The Scarlet Letter

Lesson 4


Identify the significance of the scarlet letter in Chapters 2 and 3.

Analyze the narrator’s characterization of Dimmesdale in Chapter 3.

Readings and Materials

  • Book: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne  — Chapter 3:The Recognition

Target Task


Question 1

What does the scarlet letter signify in Chapters 2 and 3?









Question 2

How does the narrator characterize Dimmesdale in Chapter 3?


stern and strict


innocent and angelic


compassionate and compelling


rebellious and power-hungry

Question 3

Compare Reverend Dimmesdale’s treatment of Hester Prynne to her treatment by Reverend Wilson or the townspeople. In what way does he seem different? What might be the author’s purpose in creating some contrast here? Explain using evidence from the text.

Key Questions


  • What is Hester’s relationship with the strange man in the crowd? Track the evidence Hawthorne provides on pp. 8–9 to help the reader infer his identity while keeping it secret from the townspeople. The author uses this type of “dramatic irony” throughout the novel. 
  • What kinds of words does the narrator use to describe the scarlet letter in Chapter 2? Track them in Chapter 3 as well.
  • What does the scarlet letter symbolize in this novel? How do you know?
  • What does the townsman on p. 8 say to the stranger about Hester Prynne’s crime? 
  • What diction does he use? How does the choice of diction help to characterize the town and its people?
  • Continue to track the narrator’s characterization of the townspeople in this chapter.
  • What about Reverend Dimmesdale? How is he characterized? Which words and descriptions support your characterization of Dimmesdale?
  • What do Rev. Wilson and the governor seem to disagree with Rev. Dimmesdale about on pp. 11–12?
  • What is Dimmesdale’s argument to Hester on p. 12 about why she should reveal the identity of the father? 
  • According to the narrator, how do his words and his demeanor impact the crowd? The baby?
  • What is Hester’s reply to both Dimmesdale and to Rev. Wilson who says she could remove the scarlet letter if she reveals the father’s identity? (p. 13)
  • Dimmesdale’s hand is on his heart as he declares she will not speak. Note the circumstances. We will see him do this repeatedly…why?
  • How would you describe the role that religion plays in the lives of the townspeople in the novel thus far?



There are two big questions that students should be wondering: Who is the strange man? Who is the baby’s father?