Scarlet Letter Study Guide

Chapter 1 “The Prison Door” 1. What colony is the setting for the novel? Massachusetts
Chapter 1 “The Prison Door” 2. Where in the colony does the opening chapter take place? Boston, outside the jail
Chapter 1 “The Prison Door” 3. For what 2 “practical necessities” did the new colony set aside land? Cemetery, Prison
Chapter 1 “The Prison Door” 5. What 2 possible symbols does the rose have for the reader? sweet morality/relief of sorrow
Chapter 2 “The Market-Place” 1. Name 3 crimes and the punishments that the Puritans might witness. Sluggish servant-> WhippingHeretics-> ScourgingWitches-> Death on gallows
Chapter 2 “The Market-Place” 2. What is the relationship between religion and law in Puritan New England? Civil and religious laws carry equal weight.
Chapter 2 “The Market-Place” 3. Describe the Puritan women. Use one quote from the book to support your answer. Coarse. “Morally, as well….”
Chapter 2 “The Market-Place” 4. What punishments would the Puritan women have given Hester Prynne if it were left to them? Branding and even death
Chapter 2 “The Market-Place” 5. Describe the appearance of Hester Prynne. Beautiful; tall; long black hair; and black eyes, elegant
Chapter 2 “The Market-Place” 6. What is Hester’s sin? Punishment? Adultery→ prison, plus scarlet letter
Chapter 2 “The Market-Place” 7. What is astonishing about the “A” on her bodice? It’s really fancy and embroidered
Chapter 2 “The Market-Place” 8. Why is Hester taken to the scaffold in the market-place? Public shaming
Chapter 2 “The Market-Place” 9. What things does Hester think about while she is on the scaffold? her old house, childhood, parents, man w/deformed shoulder, and her new life
Chapter 2 “The Market-Place” 10. How old is her baby? . 3 months at this time.
Chapter 2 “The Market-Place” 11. What detail is given to suggest the baby was born in jail? Eyes unaccustomed to sunlight
Chapter 3 “The Recognition”: 1. Describer the man who is standing on the outskirts of the crowd. A man dressed in Indian attire who had deformed shoulders and a wise face
Chapter 3 “The Recognition”: 2. What prior reference was made in Chapter 2 that reminds the reader of this man? Misshapen scholar
Chapter 3 “The Recognition”: 3. What gesture does he make to Hester that suggests he knows her? Shushing gesture (finger to lips)
Chapter 3 “The Recognition”: 4. What does the stranger learn from the townsman next to him? She’s on the scaffold for adultery
Chapter 3 “The Recognition”: 5. Who is the father of Hester’s baby? Dimmesdale
Chapter 3 “The Recognition”: 6. What is the usual punishment for adultery? Why is Hester’s punishment less severe? Death. Dimmesdale is merciful, basically. They don’t know if her husband is still alive. The man that did it is assumed to be the instigator of the adultery and tempted Hester.
Chapter 3 “The Recognition”: 7. What are Hester’s feelings toward the stranger? Hester is very self-conscious and almost afraid of him. Hester knows Chillingworth’s arrival will certainly complicate things.
Chapter 3 “The Recognition”: 8.Who is Bellingham? John Wilson? Governor/ really old clergyman
Chapter 3 “The Recognition”: 9. What do Bellingham and Wilson want Hester to do? Hurry up and confess
Chapter 3 “The Recognition”: 10. Describe Dimmesdale. A young, educated clergyman who was known to be expressive/eloquent, yet nervous
Chapter 3 “The Recognition”: 11. What is his relationship to Hester? What does he ask her to reveal? Dimmesdale is the husband of Hester’s illegitimate child. He asks her to reveal her father
Chapter 3 “The Recognition”: 12. Why won’t Hester name the child’s father? because it’s Dimmesdale
Chapter 4 “The Interview”: 1. How does Hester act when she returns to prison? Distraught
Chapter 4 “The Interview”: 2. Why does the jailer call a doctor? Hester is distraught. “As night approached, it proving impossible to quell her insubordination by rebuke or threats of punishment, Master Brackett, the jailer, thought fit to introduce a physician.”
