The Scarlet Letter Study Guide Questions

What colony is the setting for the novel? (1) Boston
Where in the colony does the opening chapter take place? (1) Prison door
For what 2 “practical necessities ” dos the new colony set aside land? (1) Cemetery and jail
Who is Anne Hutchinson? How does Hawthorne feel about her? (1) Excommunicated from Puritan church to Rhode Island; viewed beautiful but dangerous
What 2 possible symbols does the rose have for the reader? (1) Beauty of the rose, but pain of the thorns
Name 3 crimes and the punishments that the Puritans might witness (2) Murder: executionBad children: whippedLawbreaker: Indian intrusion
What is the relationship between religion and law in Puritan New England? (2) They are pretty much the same
Describe the Puritan women. Use one quote from the book to support your answer (2) Less bulkier; thinner; gossipy: “…moral diet not a whit more refined”
What punishments would the Puritan women have given Hester Prynne if it were left to them? (2) Scalded with a hot iron on her forehead to mark her as a “hussy” a immoral woman
Describe the appearance of Hester Prynne (2) Beautiful, tall;long black hair and black eyes
What is Hester’s sin? Punishment? (2) Adultery; public condemnation via wearing scarlet letter, humiliation on the scaffold, and temporary jail time
What is astonishing about the ‘A’ on her bodice? (2) It was elaborately embroidered and stood out with its red cloth with gold thread
Why is Hester taken to the scaffold in the market-place? (2) To be publicly disgraced and interrogated about who is the father
What things does Hester think about while she is on the scaffold? (2) Past memories; e.g. her youth and school days, sports, childish quarrels, traits of her maiden years, and her husband
How old is her baby? (2) 3 months
What detail is given to suggest the baby was born in jail? (2) It had “been acquainted only to the grey twilight of the prison”
Describe the man who is standing on the outskirts of the crowd. (3) He is white dressed like an Indian with a deformed shoulder
What prior refuse was made in Chapter 2 that reminds the reader of this man? (3) The flashback of Hester looking in the mirror and seeing a man with a scholar face
What gesture does he make to Hester that suggests he knows her? (3) Points to her then puts his finger in the air then to “shh”
What does the stranger learn from the townsman next to him? (3) That Hester had been cheating on him
Who is the father of Hester’s baby? (3) We don’t know yet ( but it is Dimmesdale)
What is the usual punishment for adultery? Why is Hester’s punishment less severe? (3) Death; the magistrates do not know who the husband/adulterer is yet
What are Hester’s feelings towards the stranger? (3) She feels that he stands out in some unique way; she sees him as someone who she herself feels self-conscious to
Who is Bellingham? John Wilson? (3) Governor Reverend, clergyman and scholar of Boston
What do Bellingham and Wilson want Hester to do? (3) Confess who she committed adultery with
Describe Dimmesdale. (3) A young, educated clergyman who was known to be expressive/eloquent , yet was nervous here
What is his relationship to Hester? What does he ask her to reveal? (3) He is to make Hester confess the truth about her adultery and tell the name of the child’s father
Why won’t Hester name the child’s father? (3) She still loves him
How does Hester act when she returns to prison? (4) She felt nervously excited, demanded constant watchfulness
Why does the jailed call a doctor? (4) Because he felt she was going to hurt herself and the baby was sick
What is the doctors name? (4) Roger Chillingworth
Where did the “Doctor” learn his skill? (4) His old studies in alchemy and Indians
Quote 2 lines that indicate the doctor and Hester know each other before this meeting.(4) 1. “Dost thou know me so little, Hester Prynne?”2. “Even if I imagine a scheme of vengeance, what could I do better for my object?”
