The Scarlet Letter
Video Study Guide
1. Where does Nathaniel Hawthorne find the scarlet letter, and how does he describe the feeling he had as he
2. According to Hawthorne, how much of Hester Prynne’s story is true?
3. Even Utopias set aside land for which two institutions?
4. How does Hester act as she emerges from prison to stand on the scaffold?
5. Describe the villagers’ response to Hester.
6. Describe the differences in the clothing worn by the townspeople and Hester and by the Rev. Wilson, Gov.
Bellingham, and Dimmesdale.
7. What is Hester’s punishment? What might have been?
8. Give a description of the stranger that Hester recognizes from the scaffold. Who do you think he is?
9. Why won’t Hester reveal the name of the baby’s father?
10. What does Hawthorne (narrator) say about secret sin?
11. Who will be the child’s father if not “an earthly one?”
12. Summarize what happens when Chillingworth visits Hester in her jail cell. What are Hester’s fears? Why
is Chillingworth skilled in healing arts? What is his relationship to Hester?
13. During the jail visit, Chillingworth reveals his past hopes for Hester. How do you feel about him at this
point in the story?
14. Will Chillingworth succeed in discovering the identity of the child’s father? How?
15. Why does he demand that Hester keep his identity a secret?
16. Why is Pearl an appropriate name for Hester’s child?
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17. Describe the place Hester chooses to live in after serving her prison sentence. Why does she want to stay in
18. How does Hester support herself and her child?
19. How do the townspeople treat Hester? How do the children treat Pearl? Why do they think she is the child
of a demon?
20. What does Pearl first notice as a baby? How does she amuse herself as a child?
21. Hester felt that the scarlet letter she wore gave her special insight. Into what?
1. What two contrasting reasons did the church members and Governor Bellingham give for wanting to take
Pearl away from Hester?
2. How does Hester reply to Governor Bellingham’s demand to know what she can teach Pearl? What do you
think she means by her statement?
3. How did Pearl respond when she was asked who made her?
4. What does Hester ask of Dimmesdale and why?
5. What argument does Dimmesdale use to convince everyone that Pearl should stay with her mother?
6. What conditions does Governor Bellingham place on Hester if she is to keep Pearl?
7. As Hester and Pearl leave the governor’s house, his sister Mistress Hibbons speaks to them. What does she
ask Hester to do and why? How does Hester respond? What happens to Mistress Hibbons a few years
8. How does this incident with Mistress Hibbons reinforce Dimmesdale’s argument that Hester should keep
9. What do you think the “forest” and the “Prince of Darkness” symbolize?
10. Describe how the community sees and responds to Rev. Dimmesdale.
11. Why does Chillingworth take such an interest in Dimmesdale’s health?
12. Why do you think the narrator suggests, “A man burdened with a secret should avoid his physician”?
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13. What does Chillingworth find in the graveyard? Where does he say they were growing and why? What do
you think Hawthorne is trying to suggest with this scene?
14. Why do you think Dimmesdale makes frequent gestures to his heart?
15. What do you think Chillingworth sees when he opens Dimmesdale’s shirt while he is sleeping?
16. How would you describe Chillingworth’s reaction to what he saw on Dimmesdale?
17. How does the community respond to Dimmesdale when he tells them he is a “pollution” and a “lie”?
18. What is the significance of the scaffold scene with Dimmesdale, and then with Dimmesdale, Hester and
19. What is the significance of the comet and the letter “A” that appears in the sky during the scaffold scene?
How does the community see this sign?
20. Describe how her mother, the religious community, Chillingworth and Dimmesdale, sees Pearl.
1. How much time has passed since the beginning of the film?
2. How has the community changed in attitude toward Hester?
3. What does Hester do that has caused the change?
4. What does the public now say the letter “A” stands for?
5. What legends have been told about the letter “A” that Hester wears?
6. In listening to Pearl’s questions about what it means to be a woman and Hester’s responses to those
questions, what could you infer Hawthorne’s attitude toward women might be?
7. What is the most important truth about women that Hester refer to?
8. What actions cause Chillingworth to treat Dimmesdale so badly?
9. What does Dimmesdale think has happened to him?
10. What was Chillingworth’s attitude when Hester first met him?
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11. How does Chillingworth see himself now?
12. Why has Chillingworth not avenged himself against Hester?
13. What does Hester ask of Chillinworth?
14. What does Hester vow?
15. What does Chillingworth mean when he says “Let the black flower blossom as it may”?
16. How does Hester feel about Chillingworth?
17. Does Pearl know what the scarlet letter means? Explain.
18. What does Hester tell Pearl as to why se wears the letter? Why does she not tell Pearl the truth?
19. What story does Pearl ask Hester to tell?
20. What does Hester tell Pearl about the man in black?
21. What is Dimmesdale’s reaction to learning that Chillingworth is?
22. Has Dimmesdale found peace?
23. What does Hester ask of Dimmesdale? How does he respond?
24. Dimmesdale says that Chillingworth’s sin is greater than theirs. What has Chillingworth done?
25. What does Hester want Dimmesdale to do?
26. What is Hester’s strength? What has been her teacher?
27. What causes Hester to feel free at last?
28. How does Hester change with the freedom?
29. What does Arthur say of Pearl?
30. How does Pearl respond when she sees Dimmesdale and Hester together? Why?
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1. What does Pearl do when Dimmesdale kisses her?
2. What does Hester suggest they do?
3. What must the minister do before they leave?
4. How does Dimmesdale feel as he leaves the forest and Hester?
5. As Dimmesdale comes into town he feels that he has made a contract with the fiend. What evens happen
that cause him to feel this?
6. What does Dimmesdale tell Chillingworth upon returning home?
7. Describe the town on Election Day.
8. What does Hester learn from the ship’s captain?
9. What does Mistress Hibbons tell Hester?
10. What was the message from the Black Man?
11. How does Dimmesdale appear after the sermon?
12. What does Dimmesdale do that upsets Chillingworth greatly? Why does it upset Chillingworth so?
13. What does Dimmesdale do on the scaffold?
14. What is the moral of this story?
15. Wht happens to Chillingworth after Dimmesdale’s death? What does he give to Pearl?
16. What happens to Hester and Pearl?
17. Why does Hester return to Boston after many years?
18. What does Hester do when she returns to Boston?