Chapter 4 “The Interview”: 3. What is the doctor’s name? Roger Chillingworth
Chapter 4 “The Interview”: 4. Where did the “doctor” learn his skill? Wilderness/England
Chapter 4 “The Interview”: 6. What is the relationship between Chillingworth and Hester? Married
Chapter 4 “The Interview”: 7. Why should Hester’s marriage be a failure? Hester never loved her husband.
Chapter 4 “The Interview”: 8. Did Hester ever love her husband? Quote Hester to support your answer. no
Chapter 4 “The Interview”: 9. What does Chillingworth vow to do? Make Dimmesdale his
Chapter 4 “The Interview”: 10. What secret does Chillingworth ask Hester to keep? His identity
Chapter 4 “The Interview”: 11. What symbol is introduced for Chillingworth in Hester’s final lines in this chapter? Satan
Chapter 5: “Hester at Her Needle”: 1. What “general symbol” has Hester become? Sin
Chapter 5: “Hester at Her Needle”: 2. Give at least 2 reasons why Hester does not leave the colony. She wants her earthly punishment there/Dimmesdale is there
Chapter 5: “Hester at Her Needle”: 3. Describe Hester’s home. Isolated, lonely
Chapter 5: “Hester at Her Needle”: 4. What talent did Hester use to support herself and Pearl ? Sewing
Chapter 5: “Hester at Her Needle”: 5. What garments is Hester not allowed to sew? Wedding gowns
Chapter 5: “Hester at Her Needle”: 6. Why type of dress did Hester wear? Pearl ? Plain/extravagant
Chapter 5: “Hester at Her Needle”: 7. What does Hester do that shows she has a charitable nature? Sews clothes for poor
Chapter 5: “Hester at Her Needle”: 8. How did the poor, the ladies of Boston , the clergy, and the children treat Hester? Poorly
Chapter 5: “Hester at Her Needle”: 9. What special knowledge does Hester feel the Scarlet Letter gives her? Others’ sin
Chapter 6: “Pearl”: 1. Why did Hester name her child ” Pearl ” ? She cost Hester so much, nearly everything.
Chapter 6: “Pearl”: 2. Describe Pearl’s physical appearance and behavior. Beautiful/inexplicable
Chapter 6: “Pearl”: 3. What does the Scarlet Letter mean to Pearl? Even before she can speak, she is grasping for the letter, as if she knows that this holds the secret of her birth, and that its power led to her own creation. Hester does not have the ability to tame her daughter; she simply gives in to the child’s inner nature. What is suggested, then, is that as long as Hester herself remains unsure about the moral consequences of her affair, so long as she lives in limbo between passion and duty, we could say, she will never be able to control Pearl. But once she makes peace with her sin, Pearl may truly become her child, a child of love.
Chapter 6: “Pearl”: 4. What did the townspeople say about Pearl ? Daughter of Satan
Chapter 7: “The Governor’s Hall”: 1. Name 2 reasons Hester visits Governor Bellingham. Deliver glovedispute custody
Chapter 7: “The Governor’s Hall”: 2. How are the Scarlet Letter and Pearl alike? Both symbolize Hester’s sin
Chapter 8: “The Elf and the Minister” : 1. Who are the other visitors at the Governor’s house? Dimmesdale, Wilson, and Chillingworth
Chapter 8: “The Elf and the Minister” : 2. How much time has elapsed since the opening scene? 2-3 years
Chapter 8: “The Elf and the Minister” : 3. With what creatures of fantasy is Pearl continually compared? Elves and fairies and imps
Chapter 8: “The Elf and the Minister” : 4. How has Chillingworth changed since Hester last saw him? he got ugly and evil
Chapter 8: “The Elf and the Minister” : 5. Why does John Wilson question Pearl? Challenge Hester’s custody
Chapter 8: “The Elf and the Minister” : 6. How has Rev. Dimmesdale changed since Hester’s public humiliation? Dimmesdale finally interacts with Hester. Instead of standing idly by burdened by his secrets, he actually tries to help Hester keep Pearl. He uses his influence and skilled rhetoric to help Hester. Although still crushed by his sin, Dimmesdale becomes a more dynamic character. “The minister,—for, save the long-sought regards of woman, nothing is sweeter than these marks of childish preference, accorded spontaneously by a spiritual instinct, and therefore seeming to imply in us something truly worthy to be loved,—the minister looked round, laid his hand on the child’s head, hesitated an instant, and then kissed her brow.”
