Records show that racial terror lynchings from Reconstruction until World War II had six particularly common motivations: (1) a wildly distorted fear of interracial sex; (2) as a response to casual social transgressions; (3) after allegations of serious violent crime; (4) as public spectacle, which could be precipitated by any of the allegations named above; (5) as terroristic violence against the African-American population as a whole; and (6) as retribution for sharecroppers, ministers, and other community leaders who resisted mistreatment—the last becoming common between 1915 and 1945.
During the final scaffold scene, Dimmesdale finally relieves his guilt and unbearable sorrow for his sins. He triumphantly ascends the town scaffold, and he is joined by Hester and his daughter Pearl. Dimmesdale proclaims that he has committed adultery, and he reveals a mark on his chest, possibly an "A" carved into his body, which shocks his devoted congregation. Dimmesdale is no longer ravaged by the overwhelming effects of his guilt, and he dies with a clear conscience. Hawthorne reveals that guilt without atonement can significantly impair a person physically, mentally, and emotionally.