The Scarlet Letter Flashcard Example #13497

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Who wrote TSL?
Nathaniel Hawthorne
When was TSL written?
What is interesting about Nathaniel Hawthorne’s heritage?
He is a descendant of a super Puritan judge from the time of the Salem Witch Trials (Hathorn in The Crucible.) This leads to an internal conflict on Hawthorne’s own part which makes him kind of torn between the ideals of the puritans and the romantics
What period of literature does TSL come from?
Where and When is TSL set?
Massachusetts Bay Colony, Salem, Massachusetts, sometime during the 1650’s or so (1642)
Why are the townspeople gathered outside the prison door in Chapter One?
They are awaiting Hester Prynne, who is going to serve part of her punishment for adultery
What two symbols does Hawthorne present us with in Chapter One? What are some possible interpretations of their significance?
The Prison Door and the Rose Bush – there are lots of different interpretations, but you can see them as the competing ideas of Puritanism (the prison door) and romanticism (the rose bush), or as a symbol of the change/growth of Hester herself over the course of the book
What is ironic about the fact that land has been set aside for the prison (along with the cemetery)?
Even though they see themselves as a perfect society/utopia, they still acknowledge that they cannot escape the realities of either evil or death
Who is the Rose bush connected to? Why?
Anne Hutchinson, a “saintly woman” who was seen as a criminal for being religiously rebellious during her lifetime
Why does Hawthorne offer the reader a rose at the end of Chapter One?
As a sign of hope to illuminate the darkness of the story to follow
What is significant about the idea that in Massachusetts “iniquity is brought out into the sunshine”?
The puritans in Massachusetts see their society as a place where there is no silent sin and where evil is consciously combatted (think Puritan drama of the soul)
What is unusual about the crowd at the prison door in Chapter Two?
There are many women of varying ages who seem unusually interested in the proceedings
True or False: Puritans considered the severity of the crime when creating a punishment for it.
Relatively speaking, false – puritans basically saw any sin as being equally evil as any other sin, which is one of the reasons that there is such a large crowd gathered to see Hester. They would have come out to see anyone, be it an unruly child or a murderer. Hawthorne basically implies that this comes from the lack of separation of church and state in Puritan society (as well as the fact that no one can mind their own damn business…)
What is the difference between the role of women in Puritan society and in Hawthorne’s time?
In Puritan society, they were prized for being able to work and stay alive. In Hawthorne’s time, they were basically prized for being beautiful and delicate. So, yay progress? Or not…
What is Hester’s punishment for adultery?
She must stand on the scaffold in front of the whole town for three hours, and then must wear the scarlet letter for the rest of her life. (She also obviously serves some jail time, but we don’t really know how much or whether she was ever officially sentenced for a particular amount of time.)
How do the women of Massachusetts feel about Hester’s punishment?
Almost all of them (excepting a younger woman who thinks the emotional scar is enough) feel that Hester should have been judged more harshly – they suggest branding her forehead where she can’t hide the A and, well, death
Why was Hester spared harsher punishment?
Her husband, who had sent her ahead of him to the new world, is suspected to be dead, so people feel at least vaguely sympathetic
What is Hester trying to do when she steps out of the jail?
Use Pearl to cover her scarlet letter (which is kind of iffy since they both mean the same thing, but it’s worth a shot)
What surprises people about Hester’s appearance?
She is, if anything, more beautiful than before being put in jail, and she has made the scarlet letter she is forced to wear extravagant and kind of beautiful
True or False: One of the primary effects of the scarlet letter is that it isolates Hester and Pearl.
Who does Hawthorne think a Catholic might be reminded of if they saw Hester on the scaffold?
The Virgin Mary (but only because of the sharp contrast)
What does the crowd do while Hester is on the scaffold?
Literally nothing except stare at her
What does Hester think about on the scaffold?
Her past (specifically, her father and her husband are mentioned)
Who is with the Indian in the crowd? How does Hester recognize him?
Hester’s husband, who has apparently been kidnapped by/was living with the natives since the ship bringing him to new world sank. Hester knows it is him because of his uneven shoulders and his expression
After hearing her story, how does the man in the crowd describe Hester’s role in Massachusetts?
She will be a “living sermon against sin”
The man in the crowd says “he will be known” three times – who is he?
The father of Hester Prynne’s baby
Which three men address Hester while she is on the pillory?
Governor Bellingham, the governor of the town, John Wilson, an elderly clergyman and mentor to Dimmesdale, and Arthur Dimmesdale himself, Hester’s minister
Why do the men come to the decision that Dimmesdale must be the one to address Hester? Why is this ironic?
