Students read the renowned novel The Scarlet Letter, exploring and analyzing the themes of sin, compassion, and hypocrisy as they played out in seventeenth-century Puritan New England.
As one of the most widely read novels in the American literary canon, The Scarlet Letter is a fitting end to this course. In his renowned novel, Nathaniel Hawthorne explores the themes of sin, compassion, and hypocrisy as they play out in seventeenth-century Puritan New England. As students track Hawthorne’s development of his characters, plot, and themes, they will analyze his use of such literary techniques as symbols, motifs, and evocative names to communicate his message to his readers. Critical of the relationship between religion and law in Puritan society, Hawthorne raises questions about the society and its treatment of the individuals that will likely resonate with students as being as applicable to today’s society as they are to the world of Hester, Pearl, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth.
To further develop students’ understanding of the thematic topics, they will listen to several podcasts during this unit that engage with themes and questions similar to those raised in the novel. As a culminating task, students will be asked to produce their own podcast that explores one of the key thematic questions through the lens of a current societal issue.
Book: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (American Renaissance Books, 2009) — 1280L
Article: “Nathaniel Hawthorne” by Biography.com Editors (Biography.com, 2017)
Article: “Puritan Life” (Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia, 2008-2017)
Radio Segment: “Online ‘Shaming’ a New Level of Cyberbullying for Girls” (NPR.org)
Radio Segment: “Inside The Hole: What Happens To The Mind In Isolation?” (NPR.org)
See Text Selection Rationale
Unit Focus: Clear and concise thesis that effectively addresses the prompt
juxtaposition, diction, characterization, tone, mood, motif, theme, pathos, symbolism, allusion
mal-, venge-, be-, in-, necro-
edifice (1), frailty (2), inauspicious (2), portal (2), sentiment (2), solemnity (2), demeanor (2), venerable (2), virtue (3), dismal (4), severity (4), haughty (4 & 5), evanescent (4), ignominy (4, 6 & throughout the novel), ignominious (10), conspicuous (7), penetrative (8), imperceptible (9), iniquity (9 & 10), sage/sagacity (11), hypocrisy (12), quell (14), avenge (15), vengeance (15), besmirch (17), inscrutable (19), inevitability (19 & 33), vanity (21), penance (21), discourse (22), revelation (23), incredulity (24), impassioned (24 & 25), radiance (25), despondency (25), sprite (26), placidity (26), caprice (27), impelled (30), deprived (30), dauntless (32), convex (34), transgressions (35), warily (37), proximity (37), tremulous (38 & 43), averred (40), appellation (40), infamy (41), contagion (41), zeal (41), fervent (42), emaciated (42), scrutinized (44), affinity (44), integrity (47), ghastly (48), irreverently (50), recounted (51), proffering (52), somniferous (52), malice (53), latent (53), avenger (53), odious (54), abhorrence (54), eminent (54), ethereal (55), inconceivable (55), somnambulism (57), expiation (58), tumultuousness (61), malevolence (63), despondency (64), pristine (65), irksomeness (65), requital (65), calamity (66), transfigured (67), semblance (69), auspicious (69), wrought (70), visage (70), lurid (71), blighted (74), malignant (74), nuptial (74), purport (76), resolve (78), vainly (78), melancholy (80), despondency (80), somber (82), devoid (83), penance/penitence (84), misanthropy (84), sanctity (86), habituated (88), estranged (88), intolerant (92), intangible (93), imperious (94), mollified (94), intrusive (96), disquietude (97), incited (98), gratuitous (101), preternaturally (104), countenance (104 & 106), impracticable (106), mirthful (106), relinquish (107), deportment (108), mien (109), consternation (109), contiguous (109), eminence/eminent (110), fortitude (110), delusion (111), necromancy (112), pathos (113), indefatigable (114), audacity (114), inevitable (115), rapture (116), pathos (116), conjectural (121), futile (121), fidelity (122), reverence (124), revelation (124)
Ann Hutchinson (2), Queen Elizabeth (3), hussy (3), Goodwives (3), town-beadle (4), Puritanic code of law (4), infernal pit (13), alchemy (15), Paracelsus (15), “into the pit” (16), Black Man (18), Cain (22), Providence (24), leech (33), Elizabethan Age (33), mail (33), King James’ reign, charger (35), Elixir of Life (41), “providential hand” (43), David and Bathsheba (45), Ann Hutchinson (68), horn-book (76), transfiguration (85), minstrel (106), quarterstaff (106), fie (112), stigma (121), gules (125)
This assessment accompanies Unit 7 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.
