The Scarlet Letter

Lesson 11

Objective

Describe the author’s characterization of Dimmesdale.

Analyze the developing relationship between Dimmesdale and Chillingworth

Readings and Materials

Target Task

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Question 1

The main purpose of the line, “if Providence should see fit to remove him, it would be because of his own unworthiness to perform its humblest mission here on earth,” on p. 42, is to

A.

reveal the conflict between Dimmesdale’s self-image and the townspeople’s image of him.

B.

introduce Dimmesdale as a humble Christian servant who wants the best for the people of Boston.

C.

list the reasons Dimmesdale hoped to die at a young age.

D.

describe Chillingworth’s initial impression of Dimmesdale.

Question 2

Over the course of the passage, the townspeople’s feelings about Chillingworth shift from

A.

confusion about his true identity to belief that he is in fact a doctor trained in both European and Native medicine.

B.

awe at the mystery and miracle of his arrival to anger at his inability to offer a cure to their minister.

C.

gratitude for the medical help he brings Dimmesdale to suspicion that he is here to cause harm to the reverend.

D.

suspicion of the stranger who appears suddenly to trust based on the medical knowledge he so clearly possesses.

Question 3

Both Dimmesdale and Chillingworth suffer from internal struggles that are causing external physical symptoms. Explain each man’s struggle and symptoms using evidence from the text.

Key Questions

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  • According to the narrator on pp. 40–41, what did Chillingworth discover when he arrived in Boston and how was this different from what he had anticipated? What decision did he make in that moment according to the narrator?
  • What does the phrase, “a new purpose; dark it is true,” suggest about Chillingworth?
  • According to the narrator, why were the people of Boston so willing to accept this total stranger and believe him that he was a doctor? Note two or three distinct reasons given on pp. 41–42.
  • What is the narrator’s tone toward Chillingworth? How is it further developed in the phrase, “exemplary as regarded at least the outward forms of religious life” on p. 42?
  • What do we learn about Reverend Dimmesdale on p. 42? About his relationship with the townspeople?
  • Track the author’s use of diction related to wilderness and mystery on p. 42. What does this diction suggest?
  • How are Dimmesdale’s explanations for his illness and his parishioners’ explanations for his illness different?
  • According to pp. 42–43, how do some of Dimmesdale’s most loyal parishioners interpret the arrival of Chillingworth? Why?
  • How do Chillingworth’s actions help to support the parishioners’ assumptions about divine intervention?
  • Track the diction the author uses to describe the relationship between the two men on pp. 43–47.
  • What does the sentence on p. 44, “In Arthur Dimmesdale…have its groundwork there,” suggest about Dimmesdale’s illness?
  • What is the significance of the narrator’s comparison of Chillingworth to a “treasure-seeker” on p. 44?
  • Why does the author tell us that “a man burdened with secrets should especially avoid the intimacy of his physician” on p. 44? What is the implication here?
  • What seems to be Chillingworth’s motivation for suggesting that the two live together? How is it different from what the townspeople might think his motivation is? How do you know?
  • Based on how they decorate their rooms, what can we infer about what each man represents?
  • How do the townspeople’s opinions of Chillingworth start to change? Why? What do they begin to suspect?
  • How does Chillingworth’s appearance start to change at the same time?
  • What role does religion and faith seem to play in the townspeople’s interpretations of what is happening here? Does Hawthorne seem to agree with their interpretations?
  • Why is it significant that Hawthorne refers to Chillingworth as “the leech”?
  • Evaluate this statement: Both men have internal afflictions that are outwardly manifested.