Because he is her pastor – the entire situation is kind of an example of dramatic irony at least in hindsight, since Dimmesdale himself is the father of the baby
Why is Dimmesdale so well respected?
He’s super duper eloquent and also really cute ??
What does Dimmesdale tell Hester to do? Why?
Admit the name of her child’s father, so that he can be openly confessed instead of living in sin for the rest of his life (hmmm….okay, Dimmesdale.)
How many people tell Hester to give her daughter a father?
3 – Dimmesdale, Wilson and then her husband in the crowd
Why is a physician called for in Chapter Four? Who is this physician?
Because Hester and, more importantly, the baby are both sick after standing in the sun for three hours. The physician, obviously, is Hester’s husband from England.
What name does Hester’s husband take in the colonies?
Roger Chillingworth
What is Chillingworth also called and why?
The “leech” which was just a name used for doctors (it can also be seen as a symbolic reference to the way that Chillingworth affects Dimmesdale
What is Hester worried about when she first encounters Chillingworth?
That he will kill her and the baby out of revenge
Why does Chillingworth tell Hester he won’t kill her in the jail cell?
He thinks it is greater punishment for her to live and have to bear the shame of the scarlet letter
Why does Chillingworth accept some responsibility for the affair?
He should have known better and not married her in the first place (this is part of that long, melodramatic speech about how he never should have expected a pretty girl like her to want an ugly, deformed, overly studious guy like him that really irritated me)
What two secrets is Hester keeping by the end of chapter 4?
1) the identity of her baby’s father
2) the fact that Chillingworth was her husband
Why is Hester upset when she is released from jail?
She knows that her day to day life of isolation is going to be a literal trial; also, it’s terrible to be a symbol instead of a person
Why does Hawthorne propose that Hester doesn’t just leave Massachusetts and go somewhere where she isn’t so infamous?
Her sin ties her to there – basically, Hawthorne proposes that we as human beings feel compelled to stay where the big events of our lives happen, and while this hasn’t been a positive experience for Hester, it has been an important one (Hawthorne also kind of alludes to the fact that Hester wants to stay where her lover is, which is kinda romantic with a lowercase r)
What is Hester’s day to day life like?
She and her daughter live alone in an isolated cottage, where she does needlework and helps the poor but is entirely ostracized and looked down upon
What does Hester make? What does she not make?
She does make officials robes for ceremonies, gloves, baby linens, funerals clothes, and a bunch of other stuff. However, she does NOT make wedding veils.
True or False: Hester uses her talents to make beautiful garments for herself
False – the only thing she does for herself is make pretty things for her daughter
What is the name of Hester’s daughter and why?
Pearl, because she is her mother’s “greatest treasure” (it’s supposed to be a biblical reference to the parable where a woman sells all that she owns to buy an expensive Pearl, because Hester has literally given up her entire reputation and social standing in having Pearl
True or False: Pearl is exceedingly beautiful
True – Hawthorne makes the comparison that she was worthy to play in the Garden of Eden with angels after the fall of man
What is unusual about Pearl? (There’s actually a lot that’s unusual about her.)
*she’s insanely pretty
*she’s totally “wild” and won’t listen to rules (although I feel like most three year olds are kind of like that)
*she seems to have some element of the supernatural to her (people theorize that she is an “elf child” or even a demon
*she seems preternaturally precocious and always knows a little more than she should
*her emotions are super random but VERY passionate
What is the first thing that Pearl notices as a baby?
Hester’s scarlet letter
What is interesting about the imaginary friends that Pearl makes up?
They’re all enemies/antagonists
When is the only time that Hester can relax during pearl’s childhood?
When the baby is asleep
How much time passes between the events of chapters 5 and 6 and the events of chapter 7?
About three years
Why does Hester take Pearl to the governor’s house in Chapter 7?
Technically to deliver a pair of gloves she has made him, but more significantly to look into the rumors that the town magistrates are thinking about taking Pearl away from her
Why do the people of the town think that Pearl should be taken away from Hester?
If she really is a demon child, which half of the colony thinks is like a legit thing, then they want to protect Hester from her. On the other, if she’s a normal human child, obviously there is someone better than Hester to raise her (Hawthorne alludes to the fact that there is a lot of icky political maneuvering going on too, but we’ll pretend to ignore that)
How is Pearl dressed for her visit to the governor and why is it significant?
She’s wearing a red dress – Pearl, the other symbol of her mother’s shame, is the LITERAL scarlet letter
In the house, what is Pearl surprised by?
The sunlight, which she wants to be gathered up for her to play with (which leads to “thou must gather thine own sunshine, for I have none to give thee)
What is the significance of the suit of armor?
