The Scarlet Letter Study Guide

The Scarlet Letter Study Guide


Chapter 1  “The Prison Door”

  1. What colony is the setting for the novel?


  1. Where in the colony does the opening chapter take place?

  2. For what 2 “practical necessities” did the new colony set aside land?

  3. Who is Anne Hutchinson?  How does Hawthorne feel about her?

  4. What 2 possible symbols does the rose have for the reader?


Chapter 2  “The Market-Place”

  1. Name 3 crimes and the punishments that the Puritans might witness.

  2. What is the relationship between religion and law in Puritan New England?

  3. Describe the Puritan women.  Use one quote from the book to support your answer.

  4. What punishments would the Puritan women have given Hester Prynne if it were left to them?

  5. Describe the appearance of Hester Prynne.

  6. What is Hester’s sin?  Punishment?

  7. What is astonishing about the “A” on her bodice?

  8. Why is Hester taken to the scaffold in the market-place?

  9. What things does Hester think about while she is on the scaffold?

  10. How old is her baby?

  11. What detail is given to suggest the baby was born in jail?


Chapter 3  “The Recognition”

  1. Describer the man who is standing on the outskirts of the crowd.

  2. What prior reference was made in Chapter 2 that reminds the reader of this man?

  3. What gesture does he make to Hester that suggests he knows her?

  4. What does the stranger learn from the townsman next to him?

  5. Who is the father of Hester’s baby?

  6. What is the usual punishment for adultery?  Why is Hester’s punishment less severe?

  7. What are Hester’s feelings toward the stranger?

  8. Who is Bellingham ?  John Wilson?

  9. What do Bellingham and Wilson want Hester to do?

  10. Describe Dimmesdale.

  11. What is his relationship to Hester?  What does he ask her to reveal?

  12. Why won’t Hester name the child’s father?


Chapter 4  “The Interview”

  1. How does Hester act when she returns to prison?

  2. Why does the jailer call a doctor?

  3. What is the doctor’s name?

  4. Where did the “doctor” learn his skill?

  5. Quote 2 lines that indicate the doctor and Hester know each other before this meeting.

  6. What is the relationship between Chillingworth and Hester?

  7. Why should Hester’s marriage be a failure?

  8. Did Hester ever love her husband?  Quote Hester to support your answer.

  9. What does Chillingworth vow to do?

  10. What secret does Chillingworth ask Hester to keep?

  11. What symbol is introduced for Chillingworth in Hester’s final lines in this chapter?


Chapter 5: “Hester at Her Needle”

  1. What “general symbol” has Hester become?


  1. Give at least 2 reasons why Hester does not leave the colony.


  1. Describe Hester’s home.


  1. What talent did Hester use to support herself and Pearl ?


  1. What garments is Hester not allowed to sew?


  1. Why type of dress did Hester wear?  Pearl ?


  1. What does Hester do that shows she has a charitable nature?


  1. How did the poor, the ladies of Boston , the clergy, and the children treat Hester?


  1. What special knowledge does Hester feel the Scarlet Letter gives her? 



Chapter 6: “ Pearl ”


  1. Why did Hester name her child “ Pearl ” ?


  1. Give at least two reasons why Hester does not leave the colony.


  1. Describe Hester’s home.


  1. What talent did Hester use to support herself and Pearl ?


  1. What does the Scarlet Letter mean to Pearl ?


  1. What did the townspeople say about Pearl ?


Chapter 7:  “The Governor’s Hall”


  1. Name 2 reasons Hester visits Governor Bellingham.


  1. How are the Scarlet Letter and Pearl alike?


Chapter 8:  “The Elf and the Minister”


  1. Who are the other visitors at the Governor’s house?


  1. How much time has elapsed since the opening scene?


  1. With what creatures of fantasy is Pearl continually compared?


  1. How has Chillingworth changed since Hester last saw him?


  1. Why does John Wilson question Pearl ?


  1. How has Rev. Dimmesdale changed since Hester’s public humiliation?


  1. Who pleads successfully for Hester to keep her child?


  1. To which visitor does Pearl respond to lovingly?


Chapter 9:  “The Leech”


  1. What new identity has Chillingworth assumed in Boston ?  Why is he successful?


  1. To whom in the colony does Chillingworth attach himself as a medical advisor?


  1. Describe Dimmesdale’s health.  See p. 123-124.


  1. What gesture has become Dimmesdale’s habit?


  1. Quote a sentence from this chapter that associates Chillingworth with evil.


  1. What two opposing views do the townspeople hold about Roger Chillingworth?


Chapter 10:   “The Leech and His Patient”


  1. What “investigation” consumes Chillingworth?
  2. Who is Chillingworth’s main suspect and victim?
  3. What is a leech?  What double meaning does the world “leech” have?
  4. What secret does Chillingworth believe is buried in Dimmesdale’s heart?
  5. Why would Dimmesdale live with guilt and not confess his sin openly?
  6. What reaction does Pearl have to Chillingworth when she sees him with Rev. Dimmesdale?
  7. What discovery does Chillingworth make when Dimmesdale “fell into a deep, deep slumber”?


Chapter 11:  “The Interior of a Heart”


  1. What effect does Reverend Dimmesdale’s guilt have upon his popularity in the colony?


  1. What practices does Dimmesdale begin as a result of his guilt?



The Scarlet Letter Study Guide Ch 12-20

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