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 what point of view is "The Custom House" written?

2. Why do most Puritans fast, according to the narrator?

3. Why is Pearl's mother questioned about whether or not she should have custody of the baby?

4. Hawthorne surmises that if there were a Papist in the crowd, whom would Hester remind him of?

5. How old is the baby in Hester's arms when we first see her?

Short Essay Questions

1. In Chapter 14, why is Chillingworth in the woods?

2. In Chapter 16, Hester changes her story to Pearl about the significance of the scarlet letter. What does she say about the letter in Chapter 16?

3. Many people pass Dimmesdale by in this chapter; why are so many people up so late and walking about?

4. Why does Hester say that Dimmesdale should travel somewhere, "whether in some remote village or in vast London, [...] in Germany, in France," etc?

5. Why is "The Leech" an appropriate and significant name for this chapter?

6. Why do Hester and Pearl gather with other townspeople at the beginning of Chapter 21?

7. What is Dimmesdale's argument for keeping Hester and Pearl together?

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

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

10. When Dimmesdale refuses to travel and quit his post as minister, how does Hester change his mind?

Essay 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

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

Some critics might characterize parts of this work as feminist, particularly considering the role of Hester Prynne vis-a-vis her interactions with Governor Bellingham and the other public officials who want to take Pearl away from her. Argue this point in an analytical essay: does this particular sequence in the novel represent a feminist approach to custody? Decide whether you think so or not, and construct a well-reasoned argument that makes use of specific textual examples. (Note: there is no "right" answer: you can argue yes, no or maybe, as long as you construct a textual argument with specific and precise reasoning.)

(see the answer keys)

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