The Scarlet Letter Questions

What is the setting of The Scarlet Letter? The setting is June of 1642 in a Puritan community in or near Boston.
What two necessities do the founders of a new colony provide for immediately? The new colony immediately provided a cemetery and a prison.
Nathaniel Hawthorne describes a prison, a cemetery, ugly weeds, and a wild rosebush. Explain the symbolism of each of these items. Prison – crime and sinCemetery – deathUgly weeds – corruptionWild rosebush – hope in the middle of all of the gloom; redemption
What is described as a “tale of human frailty and sorrow”? The Scarlet Letter is described as a “tale of human frailty and sorrow.”
For what sin is Hester Prynne condemned? Hester Prynne is condemned for adultery, which means that she had a child out of wedlock.
What is the mood of The Scarlet Letter so far? The mood of the book so far is gloomy.
What point is made about Puritan religion and Puritan law? When a person sins, then they are used as an example to everyone else. Sin is made very public in this community, and the punishment for it is very harsh.
What is the public view of Hester’s sin as expressed by the women outside the prison? What do their comments suggest about this society? The public view of Hester’s sin as expressed by the women of the community is that they hate her for her crime, saying she isn’t getting punished enough and even going as far as suggesting that she be killed or, at the very least, branded in the forehead with hot iron. Calling her a “hussy,”they say that she has brought shame upon the community by going against the law of the Bible. Their comments support the rigidness of the religion, their belief that the Bible is the law by which they base everything off of, that punishment for sinning is extremely harsh, and that there is no margin for error.
What is Hester’s punishment? Hester’s punishment is to stand on a scaffold in the public square for three hours with all of the people watching and mocking her. She also has to wear a scarlet letter A embroidered on her chest for the rest of her life so that everyone knows that she committed adultery, and is also to be shunned by the town for the rest of her life.
What is Hester’s attitude towards her sin and punishment? She is dignified and strong. This is represented in the fact that she walks to the scaffold without the aid of the beadle, by the intricateness of her letter A, and in the haughty smile she wore as she looked at all of the people. But, her shame and uncomfortableness can be seen in the way that she clutches the child to her chest and her blushing.
List five physical characteristics of Hester. Hester is tall, has a good figure and dark, glossy hair, has a rich complexion, and has a regularly proportioned face with a marked brow and deep black eyes. She is very beautiful and has a dignified lady-like elegance about her.
One way Hester endures her punishment is by dreaming of her past. What does the flashback reveal about Hester’s past? It reveals that she had a happy childhood, but that they had been very poor, and that her mother has since then died. It also reveals that she married a misshapen old scholar that was a lot older than her for money who later sends her to New England to begin a new life.
Who appears in the crowd as Hester stands on the scaffold? What is Hester’s reaction? Hester’s legal husband, Chillingworth, appears in the crowd. She is extremely surprised and frightened to the point that she clutched her child so tightly that it cried out in pain. But, at that same time, she is glad that he found out this way rather than in private, where it could get violent.
Where has Chillingworth been? What motion does he make to Hester? He was traveling the world, but since he was captured by Indians, he has been living in the wilderness with them. When Chillingworth notices that she is looking at him, he puts a finger against his lip, which signals to her that she should keep his presence a secret to everyone else.
Who is Dimmesdale? What appeal does he use to convince Hester to reveal the baby’s father? Dimmesdale is the young clergyman responsible for Hester. He tries to convince Hester to reveal the father’s name by saying that it is the only way to stop feeling guilty and regain inner peace, and to stop the man from living a life of hypocrisy since he is most likely not brave enough to do so himself.
What does Dimmesdale tell Hester she should do? He tells Hester that she should tell them the name of the father.
How does she answer him? She shakes her head no and refuses to.
Why does Hester fear Chillingworth? Hester fears Chillingworth because he is her legal husband and she is afraid that he will try to kill either her or the child because of her sin against him.
Explain Chillingworth’s attitude toward Hester? Chillingworth assures Hester that he will not hurt her or the baby. He goes on to tell her that her is partially to blame because of him marrying such a young girl in his old age. But, he still wants to know who the father of the baby is.
