The Scarlet Letter

Lesson 12

Objective

Analyze how Hawthorne uses the relationship between Chillingworth and Dimmesdale to develop the theme of evil and sin.

Readings and Materials

  • Book: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne  — Chapter 10: The Leech and His Patient and Chapter 11: The Interior of a Heart

Target Task

?

Question 1

It can be reasonably inferred that the main reason Chillingworth tells Dimmesdale he found the dark weeds on the grave of a young man he believes died with an unconfessed secret is because

A.

after investigating the unmarked grave, Chillingworth has discovered this to be a fact.

B.

 Dimmesdale is a minister and he might offer forgiveness to this young man even after death.

C.

Chillingworth hopes to guilt the reverend into sharing his own unconfessed sins.

D.

until the reverend confirms, Chillingworth has no way to know if his guesses about the dead man are true.

Question 2

Which piece of evidence from p. 49 best supports the answer to the previous question?

A.

“Then why…here?”

B.

“Many, many…in reputation.”

C.

“Yet some…thus.”

D.

“A knowledge…that problem.”

Question 3

Which of the following best characterizes the relationship between Dimmesdale and Chillingworth at this point in the novel?

A.

Chillingworth seeks revenge by torturing Dimmesdale, who welcomes the mistreatment because he sees it as a just punishment.

B.

Both men have guilty consciences and deserve to be punished for their sinful acts. Both have decided to look to God for justice and forgiveness.

C.

Both men have sin in their hearts and have decided that they deserve each other. Each has taken it as his duty to punish the other.

D.

Dimmesdale is so consumed with guilt for his sins that he fails to be as suspicious of Chillingworth as he should rightfully be.

Question 4

Which character is guilty of the greater evil (or sin), Chillingworth or Dimmesdale? Use evidence from Chapters 10 and 11 to support your answer.

Key Questions

?

Chapter 10

  • How does the narrator describe the change in Chillingworth’s investigation in the first paragraph of p. 47? What about the change in Chillingworth himself? What diction and figurative language does Hawthorne use to convey these changes?
  • Chillingworth begins, on p. 48, to experiment with torturing Dimmesdale. Track the ways in which he very quietly goes about tormenting the young minister.
  • How would you characterize the relationship between Dimmesdale and Chillingworth at this point in the novel? Why?
  • What reasons does Dimmesdale provide on pp. 48–49 for why a person might not confess his or her sin publicly?
  • What is Chillingworth’s counterargument? With whom do you most agree? Why? With whom do you think Hawthorne agrees? Why?
  • How does the narrator describe Pearl on p. 50? What is the young girl doing?
  • Why is it ironic that she would place burrs on Hester’s letter?
  • What does Pearl say to Hester when she sees the men in the window? What does this statement reveal about the wisdom and intuition of this small child?
  • Dimmesdale says of Hester, “methinks it must needs be…..in his heart,” on p. 51. Do you agree or disagree? Is her public shame less of a punishment that the father’s internal guilt?
  • To whom is Dimmesdale referring when he says, “Physician of the soul,” on p. 52? What does this reveal about his beliefs?
  • What does Chillingworth discover as Dimmesdale sleeps? How does he respond? How does this incident add to our understanding of each of the two men?

Chapter 11

  • Track the diction Hawthorne uses to describe Chillingworth in Chapter 11.
  • What is Chillingworth’s purpose in regard to Dimmesdale? Why is he expending such energy and time on the minister? What is his goal according to pp. 53–54.
  • Who is the narrator referring to as the avenger on pp. 53 and 54? Why?
  • How is the reader’s perception of Chillingworth so different from Dimmesdale’s perception? What accounts for this difference? (p. 54)
  • To what does the narrator attribute Dimmesdale’s rising popularity amongst the townspeople on pp. 54–55?
  • How does this “public veneration” affect Dimmesdale? Why?
  • What words does Dimmesdale wish to share with the members of his church? Why? What is stopping him? What is stopping them from believing him when he tries? (p. 56)
  • How does Dimmesdale punish himself for his wrongdoings based on pp. 56–57?
  • The author has hinted many times at Dimmesdale’s sin. What are we, the reader, meant to infer that it is?
  • What does Dimmesdale do at the bottom of p. 57? What do we know? What are we left wondering?