The Scarlet Letter

Lesson 19


Identify and analyze the significance of Hester’s decision to remove the scarlet letter from her breast.

Explain the significance of Pearl’s reaction to Reverend Dimmesdale.

Readings and Materials

  • Book: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne  — Chapter 18: A Flood of Sunshine and Chapter 19: The Child at the Brook-Side

Target Task


Question 1

What is the significance of Hester’s decision to discard the scarlet letter in this chapter?


Hester is abandoning the shame of her past and embracing the freedom of a new future.


Hester is rejecting the expectations for women in Puritan society and asserting her worth as an independent woman.


Hester is denying her sin and acknowledging injustice in her community.


Hester is recognizing that her guilt runs deeper than a material emblem and encouraging Dimmesdale to confess his sins.

Question 2

What is the significance of Pearl’s reaction to Reverend Dimmesdale in today’s chapters? Explain using evidence from the text.

Key Questions


  • Is a sin of passion more forgivable than a sin of forethought and malice?
  • Do love and sympathy have the power to eliminate feelings of guilt and shame? What would Hawthorne argue?
  • What is the significance of Hester’s removal of the scarlet letter?
  • How does Hester change in the wake of this removal? 
  • Why is it significant that Hester and Dimmesdale are flooded with sunshine in this moment?
  • Do you think Hester and Dimmesdale can leave Puritan New England and live happily in Europe? Why or why not? What would Hawthorne argue? How do you know?
  • How does Pearl react to seeing Dimmesdale? Why is this reaction so significant?
  • What is the purpose of Pearl’s character in this novel?
  • What does Pearl’s reaction foreshadow? (p. 92)
  • How does the narrator describe Pearl on pp. 93–94?
  • What does Pearl demand of Hester before she will cross the brook? 
  • What does she demand of the minister?
  • How does the final description of the brook on p. 96 foreshadow events to come?