What does Chillingworth intend to do and why? Chillingworth intends to figure out who the father of the baby is. This is so that he can hold it against Hester and judge whether or not he is worthy of being ruined.
What does Chillingworth ask Hester to promise? Why does she agree? Chillingworth asks Hester to promise to never tell anyone that he is her husband. She agrees because he threatens to harm the father of her child if she does not promise to do so.
Explain Hester’s comment to Chillingworth, “Thy acts are like mercy,…But they words interpret thee as a terror!” Hester is saying that while what he is saying is merciful, the way that he is saying it scares her.
What details reinforce the image of Chillingworth as someone to be feared? The intense glowing of his eyes as he looks at Hester and his attitude towards the whole thing.
What is implied in Chillingworth’s last line, “No, not thine’? Chillingworth’s last line implies that while he is not after her soul, he does seek the father’s soul.
In this chapter, the narrator summarizes months of Hester’s life. Describe Hester’s home, including any symbolism of its location. How does she earn a living? Hester lives in a small thatched cottage on the outskirts of town isolated from the rest of the town. This symbolizes her isolation and alienation from society. The fact that she took the situation as it was and chose to live on the outskirts of town symbolizes her confession to the sin and her personal repentance. The book saying that the cottage was surrounded by trees in a way that kept it from view, but not as much it perhaps should have been, symbolizes that, while living in the isolated cottage most keeps Hester out of the view of the townspeople, it doesn’t isolate her as much as they would have liked. She earns a living by being a seamstress.
Give two reasons why Hester decides to remain in instead of moving to a less -restrictive colony. Hester chooses to stay because she is linked to the town by what had happened there and the other person involved, and because she believes that staying in the town and facing her sin will make that sin be forgiven.
How do the townspeople treat Hester, and how does she react? The townspeople openly judge, mock, and look down on her, but while she is hurt by all of it, she keeps herself in check and doesn’t publicly react.
What is Hester never asked to make? What type of sewing is she asked to do? Hester is never asked to make bridal veils/dresses, but, among other things, she made clothes for high-ranking men, baby clothes, and clothes for the dead.
How does Hester change? Hester becomes more self-conscious, humble, and willing to give to others. She is also more aware of other people’s sins, and realizes that everyone has them.
Describe the difference between Hester’s clothing and her child’s. Hester makes herself plain clothes out of coarse materials and dull colors, but makes her child’s clothes very fancy.
What legend arises about the scarlet letter? A legend that arises about the scarlet letter says that the symbol glows because of the fire from which it was made.
Why do people allow Hester to sew for them? People allowed Hester to sew for them because of how good she was and their curiosity about her.
Describe Pearl. Pearl is a very beautiful child, with deep, glowing black colored eyes and glossy brown hair. She is also very passionate, lively, and intelligent. But, at the same time, she is wild, has antisocial tendencies, and doesn’t put up with anything, including the town’s children mocking her.
How is Pearl’s wild and antisocial behavior explained? Pearl’s wild and antisocial behavior is explained by the fact that Hester had been in a bad place with her soul when she became pregnant with Pearl, so that wild, desperate, defiant mood of Hester’s is reflected in that side of Pearl.
Explain the ambiguity concerning Pearl’s background. While Hester thinks that Pearl is simply a symbol of her sin, the townspeople think that she is the literal incarnation of Satan.
Why does Hester ask Pearl, “Art thou my child?” Hester asks Pearl this because she is acting in such a strange, horrible manner that Hester isn’t even sure that the child is human. Right before she says this, Pearl is throwing wildflowers at the scarlet letter and jumping for joy whenever she hits it. The reflection and look in Pearl’s eyes, the frenzied way in which she is jumping about, and her laughing at Hester’s concern makes her wonder if Pearl is actually even her child at all.
Hester believes that, while society punishes her for sinning, God has a different reaction. How does Hester explain Pearl’s existence? Hester explain Pearl’s existence as a constant reminder of her sin, but at the same time, a reason for living sent to her by God. Since she has no other social life anymore, everything she does is for Pearl.
