The Scarlet Letter study questions

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					                   The Scarlet Letter
Chapter 3
1. Why is this chapter called "The Recognition?" Recognition of who, by whom?
2. Describe the man Hester sees in the crowd.
3.     " 'A wise sentence!' remarked the stranger . . ."
   What is happening in the chapter at this point? What sentence is being discussed
4. Even though it is a "wise sentence," there is a problem. What is that problem the
   stranger finds? What vow does the stranger take in his next few words?
5. What information is Master Dimmesdale expected to obtain from Hester?
6. Why is it his responsibility?
7. Paraphrase Dimmesdale's speech that begins " 'Hester Prynne,' said he, leaning
   over the balcony."
8. What is Hester's response?
9. The Puritan life was centered on God and religion. The pastor of a congregation was
   as responsible for his attendants as a shepherd was for his sheep. Consider
   Dimmesdale's reaction to Hester's response. Why would Dimmesdale react in such
   a way? Does this seem a little out of character for a Puritan pastor?
Chapter 4
1. Here is where we find out who the man from the previous chapter is. Who is he?
2. The man visits Hester and offers her something for her child. What does he offer her
   and what is her response?
3. Why does she react this way?
4. About halfway into the chapter, this man begins to describe himself. Write down
   some lines used to describe his relationship with Hester and to describe him.
5. Why does this man want to know who the father of the child is? Give quotes to
   support your answer.
6. This chapter ends on a rather evil note. Explain what the stranger's plans seem to be
   for Hester, her child, and the father.
Chapter 5
1. What happens to Hester right at the beginning of this chapter?
2. Why would Hester "become the general symbol at which the preacher and moralist
   might point?"
3. Why does Hester stay? Why doesn't she simply remove the letter and go
   somewhere else? There are a couple of reasons given. List as many as you can
4. Where does Hester live? Describe it.
5. What was Hester's art? What did she use it for?
6.     "The scarlet letter had endowed her with a new sense."
   Explain this, using quotes to show what this means.
Chapter 6
1. Who is Hester's daughter?
2. Describe her. What does she remind the author of? What does Hawthorne keep
   comparing her to?
3. What is the author's explanation for why she is this way?
4. How does Hester punish her daughter?
5. Why do children not like Pearl? Do they know the details of Hester?
6. How does Pearl play at home?
7.   " 'Tell me, mother!' said the child, seriously, coming up to Hester."
                   The Scarlet Letter
   What are Pearl and Hester discussing at this time?
8. Who do the townspeople think is the father of Pearl according to the end of this
Chapter 7
1. At the beginning of the chapter, what do we find out that Hester does for Governor
2. Why is Hester in trouble at the beginning?
3. What are the two arguments for taking Pearl away?
4. Describe Pearl's behavior in this chapter.
5. Describe what Pearl looks like and what she wears. What does Hawthorne compare
   her to?
6. What does Pearl do to the watching children?
7. Describe the walls of Governor Bellingham's house.
8.     " 'Mother,' cried she, 'I see you here. Look! Look!' "
   What does Pearl see? What does this say about how Pearl views her mother?
9. The rose bush comes back into the book near the end of this chapter. What is
   Pearl's reaction and Hester's response?
       Think about this rose bush and what it symbolizes. Be aware of the symbolism as
       we read on!
Chapter 8
1. Who is coming along with Governor Bellingham?
2. What do these men do to Pearl? What is their purpose upon first encountering
   Hester at this point?
3. What do they think of Pearl's attire? Why do you suppose they react this way? Keep
   in mind that the Puritans believed in being as Christ-like as possible, which would
   mean being as humble as possible.
4. What is Pearl's response to "Canst thou tell me, my child, who made thee?" Why
   does she respond like this?
5.     "You speak, my friend, with a strange earnestness."
   Explain this quote. What's going on before Chillingworth says this? What does he
6. Here's another quote:
       "Would it be beyond a philosopher's research, think ye, gentlemen, to analyze
       that child's nature, and, from its make and mould, to give a shrewd guess at the
   Explain what is happening just before this quote and what is meant here.
7. We meet a new character toward the end of this chapter. Who is she and how is she
   related to another character? What does she ask of Hester?
Chapter 9
1. What two characters is this chapter about?
2. What is the relationship between these two characters before this chapter? After?
3. What happens to Dimmesdale in this chapter? What are some reasons given for
4. What does this chapter say about the relationship between "A man burdened with a
   secret"? Essentially, paraphrase what is said after the above quote.
