as the punishment of death itself" (Hawthorne ). The words "meagre", "cold", and "sympathy" represent the insufficiency of the townspeople's empathy towards Hester, as well as the cruel and unforgiving nature in which they proceeded to treat Hester with. "Bystanders" shows a people who were able to make Hester's life a little less painful by helping her in a time when she had no one to help her, but they instead decided to stand back and allow her torture to continue.