The Scarlet Letter

Lesson 10

Objective

Synthesize two assessments of Hester’s motherhood.

Explain how name reveals character in the novel. 

Readings and Materials

  • Book: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne  — Chapter 8: The Elf-Child and the Minister

Target Task

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Question 1

What is the significance of names in this novel? Select one of the characters we discussed in class, and explain how his or her name reflects his or her character. 

Question 2

Briefly synthesize both Governor Bellingham’s argument against and Reverend Dimmesdale’s argument in favor of Hester’s raising Pearl.

Key Questions

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  • How does Pearl behave when she meets Governor Bellingham and others in this chapter? Why is this behavior significant? What does it reveal about Pearl? About Hester?
  • Who suggests that Pearl should have been named red rose? Why is this significant? Why is she named Pearl and not red rose?
  • Why does Governor Bellingham believe that Hester is an unfit mother? 
  • What does Hester notice about Roger Chillingworth on p. 37?
  • How does Hester defend her ability to raise a child? Do you think this is a strong argument?
  • What reasons does Dimmesdale give to support his assertion that Hester is a fit mother? 
  • Should the community have the right to take Pearl away from Hester if it sees fit? What do you think? What does Hawthorne seem to think? Why?
  • How does the narrator describe Pearl’s demeanor around Dimmesdale on pp. 39–40? 
  • Who is Mistress Hibbins? What does she invite Hester to do? How does Hester reply? What interpretation of this event does the narrator offer?

Notes

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Hawthorne’s choice of names for his major characters (Hester Prynne, Chillingworth, Dimmesdale, Pearl) reveals something about each character’s nature and role in the novel. Students should investigate each of the four characters listed above today.