Chapter 8: “The Elf and the Minister” : 7. Who pleads successfully for Hester to keep her child? Dimmesdale
Chapter 8: “The Elf and the Minister” : 8. To which visitor does Pearl respond to lovingly? Dimmesdale
Chapter 9: “The Leech”: 1. What new identity has Chillingworth assumed in Boston? Why is he successful? Dimmesdale’s constant companion and doctor. He is successful as a doctor because he got gud
Chapter 9: “The Leech”: 2. To whom in the colony does Chillingworth attach himself as a medical advisor? Dimmesdale
Chapter 9: “The Leech”: 3. Describe Dimmesdale’s health. Dimmesdale looked frail, weak, and withdrawn. Dimmesdale gets into the permanent habit of placing his hand over his heart in pain.”About this period, however, the health of Mr. Dimmesdale had evidently begun to fail. By those best acquainted with his habits, the paleness of the young minister’s cheek was accounted for by his too earnest devotion to study, his scrupulous fulfilment of parochial duty, and, more than all, by the fasts and vigils of which he made a frequent practice, in order to keep the grossness of this earthly state from clogging and obscuring his spiritual lamp. Some declared, that, if Mr. Dimmesdale were really going to die, it was cause enough, that the world was not worthy to be any longer trodden by his feet.”
Chapter 9: “The Leech”: 4. What gesture has become Dimmesdale’s habit? Putting the hand over his heart.
Chapter 9: “The Leech”: 5. Quote a sentence from this chapter that associates Chillingworth with evil. “Now there was something ugly and evil in his face, which they had not previously noticed, and which grew still the more obvious to sight the oftener they looked upon him.”
Chapter 9: “The Leech”: 6. What two opposing views do the townspeople hold about Roger Chillingworth? Wise, saintly, providential doctor versus vengeful devil
Chapter 10: “The Leech and His Patient” : 1. What “investigation” consumes Chillingworth? The investigation of Dimmesdale’s heart
Chapter 10: “The Leech and His Patient” : 2. Who is Chillingworth’s main suspect and victim? Dimmesdale is the main suspect and victim
Chapter 10: “The Leech and His Patient” : 3. What is a leech? What double meaning does the world “leech” have? Physician (“one who heals,” -laece O.E.). Other meaning is the literal leech worm that sticks to you and sucks yer blood
Chapter 10: “The Leech and His Patient” : 4. What secret does Chillingworth believe is buried in Dimmesdale’s heart? His and Hester’s affair
Chapter 10: “The Leech and His Patient” : 5. Why would Dimmesdale live with guilt and not confess his sin openly? He’s afraid of the consequences. He’s famous.
Chapter 10: “The Leech and His Patient” : 6. What reaction does Pearl have to Chillingworth when she sees him with Rev. Dimmesdale? She yells to Hester, telling her to run away before the Black Man gets her as he has already gotten Reverend Dimmesdale
Chapter 10: “The Leech and His Patient” : 7. What discovery does Chillingworth make when Dimmesdale “fell into a deep, deep slumber”? That he had the letter “A” branded on his chest (we don’t know this for sure yet)
Chapter 11: “The Interior of a Heart”: 1. What effect does Reverend Dimmesdale’s guilt have upon his popularity in the colony? It skyrockets, and he is seen as a “miracle of holiness”
Chapter 11: “The Interior of a Heart”: 2. What practices does Dimmesdale begin as a result of his guilt? He scourges (whips) himself, fasting, not sleeping.
