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The Scarlet Letter Study Guide Questions Essay

Chapter 1 “The Prison Door”

1. What colony is the setting for the novel? Boston Massachusetts 2. Where in the colony does the opening chapter take place? In the jail 3. For what 2 “practical necessities” did the new colony set aside land? A cemetery and a prison. 4. Who is Anne Hutchinson? How does Hawthorne feel about her? Anne Hutchinson was a religious but freewheeling woman who disagreed with Puritanical teachings, and as a result she was imprisoned in Boston and then banished. She eventually was a founder of Rhode Island. Hawthorne claims that it is possible that the beautiful rosebush growing directly at the prison door sprang from her footsteps. This implies that Puritanical authoritarianism may be so rigid that it obliterates both freedom and beauty. 5. What 2 possible symbols does the rose have for the reader? A sweet moral blossom or relieve the darkening close of a tale of human frailty and sorrow.

Chapter 2 “The Market-Place”

1. Name 3 crimes and the punishments that the Puritans might witness. • Sluggish bondservant or an undutiful child who’s parents had given them to the civil authority that would be corrected at the whipping post. • That an antinomian, a Quaker, or other heterodox religionist, was to be run out of the town, or an idle and vagrant indian, whom the white man’s firewater had made riotous about the streets, was to be driven with stripes into the shadow of the forest. • That a witch, like old mistress hibbins, the bitter-tempered widow of the magistrate, was to die at the gallows. 2. What is the relationship between religion and law in Puritan New England? Religion was the Puritans law. If you committed a sin, it was as if you had committed a crime within the community

3. Describe the Puritan women. Use one quote from the book to support your answer. Hawthorne describes the women who wait for Hester’s public shaming to begin as “the ugliest as well as the most pitiless of these self constituted judges ().” The women are, for the most part, the more severe of those who seek to shame our heroine.Hawthorne’s description of the majority of the females in the town give a vivid image of the cruel and self-righteous attitude they possessed. 4. What punishments would the Puritan women have given Hester Prynne if it were left to them? Death, possibly branding of the “A” on Hester, or Scalded with a hot iron on her forehead to mark her as a “hussy” a immoral woman

5. Describe the appearance of Hester Prynne. Beautiful; tall; long black hair; and black eyes 6. What is Hester’s sin? Punishment? Her sin was Adultery and as punishment she had to walk around with a big “A” on her outfit. 7. What is astonishing about the “A” on her bodice? Beautiful elaborately embroidered with gold thread. 8. Why is Hester taken to the scaffold in the market-place? To publicly put her to shame in front of the town’s people 9. What things does Hester think about while she is on the scaffold? She thinks of childhood, parents, man deformed shoulder, and her new life 10. How old is her baby? About three months 11. What detail is given to suggest the baby was born in jail? When Hester Prynne stepped foot into the sun, the baby winced at the brightness.

Chapter 3 “The Recognition”

1. Describer the man who is standing on the outskirts of the crowd. He is white with a deformed shoulder. 2. What gesture does he make to Hester that suggests he knows her? He raises his finger to his lips. 3. What does the stranger learn from the townsman next to him?The stranger tells him that Hester is the wife of a learned Englishman and had been living with him in Amsterdam when he decided to emigrate to America. The learned man sent Hester to America first and remained behind to settle his affairs, but he never joined Hester in Boston. Also the man revealed that Hester refuses to give the identity of the father of her child. 4. Who is the father of Hester’s baby? She won’t say.

5. What is the usual punishment for adultery? Why is Hester’s punishment less severe? During the Puritan time period, crimes for adultery ended in execution. In Hester’s case, she was only required to wear the scarlet letter because of the unknown information of who her husband and her lover were. Execution was too severe for a crime such as this. 6. What are Hester’s feelings toward the stranger? She’s afraid of him. 7. Who is Bellingham? John Wilson? Bellingham was Governor of Massachusetts…John Wilson was a Main Ruler 8. What do Bellingham and Wilson want Hester to do? Reveal pearl’s father. 9. Describe Dimmesdale. A respected minister.

10. What is his relationship to Hester? What does he ask her to reveal? 11. Why won’t Hester name the child’s father? Hester was protecting the baby’s father from shame and disgrace. She chose to accept all the shame on herself.


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