Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 546
1. What are the effects of the letter on Hester Prynne over this seven year interval?
2. What crime has Hester committed which, if known to the Puritans, would have resulted in her death?
3. What value does Hester place upon her life?
4. What does Hester see as necessary before women would be treated equally in society?
5. What is the meaning of the line, “the scarlet letter had not done its office”?
6. Why does Hester feel responsible for Dimmesdale’s physical condition?
7. What favors does Chillingworth feel he has done for Dimmesdale?
8. Why is Chillingworth even more vengeful towards Dimmes-dale?
9. When is Hester untrue to the scarlet letter?
10. What is the current relationship between Hester and Pearl?
1. Her quiet acceptance of her status and her charity work have won her respect. The scarlet letter is now said to stand for “Able” and is even said by some to have a supernatural power to protect the wearer, but the letter and Pearl’s reaction to it are a source of continual pain. On the surface Hester is uncomplaining and somber, but her passions have been redirected into thoughts about the individual’s role in society.
2. Hester’s free speculation about life and her abandonment of Puritan values, if known, would have been held a far deadlier crime than adultery.
3. Hester sees little hope for improvement in her condition and, at times, considers killing both Pearl and herself and taking her chances in the afterlife.
4. Hester believes that the whole of society must be torn down and the rules of conduct as proscribed by the Puritan leaders must be done away with. Secondly, men must change their attitudes towards women and their capabilities. Finally, women must change their images of themselves and take the means of power equally with men.
5. “Office” means the job for which it was intended. The letter was intended to make Hester remorseful of her sin and eager to keep in line with Puritan values. In fact, it has done the opposite, even bringing her to the point of considering murder and suicide.
6. Hester feels her promise not to reveal Chillingworth’s identity is allowing the doctor to torment the minister, causing his physical deterioration.
7. Chillingworth feels he has kept the minister from being imprisoned or even executed by keeping his part in the adultery secret. In fact, it has been the doctor’s continued care that has kept Dimmesdale alive.
8. The doctor, now aware of the fiendish person he has become in his pursuit of revenge, feels Dimmesdale has done this to him and is therefore even more deserving of punishment. He takes no responsibility for his actions.
9. Although Hester has not been open with Pearl about the letter, this is the first time she has ever lied to Pearl. Pearl knows Hester is lying. She cannot bring herself to tell the child about her illegitimacy and says she wears the letter only for its value as a decoration.
10. Pearl is beginning to show traits of affection for her mother, and Hester considers confiding in her. Another change is refelected in Hester’s stern warning to Pearl to be quiet as she continues asking about the letter. Before this time she could not find it within herself to be harsh with the child.
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