Chapter 12: “The Minister’s Vigil”: 1. What is a vigil? A period of keeping awake during the time usually spent asleep, especially to keep watch or pray.
Chapter 12: “The Minister’s Vigil”: 2. Where does Dimmesdale hold his vigil? on the scaffold Hester stood on 7 years earlier
Chapter 12: “The Minister’s Vigil”: 3. Why are Hester and Pearl out at midnight? Hester was attending the death bed of Governor Winthrop and measuring him for a robe. (Winthrop dies in 1649 so this gives us a time frame for the narrative)
Chapter 12: “The Minister’s Vigil”: 4. What promise does Dimmesdale refuse to make to Pearl? that he will hold Hester and Pearl’s hand in public.
Chapter 12: “The Minister’s Vigil”: 5. What is miraculous about the meteor? It makes an “A” shape
Chapter 13: “Another View of Hester”: 1. How old is Pearl in this chapter? 7 yrs. old
Chapter 13: “Another View of Hester”: 2. How has the townspeople’s view changed toward Hester? most perceive her as good, as they now interpret the “A” as Able instead of adulterer
Chapter 13: “Another View of Hester”: 3. How has Hester’s appearance changed? She started looking like a proper Puritan instead of the wild, elegant creature from earlier days
Chapter 13: “Another View of Hester”: 4. What does Hester resolve to do? She resolved to talk to Roger and try to get him to stop torturing Dimmesdale.
Chapter 14: “Hester and the Physician”: 1. How has Roger Chillingworth changed in the past 7 years? He’s gotten creepier, his face more twisted as well as his personality, and his shoulder
Chapter 14: “Hester and the Physician”: 2. Quote at least one line that directly associates Chillingworth with the devil. Cite the page number. Pearl, insightful young girl that she is, warns her mother away from Chillingworth in Paragraph 23 of Chapter 10:”Hester Prynne, likewise, had involuntarily looked up, and all these four persons, old and young, regarded one another in silence, till the child laughed aloud, and shouted–‘Come away, mother! Come away, or yonder old black man will catch you! He hath got hold of the minister already. Come away, mother or he will catch you! But he cannot catch little Pearl!'”
Chapter 14: “Hester and the Physician”: 3. What does Hester want Chillingworth to do? To stop torturing Dimmesdale.
Chapter 14: “Hester and the Physician”: 4. What revelation is she going to make to Reverend Dimmesdale? That Chillingworth was her husband
Chapter 14: “Hester and the Physician”: 5. What effect has Chillingworth had on Dimmesdale? Quote a line to support your answer. He has made Dimmesdale feel uncomfortable. “He has felt an influence dwelling always upon him like a curse…an eye was working curiously into him, which sought only evil…the eye and hand were mine!” (141)
Chapter 15: “Hester and Pearl “: 1. Read Hester’s description of Chillingworth carefully. How does she feel about him? hates him
Chapter 15: “Hester and Pearl “: 2. What questions does Pearl ask her mother? Why does this trouble Hester? She continually asks what the letter means, why she wears it, and also why Dimmesdale always hold his heart over his chest. Hester is troubled by this because she doesn’t know if she should tell Pearl.
Chapter 16: “A Forest Walk”: 1. Where does Hester plan to meet Dimmesdale? Why? the forest. It’s the place for secrets; possibly where they first had a tryst.
Chapter 16: “A Forest Walk”: 2. Describe the scene with Hester and Pearl in the sunlight. What symbolic meaning could the sunlight have? Why does sunlight shine on Pearl and not on Hester? Pearl declares that the sun will shine on her because she is innocent and too young for a letter of her own. Hester is a woman grown and the sun is afraid of the letter.