What is the relationship between Chillingworth and Hester? (4) Husband and wife
Why should Hester’s marriage be a failure?(4) She never loved Chillingworth; he was old; marriage was arranged
Did Hester ever love her husband? Quote Hester to support your answer. (4) No, “I felt no love, nor feigned any”
What does Chillingworth vow to do?(4) Find out who Hester had the baby with
What secret does Chillingworth ask Hester to keep? (4) Don’t talk about how Chillingworth is her husband
What symbol is introduced for Chillingworth in Hester’s final lines in this chapter? (4) Black man= devil
What “general symbol” has Hester become? (5) One reflecting the reality of sin and frailty,a woman’s weakness and sinful passion
Give at least 2 reasons why Hester does not leave the colony? (5) She sinned there, there is someone she feels connected too and cannot leave that person behind
Describe Hester’s home. (5) Lives on cottage on a cottage on the outskirts of Boston
What talent did Hester use to support herself and Pearl? (5) Making garments
What garments is Hester not allowed to sew? (5) Wedding garments
What type of dress did Hester wear? Pearl? (5) Hester-simple and dull Pearl-bright red
What does Hester do that shows she has a charitable nature? (5) Making garments for the poor and wealthy families
How did (A) the poor, (B) the ladies of Boston, (C) the clergy, and (D) the children treat Hester? (5) A. With scorn and vilification B. Ladies want her garments but don’t speak to her or look at herC. Preach about her sin whenever they see herD. Call her names
What special knowledge does Hester feel the Scarlet Letter gives her? (5) Allows her to see the other sins others are hiding
Why did Hester name her child “Pearl”? (6) Because it represents that Hester paid a great price to have her
What does the Scarlet Letter mean to Pearl? (6) It fascinates her, it is the 1st thing she recognized and she constantly asks Hester what it means
What did the townspeople say about Pearl? (6) She is an offspring of the devil
Name 2 reasons Hester visits Governor Bellingham (7) To deliver an ordered pair of gloves and to plead not to take Pearl away from her
How are the Scarlet Letter and Pearl alike? (7) They both, although look beautiful, are scorned and looked down upon
Who are the other visitors at the Governor’s house? (8) Dimmesdale, Wilson, Chillingworth
How much time has elapsed since the opening scene? (8) 2-3 years
With what creatures of fantasy is Pearl continually compared? (8) Elves and fairies
How has Chillingworth changed since Hester last saw him? (8) He has become uglier, darker, more deformed and older
Why does John Wilson question Pearl? (8) To see if she has been nurtured in a Christian way
How has Reverend Dimmesdale changed since Hester’s public humiliation? (8) He has become more tired, unhappy and scrawny; his health deteriorated
Who pleads successfully for Hester to keep her child? (8) Dimmesdale
To which visitor does Pearl respond lovingly? (8) Dimmesdale
What new identity has Chillingworth assumed in Boston? Why is he successful? (9) Physician, the town was rare to doctors; his studies qualified him
To whom in the colony does Chillingworth attach himself as a medical advisor? (9) Dimmesdale
Describe Dimmesdale’s health. (9) He was becoming pale from studying too hard; scrawny
What gesture has become Dimmesdale’s habit? (9) Putting his hand over his heart
Quote a sentence from this chapter that associates Chillingworth with evil. (9) “He was heard to speak of Sir Kenelm Digby….whose scientific attainments….super natural…his correspondents or associates.”
What to opposing views do the towns people hold about Roger Chillingworth? (9) 1. That he is a high esteemed Doctor 2. That evil and satan has gotten into him and it’s affecting Dimmesdale
What “investigation” consume Chillingworth? (10) Finding out who Pearl’s dad is
Who is Chillingworth’s main suspect and victim? (10) Dimmesdale
What is a leech? What double meaning does the word leech have? (10) A bug that sucks blood; doctors suck the life out of people
What secret does Chillingworth believe is buried in Dimmesdale’s heart? (10) A connection to Hester
Why would Dimmesdale live with guilt and not confess his sin openly? (10) He is afraid of how it will affect his congregation
What reaction does Pearl have to Chillingworth when she sees him with Reverend Dinsdale? (10) She tells Hester to beware of the Black man and says that he got Dimmesdale
What discovery does Chillingworth make when Dimmesdale “fell into a deep deep slumber?” (10) Self inflicted mark on his chest of an “A”
What effect does Reverend Dimmesdale’s guilt have upon his popularity in the colony? (11) Skyrockets and is seen as a “miracle of holiness”
What practices does Dimmesdale begin as a result of his guilt? (11) Starts fasting, doing vigils, inflicting self wounds and punishing himself
What is a vigil? (12) Staying up at night for reflection
Where does Dimmesdale hold his vigil? (12) At Hester’s same punishment scaffold
Why are Hester and Pearl out at midnight? (12) They are returning from making measurements of Winthrop’s robe
What promise does Dimmesdale refuse to make to Pearl? (12) To stand on the scaffold with Hester and her until noon
What is miraculous about the meteor? (12) It radiates very brightly, illuminating the towns features as if by warning from God; makes trail resembling a red “A”
How old is Pearl in this chapter? (13) 7
How has the townspeople’s view changed toward Hester? (13) They no longer bear such a strong scorn for her; regard the scarlet “A” as able
How has Hester’s appearance changed? (13) She has become more frail and her hair has dilapidated; her beautiful features have deteriorated
What does Hester resolve to do? (13) Confront Chillingworth to leave Dimmesdale alone
How has Roger Chillingworth changed in the past 7 years? (14) He has changed from an intellectual look to a guarded, ominous one
What does Hester want Chillingworth to do? (14) Stop torturing Dimmesdale
What revelation is she going to make to Reverend Dimmesdale? (14) That Chillingworth is her husband
What effect has Chillingworth had on Dimmesdale? Quote a line. (14) He has made Dimmesdale feel weary and 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! [Chillingworth’s]
Read Hester’s description of Chillingworth carefully. How does she feel about him? (15) She feels that he is wicked; devilish; she hates him; he is foul, and she has strong vengeance
What questions does Pearl ask her mother? Why does this trouble Hester? (15) What the scarlet letter means, why she wears it, and why Dimmesdale holds his hand over his heart. It troubles Hester b/c she does not know whether or not to tell Pearl; as if, whether she is at the right age
Where does Hester plan to meet Dimmesdale? Why? (16) In the open air forest, to tell him the truth
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 Hester? (16) The scene is very sentimental yet the sunlight is very sporadic in shining. Sun symbolizes happiness and a new beginning. The sun only shines on Pearl because “she does not wear the scarlet letter on her bosom”
What story has Pearl heard about the “black man”? (16) That he haunts the forest and offers his heavy-clad book to be signed in blood, which he then marks on the signer
What does the Hester mean when she says “Once in my life, I met the Black Man. This scarlet letter is his mark.” (16) That the scarlet letter embedded was as the result of the “devilish” black man, whose book she had signed, and had inflicted his mark upon
Why does Pearl think the minister holds his hand over his heart? How is there symbolic truth in what she says? (16) 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.
