The Scarlet Letter

Lesson 18

Objective

Analyze how the author develops the theme of sin and redemption in this chapter.

Readings and Materials

  • Book: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne  — Chapter 17: The Pastor and His Parishioner

Target Task

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Question 1

Which of the following best characterizes the relationship between Hester and Dimmesdale as it is revealed in this chapter?

A.

They are two people who may once have loved each other, but all evidence of that love is now gone.

B.

They are essentially strangers, and they both regret the passionate encounter they had many years back. 

C.

They remain in love with each other despite all of the time and hardship that has come between them.

D.

They may have once loved each other but now are both filled with animosity toward each other.

Question 2

The main purpose of the lines, “He has violated, in cold blood, the sanctity of the human heart. Thou and I, Hester, never did so!” on p. 86, is to

A.

introduce Chillingworth as Hester’s husband.

B.

describe Chillingworth’s irredeemably evil nature.

C.

list the ways in which Hester, Chillingworth, and Dimmesdale are all guilty of committing sins.

D.

depict Chillingworth’s sins as much graver than Hester or Dimmesdale’s sins.

Question 3

Which statement best characterizes Hester and Dimmesdale’s disagreement about sin and redemption?

A.

Hester believes they have paid for their sins and can leave the colony in good standing with God, while Dimmesdale believes that his penance is to stay and minister to the colonists.

B.

Hester believes that their sin of passion is unforgivable, while Dimmesdale believes that Chillingworth’s sin is the only unforgivable sin amongst the three of them.

C.

Dimmesdale believes that while Hester has done penance by wearing the letter, he remains guilty and unforgiven because he has hidden his crime.

D.

Dimmesdale believes that he is too exhausted to consider living a new life, while Hester believes that a new life would set him free.

Question 4

Explain how Hawthorne develops the theme of sin and redemption in Chapter 17. Use evidence from the chapter to support your answer.

Key Questions

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  • According to the narrator on p. 82, how does the setting of the woods impact the mood of the meeting? What metaphor does the narrator use to further develop the mood?
  • Track evidence that, despite years having passed, the two still love each other.
  • What question does Dimmesdale ask Hester and how does she respond? What can you infer from her response? How does he respond to the same question?
  • Why does Dimmesdale insist that he can never find peace?
  • Track the author’s development of Dimmesdale’s internal conflict in this chapter.
  • Why does Hester feel so guilty on pp. 84 and 85? Do you think she should? Does Dimmesdale think she should?
  • Whose forgiveness does Hester crave? Why his and not God’s?
  • Whose sin do they both believe is worse than their own? Why? 
  • Track evidence that Hester is the stronger of these two characters. Do you think Hawthorne wants us to feel more sympathy for her than for Dimmesdale? OR equal for both? Why?
  • Where does Hester try to convince Dimmesdale that they should go? Why?
  • What does the forest represent in this chapter? How do you know?
  • How does Hawthorne develop the ideas of truth and redemption in this chapter? Is the truth the only thing that can set you free?

Notes

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The focus area suggested by the aim is sin and redemption. While some portion of class must focus on this aim, it is also possible to focus today’s class on the thematic topic of love.