The Scarlet Letter

Lesson 16

Objective

Explain techniques Hawthorne uses to develop theme in this chapter.

Readings and Materials

  • Book: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne  — Chapter 14: Hester and the Physician

Target Task

?

Question 1

Which choice best represents a theme of this chapter?

A.

Isolation leads to dehumanization.

B.

Separating church and state is essential.

C.

Revenge is the darkest of sins.

D.

Redemption is possible through God.

Question 2

Which statement best describes a technique the narrator uses to represent the impact that seeking revenge has had on Chillingworth?

A.

The narrator hints at Chillingworth’s descent into evil by mentioning the kinds of cruel torture he has inflicted on his victim.

B.

The narrator describes Chillingworth’s descent into evil by detailing his future plans to continue Dimmesdale’s torment.

C.

The narrator demonstrates Chillingworth’s descent into evil through juxtaposing him with Dimmesdale.

D.

The narrator emphasizes Chillingworth’s descent into evil by using devil imagery to describe his physical appearance.

Question 3

Has fate given Chillingworth no choice but to be evil or has he chosen to be evil? Use examples from the text to support your answer.

Key Questions

?

  • According to the end of Chapter 13, what does Hester intend to do when she sees Chillingworth? Why?
  • Where does Hester send Pearl? Why might she wish to be alone with Chillingworth?
  • What does Chillingworth tell Hester the magistrates have decided? Who does she say is the only power who can remove it? What does this reveal about her beliefs about the power of God? (p. 70)
  • Why might Hester want to keep the letter? What has it come to represent for her? (discussion)
  • How does the narrator describe the changes to Chillingworth’s appearance that have occurred over the past seven years? (p. 70)
  • What do these physical changes serve as a metaphor for?
  • What is the “other ruin” for which the narrator tells us Hester feels partly responsible for on p. 71?
  • Who does Hester mean when she says, “yonder miserable man,” on p. 71?
  • Why does Hester regret keeping Chillingworth’s secret?
  • Is Dimmesdale’s fate (being tortured by Chillingworth) worse than public shame or even death? What do you think? What do Hester and Chillingworth seem to think? What does the author think?
  • How does the author evoke some pity for Chillingworth on p. 72?
  • How does Chillingworth describe his own change? Why doesn’t he want revenge on Hester, too, given how much her actions have changed his life? (p. 72)
  • Why does Hester claim that Chillingworth, but not she and Pearl and Dimmesdale, has a path out of evil and into peace and redemption. Do you agree or disagree? Why? 
  • Hester claims that no human being can remove her scarlet letter—only God can make such judgments. In deciding to seek revenge, has Chillingworth put himself into the role of God? What does Hawthorne seem to think about this question? How does the “fiend” and “devil” imagery help to reveal Hawthorne’s opinions?