Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 379
1. What is the topic and mood of Dimmesdale’s sermon?
2. Describe the minister’s condition after the speech, and tell which people offer him assistance.
3. Where are the four major characters during the final scaffold scene?
4. What changes occur in Pearl? What does she accept from Dimmesdale?
5. What moral does the narrator say is central to the story?
6. What are the various versions of what was seen on Dimmesdale’s chest?
7. What is the effect of Dimmesdale’s confession on Chillingworth?
8. What is the effect of Chillingworth’s legacy to Pearl?
9. Describe the circumstances of Hester’s return to Salem.
10. Are the two lovers ever united?
1. Dimmesdale’s sermon is a passionate and surprisingly positive one about the relationship of God to the Puritan community and about the “high and glorious destiny for the newly gathered people of the Lord.”
2. Dimmesdale seems near death. He rejects the assistance of Reverend Wilson and of Governor Bellingham, but accepts the help of Hester as he mounts the scaffold.
3. All four, Hester, Pearl, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth, are now on the scaffold.
4. Dimmesdale’s kiss acknowledges Pearl as his child, and breaks the spell which seems to have held Pearl captive. She cries and, we are told, will be a normal person from this moment onward.
5. “Be true! Be true! Be true!” The inability of Dimmesdale to be honest is pointed to as the central cause of the ongoing distress.
6. The narrator again is ambiguous. A red letter “A” was seen and was said to be either cut or burnt in by Dimmesdale, made to appear by his guilt feelings and heaven’s judgment, put there by Chillingworth’s medicines or magic, or was never there at all.
7. Frustrated by Dimmesdale’s confession and death, Chillingworth withers away and dies within a year.
8. The great amount of land left to Pearl allows her and Hester to leave Boston.
9. Several years later Hester returns to Boston. She takes up her residence in the cottage and resumes her drab dress accented by the scarlet letter.
10. Dimmesdale’s last words presumed that their sin meant they would never have a perfect union. In death they are buried near, but not beside, each other. Whether Hester and Dimmesdale are united in heaven is left unsaid.
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