The Scarlet Letter

Lesson 17

Objective

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.

Readings and Materials

  • Book: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne  — Chapter 15: Hester and Pearl and Chapter 16: A Forest Walk

Target Task

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Question 1

The narrator uses the question, “Did the sun, which shone so brightly everywhere else, really fall upon him?” to present Chillingworth as

A.

existing separate from the rest of humanity.

B.

a force for good in the world.

C.

living proof of the existence of God on earth.

D.

a symbol of darkness and night.

Question 2

How does the narrator characterize Hester’s feelings toward Chillingworth in Chapter 15? Explain using evidence.

Question 3

Why does Hester wish to meet Dimmesdale in the woods? Explain the significance of the woods as a setting for this meeting using evidence.

Key Questions

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Chapter 15

  • Describe Hester’s marriage to Chillingworth.
  • How have Hester’s feelings about her former life with Chillingworth changed according to the narrator on p. 74?
  • How does she feel about him now? Why does she believe he is partially to blame for her sin?
  • What has Pearl done to entertain herself while Hester was away?
  • What does Hester ask her daughter when she sees Pearl’s green A? (p. 76)
  • How does Pearl respond? What connection does she draw? Why might this child draw a connection that everyone in town has missed?
  • Why is Hester tempted to tell Pearl the truth? What does this reveal about her situation? Why does she decide not to tell Pearl? 

Chapter 16

  • According to the narrator, why does Hester try to find Dimmesdale on one of his walks rather than going to his home? (p. 78)
  • Track the diction the narrator uses to describe the forest on pp. 78–79.
  • What does Pearl say about the sunshine on p. 79? What does the light represent here?
  • Who has told Pearl about the Black Man? What does the “Black Man” mean here? And what does Hester tell Pearl about him?
  • Track the diction used to describe the setting on p. 80. How does it help to develop mood?
  • What is the symbolic significance of Pearl’s decision to leave the brook and gather flowers instead on p. 81?
  • Track the diction the narrator uses to describe Dimmesdale on pp. 81–82.

Notes

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  • In Chapters 15–17, students should note the juxtaposition of Hester and Chillingworth’s relationship with Hester and Dimmesdale’s relationship.
  • Chapter 16 is filled with symbolism, and students should be asked to track and analyze the various symbols that appear in this chapter.