Why does Hester go to the governor’s house? Hester goes to his house with the primary reason of delivering a pair of gloves that she had embroidered for him. But, on top of that, she has heard talk that people are wanting to take Pearl away from her, so she wants to confront the governor and ask him about that.
How is Pearl dressed, and what is her dress compared to? Pearl is dressed in a fancy and strangely fitted crimson velvet tunic with gold embroidery. It is compared to the scarlet letter, with the connection being made that Pearl is both Hester’s love and torture.
Explain the incident with the breastplate. When looking into the breastplate, Pearl tells Hester that she can see her. When Hester looks, though, she sees that the reflection in it zooms in on and distorts the scarlet letter, making it look like it makes up all of Hester’s being and hides the real her.
Consider the descriptions of the governor’s house. What is Hawthorne suggesting about the governor? Hawthorne is suggesting that the governor lives a luxurious and rich life, which is in great contrast to the simple life that the Puritan faith promotes.
What three men are with Governor Bellingham? Pastor John Wilson, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth are with Governor Bellingham.
How do the magistrates react to Pearl and why? They react to Pearl with shock because they feel that Hester is not raising the child in the Puritan way, what with her defiant attitude, lack of apparent knowledge, and outward appearance.
How does Hester behave towards the magistrates and why? She freaks out and tells the magistrates that they can’t take Pearl away because, without the child, there is no reason for her to continue living. She basically says that she won’t allow them to take Pearl away because the child is God’s gift to her to serve as both her daily reminder of her sin and her only joy in life.
How are the magistrates convinced to let Hester keep Pearl? The magistrates are convinced by Dimmesdale. When Hester realizes that they are serious about taking Pearl away, she appeals to Dimmesdale to speak on her behalf since he was in charge of her spiritual life. He tells the magistrates that Hester is both a good thing and bad thing. He supports this claim by saying that while there are negatives, Pearl keeps Hester from sinning more than she already has, which appeals to the magistrates.
When the governor asks Pearl who made her, she responded that she was taken from the rose bush by the prison door. What is the symbolism in this answer? The symbolism in this answer is that Pearl was taken from and made into the one source of hope and redemption in Hester’s life. This is related to the rose bush being the one source of hope and redemption in the area around the prison door.
How has Dimmesdale changed since Hester’s public punishment? Dimmesdale has changed both physically and spiritually. On the physical change side of things, his health has greatly deteriorated and is present in all of his features. He is now extremely thin and pale and often puts his hand on his chest in pain. On the spiritual change side of things, he is suddenly willing to stand up for Hester, and does so vehemently. He just seems a lot more tired overall since Hester’s public punishment.
What dual role does Dimmesdale say Pearl plays? Dimmesdale says that Pearl serves as Hester’s one blessing in life by “keeping her soul alive”, but is also a constant reminder to Hester of her sin.
How old is Pearl now? Pearl is now three years old.
A difference of opinion arises over the cause of Dimmesdale’s failing health. Compare the townspeople’s opinion to that of Dimmesdale’s. The townspeople are of the opinion that Dimmesdale is falling ill because he is working too hard and putting too much focus into his religious life. They also believe that if he dies, then it will be because the world was no longer good enough for him to live on. Dimmesdale, on the other hand, believes that his illness stems as a punishment from God because he is no longer good enough to live on Earth as a religious teacher.
Why does Dimmesdale reject Chillingworth’s offer of help? What finally persuades him to accept his offer? Dimmesdale reject his help because he believes that medicine will do nothing for his “spiritual illness.” He finally agrees to let Chillingworth help him because Dimmesdale feels like he is getting suspicious of what is really going on and also feels guilty for refusing such a kind offer.
Describe Chillingworth’s method of approach for treating illness. Chillingworth’s method for treating illness is to use herbs and other natural “medicines.” He also takes time to help Dimmesdale psychologically by having long conversations with him.
Describe the relationship between Chillingworth and Dimmesdale. Chillingworth and Dimmesdale have an strange but close relationship where Chillingworth is interested in Dimmesdale’s religious heart and soul while Dimmesdale is interested in Chillingworth’s intellectual view on the world. Because of this, they spend hours upon hours in conversation. But, while Chillingworth seems to be helping Dimmesdale, he is actually sucking the life out of him more and more like a leech would.
