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. In which year was this preface written?

2. According to the narrator, what is the first thing that Pearl noticed, as a baby?

3. Where are Dimmesdale's parents?

4. The following description of someone's eyes in Chapter 10 refers to which character: "burning blue and ominous, like the reflection of a furnace....like one of those gleams of ghastly fire"?

5. The tone of this preface is best described as...

Short Essay Questions

1. Describe the setting Hawthorne describes of the busy wharf.

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

3. What does Chillingworth implore Hester to do when they meet in the jail?

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

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

6. As the relationship between Chillingworth and Dimmesdale develops in Chapter 9, what do the townspeople begin to suspect about Dimmesdale and why?

7. Name one of the two reasons Hawthorne suspects that the plant standing outside the prison survived.

8. Why does Hawthorne decide to republish the offending introduction?

9. What does Hawthorne find alongside the scarlet letter?

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

Essay Topics

Write an essay for ONE of the following topics:

Essay Topic 1

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 2

The story starts with a mystery - the scrap of scarlet cloth Hawthorne finds in the Custom House - and builds narrative tension around an even greater mystery having to do with Pearl's parentage and Chillingworth's discovery. Describe the way "mystery" works in this novel: how and why does Hawthorne reveal or withhold key information from the reader?

Essay Topic 3

Hypocrisy emerges as a major theme of this book. Pick a set of examples (such as one or two of the major characters, or specific chapters/settings/events) that demonstrate the forms of hypocrisy Hawthorne saw in Puritan life, and write an essay that explains them in terms of Hawthorne's criticism of such hypocrisy.

(see the answer keys)

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