How has Dimmesdale’s secret sin affected his life? Use a quote to support your answers and cite the page number. (17) He has become miserable and guilty and feels that his role as a minister has depleted. “Hester, I am most miserable! … What can a ruined soul like mine effect towards…other souls?” (128).
What is Dimmesdale’s “secret poison his malignity, infecting all air about him? (17) Chillingworth and his presence
From what does Hester hope to save Dimmesdale by telling him the truth about Chillingworth? (17) Chillingworth’s continual torture of him
Does Hester still love Dimmesdale? Use a quote to support your answer. Cite a page number. (17) Yes; “Why should we not speak it? Still so passionately loved” (130)
What is Dimmesdale’s reaction to the truth? (17) At first he is shocked, but he calms down and forgives Hester, seeing Chillingworth is the core sinner.
What future plans does Hester suggest to Dimmesdale as a way to escape Chillingworth? (17) To escape beyond the town, possibly in another rural village or even overseas in Europe
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. (18) He is happy and optimistic; “Dimmesdale gazed into Hester’s face with a look in which hope and joy shone out” (134)
Why is the chapter called, “A Flood of Sunshine”? (18) In the continual “darkness” of both Hester and Dimmesdale, new hope suddenly “shines” and “brightens” on them
What does Hester do that symbolizes putting the past behind them? (18) Toss the scarlet letter away on the ground and release her hair cap
What is the sunshine a symbol of? (18) New gleaming hope and a new better future for Hester and Dimmesdale
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? (18) The undoing of her cap that contained it
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? (18) She was born in the “wildness” that transpired between the sinful adultery between Hester and Dimmesdale; in many ways, she herself is like feral creatures of the forest.
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!” (19) That he had feared that people would see that Pearl looked like him
Why is Pearl upset when her mother calls her? (19) She is jealous of Dimmesdale and Hester together and does not see her scarlet letter or hair cap
What is Pearl’s reaction to Dimmesdale? How is Pearl a symbol for Hester and Dimmesdale? (19) She did not like him and was quite jealous of him for taking some of her affection. Pearl symbolizes the unusual union between the two.
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? (20) The Old World (Europe). It was more sheltering and concealing there than in America.
How does it happen that Hester is acquainted with the captain of the ship now in the harbor? (20) Through her charity work
Why does Dimmesdale consider it fortunate that the ship is not to sail for 4 days? (20) It was a suitable time allotted for him to retire his career
When Mistress Hibbens offers to introduce Dimmesdale to “yonder potentate you wot of’ to who is she referring? (20) The black man
What have the crowds of people gathered in the market place come to witness? (21/22) The Election Day ceremonies and celebrations
Of what ceremony in England was the Election Day pageantry a pale imitation? (21/22) Royal Coronation
What piece of unwelcome news does the master of the ship on which, she, Pearl, and Dimmesdale are to sail have for Hester? (21/22) That Chillingworth will be joining them
What is particularly noticeable about Dimmesdale’s manner as he walks in the procession? (21/22) He seemed more stronger and able physically; though mentally , his mind seemed somewhere else
Where does Hester stand during the procession and during Dimmesdale’s sermon in the church? (21/22) Beside the scaffold of the pillory
How does Dimmesdale appear as he leaves the church after his triumphant sermon? (23) Feeble and pale
How does Pearl react when Dimmesdale calls Hester and herself to mount the scaffold with him? (23) She flocks to and embraces Dimmesdale
Where, according to Chillingworth is the one place where Dimmesdale could have successfully escaped him? (23) Scaffold
Where were some of the conjectures made by parishioners as to the origin of the minister’s scarlet letter? (23) 1. Dimmesdale did it to himself2. Chillingworth inflicted his black magic on him3. His guilt manifested itself
What explanation for the events of Election Day is made by the minister’s friends to make him seem blameless? (23) Dimmesdale was doing it as an act to teach a last lesson to the town about sinning
Dimmesdale enters the church energetically and upright to give his sermon; he leaves if stooped and tottering. How would you account for each of these quite different ways he carried himself? What might we assumed has happened to him during the course of the sermon? (23) He drains his energy all out
Explain why Chillingworth desperately tries to stop Dimmesdale from confessing his sins on the scaffold? (23) He wants to continue torturing Dimmesdale and to have done it himself to accost his full vengeance on him.
What do you think Dimmesdale means when he describes his and Hester’s sin as violating “our reverence for each other’s soul”? Their sinning has caused them to hurt their godly and religious piety (thus in the after life)

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