The Scarlet Letter Study Guide

Part 1

Read Chapters 1-8.

Read the chapter summaries and vocabulary.

Take notes and create a character sketch for each of the main characters introduced in these chapters:  Hester Prynne, Roger Chillingworth, Arthur Dimmesdale, and Pearl.  Take notes on how they relate to each other.

Read this quote from Chapter 2:  “In either case, there was very much the same solemnity of demeanour on the part of the spectators, as befitted a people among whom religion and law were almost identical, and in whose character both were so thoroughly interfused, that the mildest and severest acts of public discipline were alike made venerable and awful.”  How do you see this in The Scarlet Letter?  How does this apply to the punishment of Hester Prynne?  What was her punishment and what was the goal of the punishment?

Hawthorne describes the letter Hester made to wear on her dress in great detail.  What is unusual about how she has made the letter?  What do you find significant about how she made the scarlet letter?  What statement does this make about her thoughts on the punishment?

Summarize the events so far.


Quote from source

Part 2

Read Chapters 9-15.  You can read chapter summaries and vocabulary to help you.

Each chapter develops the Reader’s insight and understanding about the characters.  After each chapter, add to your notes about the main characters of the story.

Discuss how Roger Chillingworth changes.  What are Hester’s thoughts regarding these changes?  What happens between Hester and Roger?

What do you notice about Dimmesdale and his feelings about his role in the community?  What is causing him to feel this way?  What would have been different if Hester had named him as Pearl’s father?

What moments and events from these chapters impacted you the most?  Why?


Part 3

Read Chapters 16-24.  You can read chapter summaries and vocabulary.

Take notes about major events that lead up to the climax and the resolution to the story.

Write a brief synopsis of how the story ends for each of the main characters.

What happens to Hester Prynne?  Why does she speak to Dimmesdale?  What comes out of that meeting?

How does Pearl play a role in Dimmesdale’s decision to confess?  Who tries to prevent Dimmesdale from mounting the scaffold and why?

What happens to Chillingworth?

Think back on the purpose for Hester’s punishment.  Considering how Hester’s life ended, discuss whether you think the scarlet letter was effective in isolating her from society as the magistrates intended.