Some people in the community feel that God has sent Chillingworth to heal their minister, but others have a different view. What is this second view? This second view is that Chillingworth is the incarnation of Satan that was sent to tempt Dimmesdale and take over his soul.
How do the people explain “the gloom and terror in the depths of the poor minister’s eyes”? People explain this constant look in Dimmesdale’s eyes by saying that his internal battle against the incarnation of Satan, or Chillingworth, is a difficult one and is taking a huge toll on his soul.
Why does Dimmesdale seem to be hiding something during his conversation with Chillingworth? Dimmesdale seems to be hiding something by the way that Chillingworth notices certain things he does when he is feeling guilty or upset, like putting his hand over his chest, and he does that often throughout the conversation.
How do the black flowers initiate a discussion on hidden sins? The black flowers initiate the discussion by Dimmesdale asking where Chillingworth got the herb and him saying that he found it on a grave and that it had grown out of a hidden sin of the man buried there.
What explanation does Dimmesdale offer for not confessing a hidden sin? Dimmesdale says that some people don’t confess a hidden sin because, if they did, then they would no longer be able to help others and continue on in ministry, which means that there would be no way to make up for the sin. Basically, he says that it is okay as long as you are doing God’s work.
What does Chillingworth do while Dimmesdale sleeps, and what does this action symbolize? What does this reveal about Chillingworth’s character? Chillingworth removes the cloth covering Dimmesdale’s chest and sees the ugly red mark there. This symbolizes Chillingworth discovering the mark on Dimmesdale’s chest that symbolizes his own “red scarlet letter” and gives him the excuse to torture Dimmesdale. This reveals that he is an evil, conniving character that isn’t interested in Dimmesdale’s wellbeing at all but instead wants to hurt him.
Explain the statement, “He (Chillingworth) became, thenceforth, not a spectator only, but a chief actor, in the poor minister’s sinister world.” It means that instead of just watching Dimmesdale suffer, he began to cause additional suffering for him.
What makes Dimmesdale a good minister? Even though him using his sin as inspiration for his sermons is what makes them so relatable, Dimmesdale is able to connect well to the people and make his sermons easily understood.
Why are Dimmesdale’s public assertions of guilt ironic? Dimmesdale is trying to relieve some of his guilt to the public, which should make the people despise him, but it just makes them love him more. The more despicable he says that he is, the more the people love him.
Explain the ways that Dimmesdale tortures himself. Dimmesdale beats himself bloody with a scourge, fasts until the point where his knees shake when he stands, and keeps several night long vigils. He is punishing himself in all of these ways because he feels that it might take away some of the sin and guilt.
What is Hawthorne suggesting about the effects of sin? Hawthorne is suggesting that an unconfessed sin eats at you both physically and mentally until you just finally begin to break down.
Why does Dimmesdale climb the scaffold at night? What is the source of his chest pain? Dimmesdale climbs the scaffold at night in an attempt to find some relief for his guilt and to confess his sin to the world in the in the only way possible without also losing his job. The source of his chest pain is a combination of Chillingworth’s poisonous “medicines”, the guilt and stress that are wearing on him because of his sin, and the red mark on his chest.
What other characters are walking around late at night and why? John Wilson is walking back home from praying at the deathbed of Governor Winthrop. Hester and Pearl are also on their way home from measuring the late governor’s body for a robe. Chillingworth
How does Dimmesdale feel as he holds Pearl’s hand and why? He feels a connection to both her and Hester. It like a surge of electric connection and life flows back into him. He feels this because he’s finally confessed his sin to someone by standing there with her and her mother and holding her hand. He doesn’t have to live a lie anymore with at least two people.
Why does Pearl pull away from Dimmesdale? Because he refuses to stand on the scaffold with her and her mother tomorrow at noon, saying that he won’t stand beside them for judgement until judgement day.
What are the two supernatural occurrences described? As Hester, Pearl, and Dimmesdale stand on the scaffold holding hands in an “electric chain” of sorts, they see a meteor shoot through the sky. As that disappears, a faintly glowing red letter A appears, which is in reference to the scarlet letter.
