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American Studies

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The Scarlet Letter Exam

Directions: This section of the exam consists of selections from The Scarlet Letter and questions on its content, form, and style. After reading each passage, choose the best answer to each question and blacken in the corresponding space on the answer sheet. Note: Pay particular attention to the focus of the questions that contain the words NOT, LEAST, or EXCEPT.

Questions 1-10. Read the following passage that begins the characterization of Chillingworth carefully before you choose your answers.

At his arrival in the market place, and sometime before she saw him, the stranger had bent his eyes on Hester Prynne. It was carelessly, at first, like a man chiefly accusline tomed to look inward, line and to whom external matters are of little value and import unless they bear relation to something in his mind. Very soon, however, his look became keen and penetrative. A writhing horror twisted itself across his features, like a snake gliding swiftly over them, and making one little pause, with all its wreathed intervolutions in open sight.

His face darkened with some powerful emotion, which, nevertheless, he so instantaneously controlled by an effort of his will, that, save at a single moment, its expression might have passed for calmness. After a brief space, the convulsion grew almost imperceptible, and finally subsided into the depths of his nature. When he found the eyes of Hester Prynne fastened on his own, and saw that she appeared to recognize him, he slowly and calmly raised his finger, made a gesture with it in the air, and laid it on his lips.

1. In this passage, the stranger first meets Hester
(A) at church
(B) on a boat
(C) at her house
(D) in the market place
(E) at the Inn

1. The word "penetrative" in line six most nearly means
(A) keen
(B) killed
(C) stabbed
(D) seeing inside
(E) stinging

1. Which one of the following figures of speech is used in this passage?
(A) alliteration
(B) personification
(C) allusion
(D) metaphor
(E) simile

1. The word "imperceptible" in line thirteen most nearly means
(A) indescribable
(B) blind
(C) murky
(D) ugly
(E) indistinguishable

1. All but one of the following are used to describe the stranger in this passage:
(A) He is "chiefly accustomed to look inward."
(B) He had a "keen and penetrative" look.
(C) He was incapable of feeling "powerful emotion."
(D) He could "instantaneously" control his emotions.
(E) He was a man of great "depths of . . . nature."

1. Which of the following best describes how the stranger felt about Hester?
(A) He really didn't see her because he was so used to looking inward.
(B) He really didn't care because external matter meant little to him.
(C) A writhing horror twisted across his face when he realized who she was.
(D) A snake distracted his attentions and he didn't recognize Hester.
(E) He showed no emotions at all.

1. All but one of the following words used just after this passage characterize the Puritan way of speaking:
(A) "I promise you. . ."
(B) "You must needs be a stranger. . ."
(C) She hath raised a great scandal. . ."
(D) "I pray you. . ."
(E) "Good Sir. . ."

1. When Hester appeared to recognize the stranger, he
(A) motioned to her to be quiet
(B) blew her a kiss
(C) said hello to her
(D) slapped her on the face
(E) ran up to her

1. This passage begins with the creation of the character of
(A) Arthur Dimmesdale
(B) Roger Chillingworth
(C) Pearl
(D) Governor Bellingham
(E) Hester Prynne

1. All but one of the qualities of Romanticism can be seen in this passage:
(A) The setting describes a Puritan custom of the early 1600's.
(B) Hawthorne chooses such lofty words as "intervolutions" or "writhing."
(C) Dimmesdale had trouble believing these events were "real."
(D) The stranger was said to darken "with some powerful emotion."
(E) Short, simple sentences give the passage a quick pace.

Questions 11-27. Read the following passage carefully before you choose your answers.

