Scarlet Letter - Study Questions
The Custom House (excerpt)
What two objects did Hawthorne "discover" in the Custom House where he worked? Describe them in detail. What sensation does the author feel when he presses the embroidered letter to his own heart?
Why did Hawthorne pretend that he found these items?
Chapter 1: The Prison Door
Chapter 2: The Market Place
Chapter 3: The Recognition
Chapter 4: The Interview
Following the Story:
3. As the story opens, a crowd is gathered. Who are these people? Where are they gathered? Why?
4. The description in Ch. 1 of the people's dress, the prison building, and the surrounding vegetation serves to establish certain important impressions of Puritan society at the time of the story. What impressions do you get about this society from the opening chapter? What specific details help to establish these impressions?
What impressions about the character of the Puritans and their concept of sin, morality, and punishment do you get from each of the following:
the description of the Puritan population
the conversation of the women
the brief description of the town beadle
the description of the scaffold and pillory
the appearance and utterances of the Rev.
Mr. Wilson and the Rev. Mr. Dimmesdale.
The story itself begins with the punishment of Hester Prynne.
What early hints do you get in Ch. 2 about the nature of her crime?
What more definite information about her crime do you get in Ch. 3?
What two punishments have been assigned to Hester Prynne?
Standing on the scaffold, Hester envisions her earlier life. What facts do you learn about her previous life? What was the nature of her relationship with the man "well-stricken in years"?
One man in the surrounding crowd is singled out. He is described as "clad in...