How do the townspeople interpret the nighttime phenomenon? The townspeople believe that the glowing red A represented the word “angel” because of Governor Winthrop’s passing that night.
How does Dimmesdale behave the next day? He still feels extremely guilty, but he realizes that he must embrace his sin and live the lie full heartedly if he wants to keep his sin a secret.
What is Hester’s position in the community now that years have passed? Hester is no longer hated or despised. The people’s anger at her crime has faded, and while she is still an outcast, most people have forgiven her sin because of all the good work she does for people. She has settled into her role as a “self-ordained Sister of Mercy,” and works hard to help the poor and sick.
How is the scarlet letter interpreted? As Hester settles into her place in the community, the common people who she helps begin refusing to view the scarlet letter in the way that it was intended to be seen. She is so giving by this point that the townspeople say that the letter stands for “able” in reference to how strong of a woman she is.
Compare the feelings of the general public to those of the community leaders regarding Hester Prynne. Explain why the groups view her differently. The general public have almost completely forgiven Hester for her sins because they are allowed to just look at the good deeds that she has done since then. In contrast, the community leaders are starting to slowly soften for the same reason, but they haven’t completely forgiven her sin because they have the job of upholding public morals, and they feel that if they completely forgive Hester, then that will send the wrong message about sins and punishment to the rest of the townspeople.
Why is Hester’s natural beauty diminished, and what could bring it back? Hester’s natural beauty is diminished by the scarlet letter and the severeness of the situation that she has been placed in for the last seven years of her life. All of the qualities that had made her so desirable and woman, like her grace, the love shining out of her face, and the passion that had filled her, have been stripped away from her because of this severity. The only thing that could bring back her beauty would be being touched by or with tenderness.
Compare the initial intent behind the scarlet letter to the actual effect on Hester. The initial intent behind the scarlet letter was to punish her for her sins and set her apart from the rest of the townspeople as an example of what happens to sinners. But, the scarlet letter actually ends up as a symbol of her good deeds and eventually causes her to be regarded with a certain reverence.
What does Hester resolve to do and why? Hester resolves to talk to Chillingworth because she wants to make him stop torturing Dimmesdale for a sin that she views as her doing.
In what ways does Chillingworth look like a devil? Chillingworth looks like a devil in the way that the calm and smart man that he once was has been replaced by a man who is eager to figure something out and is wary of everyone because of it. But, while he tries to hide this new version of himself by looking happy, it is still visible underneath the fake expressions, which makes the evil inside of him even more visible. On top of this, his eyes glow red, which suggests that his soul is on fire.
Why does Chillingworth think he has a double reason for punishing Dimmesdale? Chillingworth says that he has a double reason for punishing Dimmesdale because he ruined both his life and Hester’s life.
What pleas of Hester’s arouse sympathy and admiration in Chillingworth? Chillingworth admires and sympathizes with Hester when, while pleading with him to leave the man she sinned with alone, she gets so mad that she basically changes her mind and says that he can do whatever he wants with Dimmesdale.
What does Hester ask of Chillingworth? What is his response? Hester asks Chillingworth to leave Dimmesdale alone and let God pass judgement on him, but he refuses to do so.
Does Chillingworth seem to be in control of his fate or controlled by his fate? Chillingworth seems to be controlled by his faith because his desire to have revenge on Dimmesdale is taking over and ruining his life.
How does Hester feel about Chillingworth? She hates him so much that she actually wonders why poisonous and ugly plants don’t sprout up everywhere he steps and if things as good as the sun can actually touch him.
How does Pearl imitate her mother? How does Pearl explain Hester’s scarlet letter? Pearl imitates her mother by recreating the scarlet letter that Hester wears on her own chest with green seaweed. She explains Hester’s scarlet letter by saying that she wears it “for the same reason that the minister keeps his hand over his heart.”
Hester refuses to answer Pearl’s question about the meaning of the “A”. Why do you think she does this? I think that she refuses to because of how young Pearl is, and because she wants a better life for Pearl and doesn’t feel that bringing more negativity like that in is going to do any good.
