Chapters 1-4 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What is the setting of the story?

2. What legend accounts for the existence of the rose bush by the prison door?

3. What is the mood of the crowd, and why is their attention focused on the door?

4. What reasons are given as to why Hester Prynne was not executed for her crime? What would the Puritan women have done to her if given the power?

5. What are Hester’s specific actions as she walks from the prison to the scaffold?

6. What memories does Hester review during her three-hour ordeal?

7. Tell where each of the following are located while Hester is on the scaffold: her daughter Pearl, the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale, and her former husband, Roger Chillingworth.

8. What specifically is Dimmesdale’s plea to Hester?

9. During their interview, what is Chillingworth’s attitude toward Hester and her act of infidelity?

10. What promise does Chillingworth exact from Hester?


1. The Scarlet Letter is set in the Puritan colony of Salem, Massachusetts during the 1640s. Specifically, the action begins in the market-place of Salem on a morning in June 1642.

2. The rose bush was said to have grown out of the footsteps of Anne Hutchinson. She was a heretic who taught that personal faith was superior to the force of moral law. The Puritans imprisoned her, then drove...

(The entire section is 528 words.)

Chapters 5-8 Questions and Answers

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...

(The entire section is 562 words.)

Chapters 9-12 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What are the townspeople’s reactions to Chillingworth’s lodging in the same house as Dimmesdale?

2. What changes have taken place in Chillingworth over the years?

3. What actions does Dimmesdale take to punish himself?

4. Why is Chillingworth called a “leech,” and why, at another point, does the narrator compare him to a miner?

5. What is the significance of Chillingworth’s examining Dimmesdale’s chest?

6. What is the reaction of Dimmesdale’s parishioners to his sermons?

7. For what reasons are the major characters at the scaffold during the night?

8. Why does Dimmesdale cry out while on the scaffold?

9. Where is each major character located when the meteor is seen?

10. What are the various interpretations the characters attribute to the shape of the meteor?

1. Many are happy that a doctor will be close at hand to tend to their beloved minister. It is seen as the answer to their prayers. Others begin to notice changes in Chillingworth’s appearance and personality, and rumors circulate that he might be in league with the devil. If there is any conflict between Chillingworth and Dimmesdale, they are sure the goodness in Dimmesdale will win out.

2. There was something ugly and evil in his face. It was widely held that he was the devil or the devil’s...

(The entire section is 513 words.)

Chapters 13-15 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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...

(The entire section is 546 words.)

Chapters 16-19 Questions and Answers

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...

(The entire section is 479 words.)

Chapters 20-22 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What is Hester’s plan for Dimmesdale, Pearl, and herself?

2. What is Dimmesdale tempted to do as he returns to his room? Why?

3. What decision does he make as he reaches his lodging?

4. What does the Puritan celebration tell about their values?

5. How has Chillingworth interfered with Hester’s plan?

6. What does the procession show about Puritan values?

7. What is the minister’s mental state as he walks to the meeting-house? What effect does he have upon Hester?

8. Where is Hester standing during Dimmesdale’s sermon?

9. Why does Hester become the center of the crowd’s attention? What irony does the narrator see in the scene?

10. What is Pearl doing during the sermon?

1. Hester will arrange passage to England for the three of them with a ship’s captain who is leaving in four days.

2. As the minister encounters people on his way he is tempted to suggest obscene religious practices to a deacon, heretical comments about doctrines to a pious woman, and impure ideas to a young maiden. His weakened mind is not accustomed to thinking outside the basic Puritan guidelines.

3. Since he is scheduled to deliver an important sermon one day before the escape to England, Dimmesdale is moved to write a new and more powerful sermon. The encounter with Hibbins...

(The entire section is 479 words.)

Chapters 22-24 Questions and Answers

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...

(The entire section is 379 words.)