Pearl points it out because she can see her mother’s reflection, where the only thing emphasized is the scarlet letter A
What does Pearl want in the garden?
A red rose (think the rose bush from the beginning of the book)
Which 4 men are present in the governor’s house?
Bellingham, Wilson, Dimmesdale and Chillingworth
Who do they first see upon entering the room?
Only Pearl
What about Wilson’s appearance emphasizes both the hypocrisy of Massachusetts and Romantic ideas against the church/society?
Wilson, a member of the clergy, is used to extravagance and materialism
What makes Bellingham and Wilson think that Pearl should be taken away from Hester?
She obviously hasn’t been brought up with a proper Christian sensibility – she can’t even identify God as the one that made her (actually, she can, she’s just being difficult, but the point remains)
Where does Pearl say she came from?
Nowhere – her mother plucked her from the rosebush outside the prison door (this kind of emphasizes the ideas of romanticism and hope that are already associated with the rosebush)
Why does Hester say that she should get to keep Pearl?
She can teach Pearl better because she lives with the shame of the scarlet letter and knows sin firsthand
Why does Dimmesdale say that Hester should get to keep Pearl?
Because God gave Pearl to Hester, likely as a means of salvation
What has changed about Chillingworth in the years since he first came to the colony?
He seems darker, uglier and more evil
Who is Mistress Hibbins?
The widowed sister of Bellingham, who is rumored to be a witch and does a bunch of witchy stuff whenever she randomly shows up
Why doesn’t Hester go to the super fun witch party with Mistress Hibbins?
Pearl is with her (see, Pearl really is Hester’s salvation!)
What role does Chillingworth fulfill in the town?
He is a doctor, and the town desperately needed one
Why do the townspeople think Chillingworth was sent by God at first?
Dimmesdale, their super saintly minister, seems to be slowly fading away – he’s obviously weaker, paler and always has his hand over his heart
What do the townspeople thing of Chillingworth after he has been around Dimmesdale for awhile?
That he is evil/the devil
By the end of chapter 10, what is Dimmesdale and Chillingworth’s relationship like?
They’re basically BFFs – they’re living in the same house and basically spend most of their time talking about God and the universe and all sorts of fun stuff
Why doesn’t Dimmesdale notice or question Chillingworth’s behavior?
Hawthorne gives us two reasons: first of all, Chillingworth is really smart and subtle about this whole thing. Second of all, Dimmesdale is so paranoid and emotionally unstable that he kind of assumes EVERYONE is his enemy, so he can’t see Dimmesdale for what he truly is
What does Pearl call Chillingworth when she sees him?
The Black Man (the Puritan name for the devil)
Why is Chillingworth delighted when he takes Dimmesdale’s shirt off in Chapter 10?
As much as this sounds like an adorable bromance, it’s because he sees something (the scarlet letter or at least some sort of Mark) on his chest, identifying him as pearl’s father
True or False: Dimmesdale is characterized as completely chill, very liberal and uncreative.
False (it’s the opposite of all of those)
Where does Chillingworth say that he’s gotten the leaf that Dimmesdale asks about from?
The grave of a man who died with a sin/ secret on his conscience – this prompts a conversation between Chillingworth and Dimmesdale where they basically argue over whether or not or is better to confess a sin to clear your conscience or die with it still unspoken Dimmesdale comments that people may try to avoid confessing a secret in order to appear more holy since they are truly devoted to God, and Chillingworth points out that they’re just lying to themselves at that point (which upsets Dimmesdale for obvious reasons)
What does Chillingworth say about the nature of Dimmesdale’s illness?
It is caused by something spiritual, not something physical
As he continues to become more and more ill, how do the people of the town/parish view Dimmesdale?
As even better than before – because he IS one, Dimmesdale seems to truly empathize with the sinner and he seems very connected with/on the same level as the people instead of loftily angelic
How does Dimmesdale feel about the fact that he is so revered?
He HATES it, because he feels like a hypocrite and his secret is killing him
What does Dimmesdale keep in his closet?
A bloody scourge which he basically uses to torture himself
What does Dimmesdale imagine as he is whipping himself?
The faces of his parents, Hester and Pearl
In Chapter 12, why is everyone up and about? Why does Dimmesdale think they are?
Governor Winthrop is dying, but Dimmesdale is worried that everyone has heard him scream
Who stops to talk to Dimmesdale while he is on the scaffold?
Hester and Pearl
Who is Dimmesdale afraid of?
Why won’t Pearl tell Dimmesdale who Chillingworth is?