Hester is determined to warn Dimmesdale about Chillingworth, but she will only meet him in the woods. Why will she not see Dimmesdale at his home? She won’t see Dimmesdale at his home because she was putting it off and that would have made it too easy to see him, she doesn’t want to see Chillingworth and is afraid of him, and she feels like they’ll need more room to feel comfortable while talking.
Hester contemplates upon her surroundings as she walks through the forest. Explain what the footpath symbolizes in her mind. In Hester’s mind, the narrow footpath with dense trees on both sides and the vast sky visible through the foliage only some of the time symbolizes the “moral wilderness” in which she had been wandering.
How is Pearl compared to the babbling brook? Pearl is compared to the babbling brook in the way that she came from a mysterious and trying situation and has been traveling through darkness since then, just like the brook. But, they differ in the way that the brook is tired and gloomy while Pearl is happy and energetic.
In what way does Hester acknowledge her sin to Pearl? Hester acknowledges her sin to Pearl by telling her that the scarlet letter is a mark left by the black man.
Describe Dimmesdale’s reaction when Hester reveals Chillingworth’s identity. At first he doesn’t understand and asks her to clarify. When he does understand that Chillingworth was her husband, he sinks to his knees and buries his face in his hands, saying that he should of known and can never forgive Hester for not telling him.
Why does Dimmesdale forgive Hester? According to Dimmesdale, who is a worse sinner the “the polluted priest” and why? Dimmesdale forgives Hester because he says that he has also wronged her. On top of that, he also says that Chillingworth’s sin was far worse than either of theirs because, while they never meant to hurt anyone, Chillingworth’s entire plan is to hurt people.
What “new horror” occurs to Dimmesdale? The new horror that occurs to Dimmesdale is that Chillingworth might not keep their secret anymore.
Explain Hester’s statement to Dimmesdale “Wilt thou die for very weakness?” Hester is saying that everyone makes mistakes and has weaknesses, but that doesn’t mean that you should give up and want to die because of them.
What does Hester give Dimmesdale? What is suggested in the last two lines? Hester gives Dimmesdale strength, hope, and a way out. The last two lines suggest that Dimmesdale and Hester are going to leave the Puritan community together.
What contrast does the narrator point out between Hester and Dimmesdale’s ability to leave town? The narrator points out that, since Hester has been an outcast for years, she is completely ready to leave all of that torture behind her. Plus, she will not be terribly missed by the townspeople, and she is allowed to think things like this because she has already messed up. But, because Dimmesdale is a big part of the community and hasn’t had to deal with as harsh of a situation as Hester has, he will be greatly missed by the townspeople and still feels connected to the community.
Why does Dimmesdale decide to flee with Hester? Dimmesdale decides to flee with Hester because he can’t remember feeling happy once in the last seven years of his life, and he realizes that he could possibly find job and live a better life elsewhere. On top of that, he realizes that he can’t live without Hester, and wants to have a life with her. He also feels as if is soul is already doomed anyway.
Describe the “exhilarating effect” that the decision to leave has on Hester and Dimmesdale. How does Hawthorne use symbolism to reinforce this effect? As soon as they decide to leave, both of them are a lot happier. Dimmesdale suddenly feels joy again, which he hasn’t for the last seven year. He goes on to tell Hester that it is already a better life. After this, Hester says that the past is gone and should not be dwelt on. To prove this, she unclasps the scarlet letter, tosses it away, and undoes her hair, which causes her natural beauty to return. To show all of this, Hawthorne uses the symbolism of the clouds suddenly disappearing and the sun shining brightly above, making all of the forest’s shadows disappear.
What idea is suggested by Pearl’s slow approach and Dimmesdale’s fear of Pearl? Pearl’s slow approach and Dimmesdale’s fear of Pearl suggests that things are not going to go as well as Dimmesdale and Hester believe, and that the happiness will not last. Pearl is wild like the forest and the animals that live there, so the fact that she approaches slowly indicates that she fears and distrusts Dimmesdale and can sense the evil inside him. Dimmesdale’s fear suggests that he know what she feels and senses.