5. Near the end of the chapter, Chillingworth is compared to who?
6. How has Chillingworth changed? We get this information at the end of this chapter.
7. What is the title of this chapter? Explain the metaphor implied by that title.
                    The Scarlet Letter
Chapter 10
1. Chillingworth is definitely a man with a mission. What is Chillingworth's objective?
    What is Chillingworth going to be trying to accomplish for the rest of this novel?
2. What is the metaphor used for Chillingworth's exploration of Dimmesdale's
3. At the beginning of this chapter, Chillingworth gives some kind of reason as to why
    he picks Dimmesdale. What is it?
4. As Dimmesdale talks with Chillingworth, pay attention to details. Dimmesdale is
    "leaning his forehead on his hand, and his elbow on the sill of the open window, that
    looked towards ________________ . . ." What might this foreshadow?
5. What are the "dark flabby leafs" symbolic of according to Chillingworth? How does
    this apply to Dimmesdale?
6. Chillingworth and Dimmesdale talk about this for a bit. What are they really talking
    about? This is called SUBTEXT.
7. According to Dimmesdale, when do people reveal secrets? How close is
    Dimmesdale to that point? Again, FORESHADOWING.
8. What does Pearl do when she sees Dimmesdale?
9. How does Pearl refer to Chillingworth? Is this accurate?
10. What do Chillingworth and Dimmesdale say about Hester next? The both see her
11. How does Chillingworth try to get Dimmesdale to reveal a secret?
12. According to this chapter, how does Chillingworth ALWAYS leave Dimmesdale?
13. How does Dimmesdale sleep now as opposed to his normal sleep habits?
14. What does Chillingworth see at the end of this chapter? Do we know yet?
Chapter 11
1. This chapter begins by discussing the last chapter. Explain the end of the last
   chapter using quotes. What do YOU think Chillingworth saw? Was there something
   there on Dimmesdale?
2. Does Dimmesdale understand what Chillingworth's motive is?
3. At the end of the chapter, what three things do we find out Dimmesdale does? Why
   does he do them?
4. We learn some very interesting things about Dimmesdale in this chapter. A
   comparison is growing between Arthur and Hester. Compare the two characters.
5. This chapter ends with Arthur doing what?
Chapter 12
1. Where does Dimmesdale go at the beginning? Why does he go there?
2. Early on, there is reference to something on Dimmesdale's breast. What is it? A
   quote would be nice.
3.     " 'It is done!' muttered the minister, covering his face with his hands. 'The whole
   town will awake, and hurry forth, and find me here!' "
   Explain this quote, telling what is going on before "the minister" says this and how
   this is a significant moment in the chapter.
4. Who does see him? "The whole town"?
5. Why is Mr. Wilson out so late?
6. Does Dimmesdale talk to Mr. Wilson?
7. Who does Dimmesdale see next?
8. What does Pearl ask him to do?
                    The Scarlet Letter
9. Consider the entire conversation between Arthur and Pearl. What happens? Is this
10. "Nothing was more common, in those says, than to interpret all meteoric
       appearances. . ."
    Explain what this has to do with anything going on in the rest of this chapter.
11. What does the minister see in the sky? Looking through that paragraph, is
    Hawthorne clear that what Dimmesdale saw was definitely what was in the sky?
12. Who else is with Dimmesdale?
13. Why doesn't Dimmesdale recognize him? What is your explanation and what is
14. This chapter ends in the next day. What happens at the end of this chapter? Why do
    you think Dimmesdale says, "I had not heard of it"?
Chapter 13
1. Hester seems shocked about something as this chapter starts. What is she
   surprised about and what does she decide to do to change things?
2. What does the "A" stand for at the beginning of the novel? Consider what the "A"
   stood for according to the end of the previous chapter. What does this have to do
   with Hester's actions now described?
3. Consider the name of this chapter. How many years after chapter 1 is chapter 13?
   This chapter begins by describing some aspects of Hester's actions. As the chapter
   continues, we get a description of Hester that is quite different from the first few
   paragraphs. What's going on?
4.    "The scarlet letter had not done its office."
   Explain this. The scarlet letter has caused Hester to question things rather than
   merely accept them. How has the scarlet letter NOT WORKED?
5. What does Hester now think of Dimmesdale? Why? Can you blame her?
6. Who does Hester see at the end of the chapter? What are her plans for him?
Chapter 14
1. Where does Hester send Pearl at the beginning? Why?
2.    " 'It lies not in the pleasure of the magistrates to take off this badge,' calmly
      replied Hester. 'Were I worthy to be quit of it, it would fall away of its own nature,
      or be transformed into something that should speak a different purport.' "
   This is a very Puritanical idea. Explain what is going on in the chapter at this point.