She hates him for s hypocrisy – when she asked him to stand with her and her mother in daylight, Dimmesdale gave her an evasive answer about how they will be judged together at the end of time and it kind of upsets Pearl
How do the people of the town interpret the big A in the sky on the night when Dimmesdale was on the scaffold?
It was a sign that Winthrop, the dead governor, had gone to heaven/was now an angel
What does Hester decide to do to help Dimmesdale? Why?
Tell him the truth about Chillingworth, since she’s realized that he’s absolutely miserable and she was wrong if she thought that keeping the secret would protect Dimmesdale
What title does Hester give herself (think Feehan)?
A self ordained Sister of Mercy
How does the town’s perception of the scarlet letter change as time goes on?
That it is a sign of her goodness/able nature instead of a sign of sin
How has Hester herself changed?
She is less beautiful and considers herself closed off to the ideas of love/affection
What is Hester’s reaction when Chillingworth tells her that the town magistrates are considering letting her take off the scarlet letter?
She refuses, saying that it is not in their power to do so
Who does Chillingworth blame for turning him into such a horrible person?
Dimmesdale, although he also brings up the idea that it was his fate to be like this just as it was Hester’s fate to wear the scarlet letter
True or False: Even though she doesn’t like what he’s doing to Dimmesdale, Hester understands and sympathizes with Chillingworth after their conversation on the beach.
False – Hester in fact hates Chillingworth entirely, saying that his sin in seeking revenge is almost worse that her and Dimmesdale’s sin was in the first place and she entirely regrets marrying him at all
What two questions does Pearl repeatedly ask her mother in the second half of the book?
1) What does the scarlet letter mean?
2) Why does the minister always keep his hand over his heart?
What does Hester realize about Pearl which makes her uncomfortable when they talk about the scarlet letter at the water?
She realizes that Pearl has such a strong personality that if she grows up to be a bad person, she’s going to be a VERY bad person
What does Hester do for the first time when Pearl asks her what the scarlet letter means?
She lies about it, saying that she only wears it because of the pretty gold thread
Why do Hester and Pearl go into the woods in Chapter 16?
Hester has been trying to find Dimmesdale so she can warn him about Chillingworth, and so she and Pearl go into the woods to catch him on his way back from visiting Eliot, a missionary to the Indians.
What does Pearl comment on in regards to sunshine?
It seems to be avoiding her mother (or, more specifically, the scarlet letter)
What do Pearl and Hester talk about in the woods?
The Black Man, who Pearl has heard about from Mistress Hibbins
Whose mark does Hester claim the scarlet letter is?
The devil’s
What is the significance of the brook? Who is it compared to?
It is seen both as a symbol of wild sadness and as a division between two radically different worlds (either between sin and goodness or between Puritanism and romanticism) – it is compared a couple of times to Pearl herself, both by means of contrast and similarity
What are Hester and Dimmesdale compared to when they meet in the forest?
What is Dimmesdale’s reaction to finding out about Chillingworth’s true identity? What does Hester do in response?
Dimmesdale is understandably upset, and Hester basically hugs him until he forgives her, which he does
What does Hester tell Dimmesdale to do to escape Chillingworth?
Leave the colony and go somewhere else. When Dimmesdale says that he lacks the strength to go alone, she says he won’t have to because she and Pearl will come with him
Why does Dimmesdale agree to leave Massachusetts?
He feels that he is doomed already, and so he may as well live his life free from the guilt he feels here
What happens when Hester removes the scarlet letter?
The sun comes out and nature in general seems to be happy; Hester herself looks young, beautiful and in love again
What is Dimmesdale worried about most when he agrees to go with Hester?
That Pearl, their daughter, won’t like him
What has Pearl been doing while Dimmesdale and Hester were talking?
Basically, to quote CKelly, she’s in “full Disney princess mode”, talking to animals and frolicking in the woods
Why does Pearl refuse to cross the brook?
Her mother isn’t wearing the scarlet letter or her bonnet, and Pearl might literally not recognize her – it only goes to show that the scarlet letter has basically become intrinsic to who Hester is – it is entirely part of her identity.
What does Pearl do that upset her mother when she finally crosses the brook?
She kisses the scarlet letter
What does Pearl do when Dimmesdale kisses her?
She washes it off in the brook and then refuses to talk to Dimmesdale or Hester while they plot their escape
How does the role of the forest reflect romantic ideas?
It is only once they go into the woods, where they are in nature and separate from society, that Hester and Dimmesdale are truly themselves, free from guilt and admitting their love for one another
How has the way that Hester has changed over the course of the novel reflected romantic ideas?
