Chapters 5-8 Questions and Answers

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Study Questions
1. After her ordeal, where did Hester choose to live? Why?

2. What occupation did Hester take up?

3. Describe Hester’s appearance and mental state during this time period.

4. Give at least three examples of Hester’s treatment by the community.

5. Describe Pearl’s personality and appearance.

6. What is Pearl’s reaction to the scarlet letter?

7. Why does Hester go the Governor’s house?

8. Describe the luxury of the Governor’s home, especially in contrast to an ordinary Puritan’s lifestyle.

9. How does Pearl behave when questioned by the men?

10. How does Hester succeed in her mission, and how does this relate to her conversation with Mistress Hibbins?

1. Free to go anywhere, Hester remains in Salem, taking up residence in an abandoned cottage on the outskirts of the community. She does so because she feels connected to Salem by her sin and because she feels linked to the man who was her lover.

2. Hester’s ability to sew, shown by her embroidering of the scarlet letter itself, allows her to support herself. She sews everything from funeral shrouds to fancy apparel for the upper class.

3. On the outside Hester exhibits the somber manner the Puritans demand of her. She wears drab and coarse clothing and interacts with the community only in her work and in her charitable acts. Her passionate nature is hidden and redirected into her embroidery. Inwardly, she feels isolated and lonely but accepts this as her lot.

4. Everyone, rich and poor, makes comments to Hester about her sin. Clergymen preach sermons about her behavior. Children, imitating their parents’ behavior, taunt her in the streets. Strangers, unaware of her situation, stare in puzzlement at her.

5. Pearl is described as wild, defiant, moody, exuberant, undisciplined, perceptive, and perverse. Hester dresses her in colorful outfits, beautifully embroidered, but is unable to control the actions of her young daughter who remains isolated from other children.

6. Even in her crib Pearl seemed fascinated with the scarlet letter. She grabbed on to it once and smiled, causing her mother considerable anguish. Pearl constantly smiles knowingly at the letter, renewing Hester’s anguish each time she observes her child’s sly smile. Once Pearl smilingly pelted the scarlet letter with flowers, an action her mother silently endured.

7. Hester has heard rumors that she is considered an unfit mother for so undisciplined a child. Since Pearl is the source of her joy as well as her torment, Hester is determined to keep her.

8. The Governor’s mansion is described as large and airy with much sunshine coming through many windows. The outside, made of stucco mixed with glass, sparkles in the sunlight. The mansion is furnished with curtains and wall decorations, few of which would please an ordinary Puritan who lived a simple and unadorned life.

9. Pearl first jumps up on the window ledge, then puts her finger in her mouth, refusing to speak. She gives a seemingly nonsensical answer to a question from the catechism, though she knew the expected response from Hester’s teaching.

10. Hester demands that Dimmesdale intercede for her. She implies that she will do anything to keep Pearl, including revealing that Dimmesdale is the father of the child. Hester, in reply to Hibbins’ request that she join the Black Man in the Forest that night, replies that she would have done so if she had not won the right to Pearl.

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