The Scarlet Letter
Explain the lifestyle and values of Puritan New England in the mid-1600s.
Make inferences about the author’s potential tone and purpose in the novel.
The Scarlet Letter — Chapter 1: The Prison Door
Describe the mood, tone, and setting as established by Hawthorne in Chapter 1.
Analyze Hawthorne’s use of symbolism to introduce a major theme of the novel.
The Scarlet Letter — Chapter 2: The Marketplace
Analyze Hawthorne’s portrayal of Hester and her situation in Chapter 2.
The Scarlet Letter — Chapter 3:The Recognition
Identify the significance of the scarlet letter in Chapters 2 and 3.
Analyze the narrator’s characterization of Dimmesdale in Chapter 3.
The Scarlet Letter
“Online ‘Shaming’ a New Level of Cyberbullying for Girls”
Identify and analyze Hawthorne’s development of the themes of shame, judgement, and isolation in Chapter 2.
Compare Hawthorne’s treatment of these themes with a modern podcast on a similar theme.
The Scarlet Letter — Chapter 4: The Interview
Analyze Hawthorne’s characterization of Roger Chillingworth.
The Scarlet Letter — Chapter 5: Hester at Her Needle
Analyze Hester’s decision to stay in Boston.
Analyze how Hawthorne develops the theme of isolation in Chapter 5.
The Scarlet Letter — Chapter 6: Pearl
Analyze and explain Pearl’s role as a symbol in the novel.
The Scarlet Letter — Chapter 7:The Governor’s Hall
Compare Hester’s scarlet letter and her daughter, Pearl.
The Scarlet Letter — Chapter 8: The Elf-Child and the Minister
Synthesize two assessments of Hester’s motherhood.
Explain how name reveals character in the novel.
The Scarlet Letter — Chapter 9: The Leech
Describe the author’s characterization of Dimmesdale.
Analyze the developing relationship between Dimmesdale and Chillingworth
The Scarlet Letter — Chapter 10: The Leech and His Patient and Chapter 11: The Interior of a Heart
Analyze how Hawthorne uses the relationship between Chillingworth and Dimmesdale to develop the theme of evil and sin.
The Scarlet Letter — Chapter 12: The Minister’s Vigil
Analyze the author’s characterization of Dimmesdale at this point in the novel.
Compare the two scenes that have occurred on the scaffold, analyzing their significance in the novel.
The Scarlet Letter — Chapter 13: Another View of Hester
Analyze the “other views” of Hester that the author presents in this chapter.
“Inside The Hole: What Happens To The Mind In Isolation?”
Analyze how the author develops the idea of isolation in the podcast.
The Scarlet Letter — Chapter 14: Hester and the Physician
Explain techniques Hawthorne uses to develop theme in this chapter.
The Scarlet Letter — Chapter 15: Hester and Pearl and Chapter 16: A Forest Walk
Describe Hester’s feelings toward Chillingworth and the reasons for these feelings.
Analyze the significance of Hester’s desire to find Dimmesdale in the woods.
The Scarlet Letter — Chapter 17: The Pastor and His Parishioner
Analyze how the author develops the theme of sin and redemption in this chapter.
The Scarlet Letter — Chapter 18: A Flood of Sunshine and Chapter 19: The Child at the Brook-Side
Identify and analyze the significance of Hester’s decision to remove the scarlet letter from her breast.
Explain the significance of Pearl’s reaction to Reverend Dimmesdale.
The Scarlet Letter — Chapter 20: The Minister in a Maze
Analyze and explain how Hawthorne uses this chapter to convey Dimmesdale’s internal conflict and foreshadow his fate.
The Scarlet Letter — Chapter 21: A New England Holiday
Identify and analyze Hawthorne’s use of juxtaposition in “A New England Holiday.”
The Scarlet Letter — Chapter 22: The Procession
Analyze the author’s development of the plot, symbols, and themes of the novel in Chapter 22.
The Scarlet Letter — Chapter 23: The Revelation and Chapter 24: The Conclusion
Explain the significance of Hester’s return to the Puritan community at the end of the novel.
The Scarlet Letter — Entire Text
Initiate and effectively participate in whole-class discussion about the major themes of the novel.
Listen to, analyze, and evaluate podcasts by two or three other students.