By being separate from society, Hester has come to look to herself and not to societal standards as her measure of goodness and moral truth (so we have both the idea of self reliance and the idea that society is bad)
What five things is Dimmesdale tempted to do?
1) Say blasphemous things while talking with an old Deacon
2) He forgets a biblical quote while talking to an old lady
3) He thinks about corrupting a young convert who has a crush on him
4) He considers teaching the good Puritan children swears
5) He wants to have a drink with a pirate (I think?)
What is Hester and Dimmesdale’s plan for getting out of Massachusetts?
Hester’s reputation as a “sister of mercy” can get them passage on a boat that is leaving for England in a couple of days, just after the Dimmesdale is going to give the election sermon to celebrate a new governor which is a HUGE deal for a minister
What does Dimmesdale worry about when he leaves Hester in the forest?
That she wasn’t real and that he has literally made a deal with the devil (some creepy talk from Mistress Hibbins just kind of reinforces this idea)
Why does the town look different to Dimmesdale?
Because he himself has changed
What does Dimmesdale do at the end of chapter 20?
Refuses medicine from Dimmesdale, throws away the draft he had been writing of the election sermon and pulls an all nighter to rewrite it
How does Hawthorne use parallelism at the end of the book?
The setting/situation, with the town square, everyone gathered, Hester near the scaffold and Chillingworth sending out evil looks in the crowd, mimics the setting of the first few chapters
Why is the whole town gathered at the end of the book?
There is a holiday for the procession in honor of the new governor, which Hawthorne tells us is basically the only time when puritans have fun
Why is Hester upset after talking with the ship captain?
It is revealed that Chillingworth is coming with them on the boat
What image does Hawthorne liken emotional turmoil to?
Being in a maze
How does the election sermon go?
Really really well – Dimmesdale is just insanely eloquent, and everyone talks about the fact that he sounds like he’s either literally a prophet or is about to die
Why is Hester a little disappointed during the procession?
Dimmesdale, who’s looking a lot better by the way, doesn’t even acknowledge her
What do Hester and Mistress Hibbins talk about during the procession?
The fact that Dimmesdale was seen in the woods with the devil (which Hester denies, obviously)
How do the natives view Pearl?
As something more wild than themselves
What does Chillingworth say when Dimmesdale goes up on the scaffold?
That this confession is the only way that Dimmesdale could have ever escaped Chillingworth’s revenge
What does Hawthorne mean when he says that a “spell has been broken” when Pearl kisses her father as he is dying?
Pearl existed primarily as a symbol of Hester’s sin, designed to make Hester and Dimmesdale feel guilty until they did the right thing. This sort of supernatural weirdness is ended as Dimmesdale makes his confession, and Pearl becomes nothing more than a girl. There’s a quote about how she basically becomes a woman who is part of the world instead of a girl at war with it.
What is only Dimmesdale’s chest, which he reveals as he is dying?
A mark like Hester’s scarlet letter
What does Dimmesdale tell Hester when she asks whether they will be together in the afterlife?
Probably not – God is merciful, sure, but they still committed a sin and will be judged accordingly
How do people explain what happened on the scaffold?
*Dimmesdale caused the mark himself in his torturing of himself
*the devil literally left a mark on Dimmesdale, or else it was a sign of his guilty heart trying to chew its way out of his body
*there was nothing there at all, and everyone is freaking out over nothing
What happens to Chillingworth after Dimmesdale dies?
Since he’s basically lost his entire purpose in life, he dies a year later and leaves everything to Pearl
What happens to Pearl?
She inherits all of Chillingworth’s property, making her the wealthiest heiress in the colonies. It is implied that she married a rich man from overseas and had children.
What happens to Hester?
She and Pearl move away for awhile, but then Hester comes back alone. She continues to live in her cottage, wearing her grey robe and the scarlet letter, serves the poor and gives advice to the women of the village. In particular, she mentions that she believes that things will get better for women some day, but she is not the one to do it. When she dies, she is buried near (but not too near) Dimmesdale, and they share a headstone with a scarlet letter A.
What Romantic moral does Hawthorne tell us we can take from Dimmesdale’s story?
“Be true, be true, be true” (it’s possible that this will be an essay)
Do you think that the Scarlet Letter was effective?
No (I think this might be an essay choice though…)
How does the main conflict of the Scarlet Letter show the clash between Puritanism and Romanticism?
Again, I’m thinking this might be an essay choice – basically, it boils down to the fact that nature approves of Hester and Dimmesdale being together but God does not (there’s a whole bunch of other little comparisons you can make too – Hester and Dimmesdale themselves serve this symbolic role as characters, the prison door and the rosebush can be seen as images of this, and you can bring up Hawthorne’s background if you want to)
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