Why does Pearl “burst into a fit of passion” when she stands across the brook from her mother? As Pearl approaches Dimmesdale and Hester, she sees that her mother has removed the scarlet letter.
Why does Pearl make her mother put on the scarlet letter? Pearl makes her mother put it back on because Pearl has never known her mother without it, so she is not comfortable seeing her without it. On top of this, Pearl has always identified, subconsciously or not, with the scarlet letter. So, as she sees her mother get rid of it and prepare for a new life, she might feel as if her mother is also casting her away.
How does Pearl react to her mother’s assertion that Dimmesdale loves them? Pearl asks if he will walk hand in hand with them in town, which is basically asking if he will show his supposed love towards them in front of the townspeople. This would mean admitting his sin, which is what Pearl has wanted him to do all along.
Explain Pearl’s behavior towards the minister. Pearl is disrespectful and hateful towards the minster, even going as far as washing his kiss off her forehead and refusing to be near him. She is constantly asking when he is going to acknowledge his relationship to them, and persistently questions why his hand is over his heart. She sees in the situation and Dimmesdale what her mother does not.
Describe the minister’s wicked impulses as he returns to town. As the minister returns to town, he thinks awful thoughts or “blasphemous suggestions” as an elderly deacon talks about the holy communion supper, forgets scripture while talking to an aging woman, and wants to take the virginity of a young woman whom he passes. Besides these three main things, he also has the impulse to shake hands with immoral people, participate in immoral jesting, and yell curse words at kids, and has a conversation with Mistress Hibbins, who is believed to be a witch.
Why is Dimmesdale suddenly behaving wickedly? Dimmesdale is suddenly behaving wickedly because he feels as if he has already given his soul over to the devil. On top of this, upon making plans with Hester to leave in the next few days, he feels mostly free of guilt and no longer feels such a moral obligation to behave as a minister would.
What does Dimmesdale wonder when he pauses in the street? Dimmesdale wonders what is causing him to behave so wickedly and be tempted so much. He questions whether he is crazy and/or has given his soul over to the devil.
Has Dimmesdale committed a deadly sin by planning to escape with Hester? In a way, Dimmesdale has committed a deadly sin by planning to escape with Hester because by doing so, he is running away from his sin and refusing to confess to the congregation. A person cannot be forgiven if they never admit that they sinned. But, as looked at from a different perspective, he hasn’t, because all he wants is to be happy, and he can’t do that in the Puritan community anymore.
In this chapter, Hawthorne makes frequent mention of the colors gray, black (sable), brown. What does the emphasis on those colors suggest? The emphasis on those colors suggests that Hawthorne is trying to convey how somber and serious the Puritan community is even on a day of celebration. It also creates a contrast between Pearl’s brightly colored clothes, the scarlet letter, and the outsiders’ clothes, which symbolizes that none of those people fit into the community.
What bad news does Hester receive from the ship captain? Hester receives the bad news that Chillingworth is also going to be traveling on the ship with them.
In addition to providing more information, what other purpose does this chapter serve? This chapter also serves the purpose of having everything come full circle with another gathering in the marketplace and the peak of the previously building tension, which makes it climatic. It is also foreshadowing that everything is not going to go according to plan.
Explain the significance of Pearl’s comment on the behavior of Reverend Dimmesdale. Pearl asks Hester if Dimmesdale will hold his hands out to her again like he did in the forest the other day. When Hester says no and tries to explain, Pearl just says he is a strange man because he calls out to them during the nighttime but won’t even acknowledge them in public. This shows that even she sees the way Dimmesdale refuses to claim them and own up to his sin, which makes her hate him.
What do darkness and light symbolize? The darkness symbolizes secrecy while the light symbolizes full disclosure and everything being out in the open.
Explain three things that depress Hester. Hester is saddened by seeing Dimmesdale at the celebration, because she feels as if this new strength of his puts him in an entirely different realm than her and makes her question whether the conversation in the woods, the plan, and his love for her are all fake. He didn’t even look at her. The news that she receives from the shipmaster about Chillingworth’s plan and that he is going to get Dimmesdale to his boat also depresses her. The third reason was having to endure people once again staring at the scarlet letter after she was so close to getting rid of it.