Chapter 16: “A Forest Walk”: 3. What story has Pearl heard about the “black man”? That he haunts the forest and offers his heavy-clad book to be signed in blood, which he then marks on the signer
Chapter 16: “A Forest Walk”: 4. What does Hester mean when she says, “Once in my life, I met the Black Man. This scarlet letter is his mark.” She is a sinner
Chapter 16: “A Forest Walk”: 5. Why does Pearl think the minister holds his hand over his heart? How is there symbolic truth in what she says? She thinks that the Black Man had inflicted his mark on Dimmesdale. Symbolic because in a way Dimmesdale did sign his book with his act of adultery with Hester, and his mark inflicted was his own punishment for it.
Chapter 17: “The Pastor and His Parishioner”: 1. How has Dimmesdale’s secret sin affected his life? Use a quote to support your answers and cite the page number. He’s miserable. “‘But, as matters stand with my soul, whatever of good capacity there originally was in me, all of God’s gifts that were the choicest have become the ministers of spirited torment. Hester, I am most miserable!'”
Chapter 17: “The Pastor and His Parishioner”: 2. What is Chillingworth’s “secret poison his malignity, infecting all air about him?” His emphasis on Dimmesdale’s ill health and weakness adds an oppressive burden on Dimmesdale.
Chapter 17: “The Pastor and His Parishioner”: 3. From what does Hester hope to save Dimmesdale by telling him the truth about Chillingworth? The torture of Roger.
Chapter 17: “The Pastor and His Parishioner”: 5. What is Dimmesdale’s reaction to the truth? He jumps up and clutches his heart.
Chapter 17: “The Pastor and His Parishioner”: 6. What future plans does Hester suggest to Dimmesdale as a way to escape Chillingworth? He could leave the settlement by sea and travel to England or another location in Europe
Chapter 18: “A Flood of Sunshine”: 1. What is Dimmesdale’s decision in response to Hester’s plea that they leave the colony? Cite a quote and page number to support your answer. “But now, -since I am irrevocably doomed-wherefore should I not snatch the solace allowed to the condemned culprit before his execution? Or, if this be the path to a better life, as Hester would persuade me, I surely give up no fairer prospect by pursuing it.” (166) He decides to escape with her.
Chapter 18: “A Flood of Sunshine”: 2. Why is the chapter called, “A Flood of Sunshine” ? Hester throws away the token of her shame, her burden lifts and nature, which is free from human laws seems to bless.
Chapter 18: “A Flood of Sunshine”: 3. What does Hester do that symbolizes putting the past behind them? She threw the scarlet letter on the ground
Chapter 18: “A Flood of Sunshine”: 4. What is the sunshine a symbol of? nature’s approval (168)
Chapter 18: “A Flood of Sunshine”: 5. When Hester throws down her scarlet letter, the transfiguration foreshadowed Chapter 13 occurs, and Hester’s beauty returns. What is the “magic touch” that effects the transformation? The loss of the burden that the letter brought brings forth the transformation in Hester.
Chapter 18: “A Flood of Sunshine”: 6. Near the end of this chapter, the forest creatures are naturally drawn to Pearl and recognize her as “a kindred wildness.” How do you account for this wildness in Pearl? She is lives outside of the society that rejects her.
Chapter 19: “The Child at the Brookside “: 1. What does Dimmesdale mean when he says, “Oh, Hester, what a thought is that, and how terrible to dread it ! that my own features were part repeated in her face, and so strikingly that the world might see them!” That he had feared that people would see that Pearl looked like Dimmesdale
Chapter 19: “The Child at the Brookside “: 2. Why is Pearl upset when her mother calls her? She sees the changes in her mother. She refuses to acknowledge any sign of joy.
Chapter 19: “The Child at the Brookside “: 3. What is Pearl ‘s reaction to Dimmesdale? How is Pearl a symbol for Hester and Dimmesdale? She showed him no favor. Pearl symbolizes the unusual union between the two and is a reminder of their shame.
