The Scarlet Letter Test | Mid-Book Test - Hard

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This test consists of 5 short answer questions, 10 short essay questions, and 1 (of 3) essay topics.

Short Answer Questions

1. How many years after the founding of Boston does Chapter 1 take place?

2. Which plant is NOT mentioned in Chapter 1?

3. Which character seeks to make him or herself "the one trusted friend, to whom should be confided all the fear"?

4. What kind of men are rare in the colony, according to the narrator?

5. What is Hester delivering to the governor's house when she goes there in Chapter 7?

Short Essay Questions

1. Why does Hawthorne say that it is ironic that Pearl is such a beautiful child, in Chapter 6?

2. In Chapter 2, why might it be Mistress Hibbins who would be in the jail?

3. Of all the finery in the governor's mansion, what does Pearl cry for most of all?

4. How is Chillingworth able to see what Dimmesdale is hiding on his body?

5. What does the governor think about Hester as a mother?

6. Describe the clothing worn by the "throng of bearded men" at the beginning of Chapter 1.

7. Describe what Hawthorne's narrator thinks of Reverend Dimmesdale's voice.

8. What does Hawthorne promise to "alter or expunge"?

9. How does Hawthorne describe the inhabitants of Boston?

10. What kind of plant stands outside the prison, offering a contrast in color and form? Describe what the narrator says about it.

Essay Topics

Write an essay for ONE of the following topics:

Essay Topic 1

Hawthorne's preface to this novel claims that he has gotten himself in trouble for an unflattering portrait of the Customs Inspector, yet nonetheless, the novel features many real historical people anyway. Take up one of these real historical persons (for example, Governor Bellingham or Mistress Hibbins) and offer a descriptive analysis of their role in the narrative. How does Hawthorne characterize these real historical people? To what dramatic purposes or fictional ends does he put them alongside the invented characters? Be sure to consider the role these minor characters play in the historical setting of this novel.

Essay Topic 2

On your first read, "The Custom House" seems to have little or nothing to do with the "real" narrative of The Scarlet Letter, the story of Hester Prynne, yet Hawthorne's introductory essay establishes his narrative voice and justifies the origins of Hester's story. Write an analytical essay that argues the importance of this introduction to the narrative structure of the book. Key terms to consider are: frame narrative, narrative voice/point-of-view, symbolism, public/private life, etc.

Essay Topic 3

One theme of this novel is the competition between science and medicine on the one hand and religion on the other, particularly in terms of someone's physical well-being. Write an essay that describes the theme of sickness, health, and wellness (in terms of both the physical as well as the emotional/mental) that takes into account Hawthorne's dramatizing of a competition between science and medicine.

(see the answer keys)

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