3. Again Hester is shocked at something in this chapter. What is it? Use quotes as
4. Chillingworth "lifted his hands with a look of horror, as if he had beheld some frightful
   shape." What is happening in the chapter at this time? What does this quote mean,
   how is it explained?
5.    Chillingworth: "Was I not all this?"
      "All this, and more," said Hester.
      "And what am I now?" demanded he, looking into her face, and permitting the
      whole evil within him to be written on his features.
   Can we feel pity for Chillingworth? Is any of this his fault, or is it fate ("hadst thou met
   earlier with a better love than mine, this evil had not been")?
6. Hester and Chillingworth pity each other. Why?
7. What about Hester's purpose is talking to Chillingworth? What is decided?
                    The Scarlet Letter
Chapter 15
1. What are Hester's feelings toward Chillingworth? Why does she feel this way?
2. Why does Pearl wear a green letter?
3.   "Dost thou know, child, wherefore thy mother wears this letter?"
   What is Pearl's explanation? What do you think of this?
4. What relationship does Hester want from Pearl? Why does Hester want to tell Pearl
   about the letter?
5.   "In all the seven bygone years, Hester Prynne had never before been false to the
      symbol on her bosom."
   Explain the significance of this quote.
Chapter 16
1. Why does Pearl believe the sunshine is running away from Hester?
2. How does Pearl resemble the brook?
Chapter 17
1.   What does Dimmesdale say about Hester's scarlet letter being out in the open?
2.   Why can't Dimmesdale start a new life alone?
3.   What advantage does Dimmesdale think Hester has over himself?
4.   What is Hester's advice to Dimmesdale at the end of this chapter?
Chapter 18
1. What is Dimmesdale's response to the idea of meeting Pearl?
2. Describe the most significant thing that happens to Hester in this chapter. How does
   it affect her?
3. According to this chapter, what happened to the way Hester thinks?
Chapter 19
1.   What is Dimmesdale asked to do to prove his love for Hester and Pearl?
2.   Who asks him to do this?
3.   Why does Pearl behave so strangely in this chapter?
4.   Why does Hester take off the scarlet letter?
5.      "Hester felt herself, in some indistinct and tantalizing manner, estranged from
     What is the book's explanation for why Hester feels this way?
6.   Describe the change in Hester and Dimmesdale that takes place in chapters 19-21.
7.   Why is Dimmesdale always so alarmed whenever he sees Pearl?
8.   Why didn't Pearl cross the brook to reach Hester and Dimmesdale?
9.   After Dimmesdale manages to get near Pearl, what does he do? What is Pearl's
Chapter 20
1. Dimmesdale considers the timing of the ship's departure to be "most fortunate!"
2. How was Dimmesdale's trip return from the forest different that his departing trip
   through the forest?
3. Dimmesdale suddenly perceives that everything in the town is now different as he
   returns to it. What has happened?
4. Dimmesdale, as he walks through town to reach his dwelling, is suddenly struck by
   urges to do terrible things. What were the four instances in which he was tempted to
   do evil?
5. What is Dimmesdale's voyage through the town like in this chapter?
                    The Scarlet Letter
6. Why did Dimmesdale and Hester decide to leave for England instead of any place
7. What did Mistress Hibbins accuse Dimmesdale of? What was Dimmesdale's
8. Why did Hester and Dimmesdale decide to leave for England instead of somewhere
Chapter 21
1. Dimmesdale must cross a swamp to return to the scaffold. What happens in the
2. Describe what happens to Hester after she puts the scarlet letter back on.
3. Why does Pearl say that Dimmesdale is a "strange, sad man?"
4. What is the New England holiday?
Chapter 22
1. What did Pearl want from Dimmesdale that Hester would not permit?
2. Hester's "spirit sank with the idea that all must have been a delusion." What's
   happening at this point?
3. What news does the shipmaster ask Pearl to tell Hester?
Chapter 23
1.   Who empowered Dimmesdale to stand on the scaffold?
2.   Describe the most significant thing Dimmesdale does in this chapter.
3.   What did Pearl do when standing next to her father on the scaffold? Why?
4.   Describe what happens to Pearl during this final scaffold moment.
5.   What does Chillingworth do in response to Dimmesdale's actions at the scaffold?
Chapter 24
1. What does Hawthorne say about what happened at the scaffold at the beginning of
   this chapter?
2. What important lesson had Dimmesdale taught the people of the town? Find a quote
   for this.
3. Who did Chillingworth leave his property to?
4. What do people think the scarlet letter stood for on Dimmesdale's breast?
5. What details do we know about Chillingworth after reading this chapter? Hester?

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