Chapter 20: “The Minister in a Maze”: 1. Where have Hester and Dimmesdale decided to go when they leave Boston? Why do they choose to go to Europe rather than remain in the New World? The Old World (Europe), it was more sheltering and concealing there than in America
Chapter 20: “The Minister in a Maze”: 2. How does it happen that Hester is acquainted with the captain of the ship now in the harbor? through her charity work
Chapter 20: “The Minister in a Maze”: 3. Why does Dimmesdale consider it fortunate that the ship is not to sail for 4 days? He can say his speech and so the people can’t say he did not fulfil his duty as minister
Chapter 20: “The Minister in a Maze”: 4. When Mistress Hibbins offers to introduce Dimmesdale to “yonder potentate you wot of,” to whom is she referring? The Black Man
Chapters 21 “The New England Holiday,” and Chapter 22 “The Procession”: 1. What have the crowds of people gathered in the market-place to witness? inauguration of new governor
Chapters 21 “The New England Holiday,” and Chapter 22 “The Procession”: 3. What piece of unwelcome news does the master of the ship on which, she, Pearl , and Dimmesdale are to sail have for Hester? Roger Chillingworth is also going on the ship
Chapters 21 “The New England Holiday,” and Chapter 22 “The Procession”: 4. What is particularly noticeable about Dimmesdale’s manner as he walks in the procession? He’s confident, healthier physical appearance than before
Chapters 21 “The New England Holiday,” and Chapter 22 “The Procession”: 5. Where does Hester stand during the procession and during Dimmesdale’s sermon in the church? at the foot of the scaffold
Chapter 23 “The Revelation of the Scarlet Letter” and Chapter 24 “Conclusion” : 1. How does Dimmesdale appear as he leaves the church after his triumphant sermon? Drained, pale, almost dead
Chapter 23 “The Revelation of the Scarlet Letter” and Chapter 24 “Conclusion” : 2. How does Pearl react when Dimmesdale calls Hester and herself to mount the scaffold with him? She runs to him. and clasps his knees
Chapter 23 “The Revelation of the Scarlet Letter” and Chapter 24 “Conclusion” : 3. Where, according to Chillingworth is the one place where Dimmesdale could have successfully escaped him? The scaffold
Chapter 23 “The Revelation of the Scarlet Letter” and Chapter 24 “Conclusion” : 4. What were some of the conjectures made by parishioners as to the origin of the minister’s scarlet letter? It was self-inflicted, Roger gave it to him, formed by his remorse, or physical manifestation of Heaven’s judgement.
Chapter 23 “The Revelation of the Scarlet Letter” and Chapter 24 “Conclusion” : 5. What explanation for the events of Election Day is made by the minister’s friends to make him seem blameless? His death served as a lesson to show that even the mightiest priest is a sinner and must look to the mercy of Heaven.
Chapter 23 “The Revelation of the Scarlet Letter” and Chapter 24 “Conclusion” : 6. Dimmesdale enters the church energetically and upright to give his sermon; he leaves it stooped and tottering. How would you account for each of these quite different ways he carried himself? What might we assume has happened to him during the course of the sermon? He had preached about the glorious destiny for the Lord’s people gathered in this new land, but he knew he had no part in it himself.
Chapter 23 “The Revelation of the Scarlet Letter” and Chapter 24 “Conclusion” : 7. Explain why Chillingworth desperately tries to stop Dimmesdale from confessing his sins on the scaffold? Roger wants to destroy Dimmesdale’s soul completely, but can’t if he confesses and makes his peace with God.
Chapter 23 “The Revelation of the Scarlet Letter” and Chapter 24 “Conclusion” : 8. What do you think Dimmesdale means when he describes his and Hester’s sin as violating “our reverence for each other’s soul”? They knew that they were damning their souls for eternity.

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