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. What are the two non-Puritan sects mentioned in this Chapter 2?

2. In what point of view is "The Custom House" written?

3. What color is Hester's hair?

4. Hawthorne writes of his surprise and what in the first lines of the preface?

5. What prominent wild plant grows just outside the door to the jail?

Short Essay Questions

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

2. What happens to Hester when the jailer introduces Chillingworth?

3. What is Hawthorne's emotional state in the preface?

4. What does Hester refuse to do during this chapter 3, despite pressure from her neighbors?

5. Why does Hester stay in town after she is released from jail in Chapter 5?

6. How does Pearl react to other children?

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

8. What has happened to the original spirit of the town of Salem, as in, to the legacy of the original founders?

9. Why does Dimmesdale not see through Chillingworth and understand his true (nefarious) agenda, according to the narrator in Chapter 10?

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

Essay Topics

Write an essay for ONE of the following topics:

Essay Topic 1

Much of the emotional struggle in this novel comes from a tension between public shame and private guilt. In an analytical essay, explain what each of these terms means in the scope of this novel, and how Hawthorne dramatizes each idea. Be sure to interpret them in terms of the fictional elements (characterization, setting, plot action, mood, etc.) Hawthorne uses to demonstrate them.

Essay Topic 2

Despite the dark tone and dour mood of this novel, Hawthorne's narrative voice does offer some levity, irony and humor to lighten the mood at key points in this novel, including the irony in some of the chapter titles. Pick several examples of this irony, other forms of irony, archness/humor, and explain how these examples help lighten the mood.

Essay Topic 3

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.

(see the answer keys)

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