Chapters 16-19 Questions and Answers

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Study Questions
1. Why does Hester prefer to meet with Dimmesdale in the forest rather than in the settlement?

2. What significance can be attributed to the play of sunlight on Pearl and Hester?

3. What story does Pearl hear of her mother’s involvement with the Black Man of the Forest?

4. What are Dimmesdale’s reactions when Hester tells him Chillingworth’s true identity?

5. What effect does Hester have upon Dimmesdale?

6. How does Pearl fit into the forest setting?

7. Why does Pearl refuse to retrieve the scarlet letter herself?

8. Why does Pearl insist that the scarlet letter be replaced?

9. What is the effect on Hester when she replaces the letter on her bosom?

10. What is the significance of Pearl’s reaction to the minister?

1. Hester prefers the openness of the forest for their important talk. She also fears the interference of Chillingworth if the two meet anywhere in the settlement.

2. Here, sunlight seems to symbolize happiness and acceptance of the individual by nature. Pearl delights in the light while it eludes Hester when she reaches for it.

3. Pearl has overheard rumors that her mother meets regularly with the devil in the forest. Hester denies this and admits to meeting with the devil once and receiving the scarlet letter from him. Hester is referring here to her instance of adultery but an argument can be made that her independent thinking is her ongoing sin, thus representing her ongoing meetings with the devil.

4. Dimmesdale is astonished to learn that Chillingworth is Hester’s former husband. He gives her an evil look and refuses at first to forgive her. Hester holds him fiercely and insists that he forgive her.

5. Unable to think or act clearly, Dimmesdale says, “Be thou strong for me!” It is Hester who excites him with the possibilitiy of escape.

6. Pearl moves naturally and happily in the forest. The sunlight delights her, the berries feed her, the flowers adorn her, and the forest animals accept her as a natural part of the scene.

7. Pearl wants her mother to retrieve the scarlet letter herself and put it back on.

8. The narrator suggests that Pearl may be reluctant to return from the natural world and directly states that she feels excluded from her mother’s affection by the presence of Dimmesdale. Dimmesdale says that Pearl could be having a natural reaction to seeing a change in her mother’s appearance or could very well be a devilish spirit.

9. Hester, forced to put the letter back on, has a sense of “inevitable doom.” She puts up her hair back under her cap and again becomes the somber person she had been for seven years.

10. Pearl focuses on the need for Dimmesdale to openly acknowledge his lover and illegitimate daughter. Pearl’s washing off of his kiss sets us up for her eventual acceptance of his kiss in the climatic scene of the novel.

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