What is different about Dimmesdale? Dimmesdale has a lot more energy than he has ever had the last seven years. His walk is strong and confident, he stands up straight, and his hand is no longer held over his heart. He even seems carefree.People watching him observe that his sudden strength seems to be spiritually based.
What does Pearl want from Dimmesdale? Pearl wants Dimmesdale to kiss her like he did in the forest. In other words, she wants him to confess his sin and claim her in front of everyone, not just in private.
Why does Dimmesdale stand “on the very proudest eminence of superiority” before the crowd? In the Puritan community during this time, ministers are very respected by the people, which in itself makes people greatly respect Dimmesdale. But, he is revered by the townspeople even more because of how well he connects with the people, their love of him, and the people’s belief that he is by far the holiest man among them.
What does Dimmesdale do when he leaves the church and approaches Hester? Dimmesdale turns towards the scaffold, stretches out his arms towards her and Pearl, and calls them to him.
What is Chillingworth’s reaction when Dimmesdale approaches the scaffold? Chillingworth rushes towards him and grabs his arm. He calls Dimmesdale a madman and tells him to cast them away so as to not ruin his good position in the community. As Dimmesdale continues on towards the scaffold, Chillingworth becomes angry that he will not be able to get complete revenge on him and says that that scaffold is the one place where he could escape him and his torture.
What does Hester answer when Dimmesdale says, “Is not this better…than what we dreamed of in the forest?” She says that she is not sure whether or not it is better, but at least this way all three of them can die together.
What does Dimmesdale dramatically reveal to the crowd? Dimmesdale dramatically reveals his own scarlet letter on his chest, which is imprinted into his skin.
What does Dimmesdale ask of Pearl? What effect does this have on Pearl? Dimmesdale asks Pearl if she will now kiss him, even though she wouldn’t in the forest. When she does so, a spell is broken, and Pearl’s purpose as a living symbol of her parents’ sin is fulfilled. This scene and her crying over her dying father signifies that she will not only live a life full of both sadness and joy, but will also be a part of the world as a woman.
Explain Dimmesdale’s parting words to Hester. As Dimmesdale is dying, he tells her goodbye. In response to this, Hester asks if they will spend eternity together. He then tells her that, because of their sins on Earth, an eternal happiness together is not something that they should count on. He says that it is up to God, though, and that He might be merciful.
What theories are given about the scarlet letter imprinted in the minister’s flesh? Some people say that Dimmesdale carved the scarlet letter into his flesh himself starting the day that Hester began wearing hers. Others says that Chillingworth used magic and poison to make it appear. Still others believe that it was sent from heaven as the outwards manifestation of his guilt and sin.
Some witnesses deny seeing a letter on Dimmesdale’s chest, and they claim that his dying words do not imply guilt. According to these witnesses, why does Dimmesdale embrace Hester before he dies? These people say that Dimmesdale embraced Hester to show them that everyone is equally a sinner in God’s eyes. By dying in a sinner’s arms, he made his death a lesson about how man’s own righteousness is useless, for humans’ perception of what is right is very different from God’s perception of sin.
What happens to Chillingworth? What does he give Pearl? Since Chillingworth’s entire life has revolved around wanting to make Dimmesdale suffer, as soon as he dies, Chillingworth has no more purpose to live. Chillingworth then dies within a year, leaving a large amount of his estate and property to pearl.
What becomes of Pearl? It is believed that she is happily married and living a good life.
Explain Hawthorne’s conclusion for Hester. Many years after she initially left, Hester returns to the Puritan community, resumes wearing the scarlet letter, and goes back to living in her old house. But, by the time of her returning, the letter has lost its originally meaning, suddenly symbolizing her generosity and willingness to help others. She comes back because she feels that her sin is not completely paid for, and that her entire life is tied to this spot. By having this ending for her, Hawthorne is perhaps trying to show that people are never able to be completely clean of their sins. When she dies, she is buried near Dimmesdale, but far enough away that their ashes will not mix. They share a black headstone with a scarlet letter “A” on it, which seems to sum up their entire existence together.

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