Hester Prynne's term of confinement was now at an end. Her prison door was thrown open and she came forth into the sunshine, which, falling on all alike, seemed, to her line sick and morbid heart, as if meant for no other purpose than to reveal the scarlet letter on her breast. Perhaps there was a more real torture in her first unattended footsteps from the threshold of the prison than even in the procession and spectacle that have been described, where she was made the common infamy at which all mankind was summoned to point its finger. Then, she was supported by an unnatural tension of the nerves and by all the combative energy of her character, which enabled her to convert the scene into a kind of lurid triumph . . . . The very law which condemned her, a giant of stern features, but with vigor to support, as well as to annihlate, in his iron arm, had held her up through the terrible ordeal of her ignominy. But now, with this unattended walk from the prison door, began the daily custom; and she must either sustain and carry it forward by the ordinary resources of her character, or sink beneath it. She could no longer borrow from the future to bear her present grief. Tomorrow would bring its own trial with it; so would the next day; and so would the next; each its own trial, and yet the very same that was now so unutterably grievous to be borne. The days of the far off future would toil onward; still with the same burden for her to take up and bear along with her, but never to fling
down; for the accumulating days and added years would pile up their misery upon the heap of shame. Throughout them all, giving up her individuality, she would become the general symbol at which the preacher and moralist might point, and in which they might vivify and embody their images of woman's frailty and sinful passion. Thus, the young would be taught to look at her . . . as the figure, the body, the reality of sin.

1. Why does Hester have a "sick and morbid heart" (line 4)?
(A) She hates the public.
(B) She has cardiovascular problems.
(C) She is experiencing guilt and confinement.
(D) The prison has made her sick.
(E) She knows her husband is waiting.

1. The phrase "the sunshine . . . (was) falling forth. . . as if meant . . . to reveal the scarlet letter on her breast" in lines three through five is an example of what figure of speech?
(A) personification
(B) allusion
(C) metaphor
(D) simile
(E) alliteration

1. The word "infamy" in line nine of the above passage describes Hester as being a symbol of all but one the following:
(A) shame
(B) goodness
(C) scandal
(D) wickedness
(E) atrocity

1. In lines one through ten of this passage, what is going through Hester's head?
(A) She feels everything is against her.
(B) She thinks she must be crazy.
(C) She is glad everything is finally over.
(D) She is glad she is free at last.
(E) She can't wait to get home.

1. In line twelve of the above passage "lurid" means all but one of the following:
(A) pale
(B) sensational
(C) yellow
(D) racy
(E) exciting

1. The phrase "The very law which condemned her, a giant of stern features, but with vigor to support, as well as to annihilate, in his iron arm," in lines thirteen through fifteen is an example of a
(A) personification
(B) allusion
(C) metaphor
(D) simile
(E) alliteration

1. In line sixteen of the passage "ignominy" means all BUT one of the following:
(A) honor
(B) shame
(C) disgrace
(D) dishonor
(E) scandal

1. What type of poetical device is Hawthorne using in the phrase "The days of the far off future would toil onward. . . " in lines 23 - 24?
(A) personification
(B) allusion
(C) metaphor
(D) simile
(E) alliteration

1. The last sentence of this passage, "Thus, the young would be taught to look at her ... as the figure, the body, the reality of sin. . . ." is an example of
(A) personification
(B) allusion
(C) metaphor
(D) simile
(E) alliteration

1. Hester's attitude in this passage can be best described as
(A) fearful acceptance of the morbid Puritan punishment allotted her
(B) reverence for God's people
(C) self-satisfaction with the human dominion over humans
(D) disgust with the evil that permeates Salem
(E) scorn at the Puritan harshness

1. The phrase "she would become the general symbol at which the preacher and moralist might point. . ." is also an example of
(A) exposition
(B) denotation
(C) foreshadowing
(D) allusion
(E) personification

1. The tone of this passage can best be described as
(A) cynical exaggeration
(B) gentle sarcasm
(C) ironic anger
(D) forced glee
(E) reflective and somber

1. Which of the following words is most clearly tragic in tone?
(A) vigor
(B) morbid
(C) supported
(D) energy
(E) individuality

1. All but one of the following words are chosen by the author in this passage to emphasize the Gothic aspects of romanticism:
(A) lurid
(B) torture
(C) procession
(D) spectacle
(E) annihilate

1. The details of this passage especially emphasize Hester's
(A) pain
(B) insecurity
(C) inner strength
(D) guilt
(E) happiness

1. Although this passage is written as one paragraph, the development of the content really follows two paths. At which of the following points does the author stop describing the present and start making predictions about the future? In the sentence beginning:
(A) "But now, with this unattended walk . . ."
(B) "Tomorrow would bring its own trial with it . . . "
(C) "The very law which condemned her . . . "
(D) "Throughout them all, giving up her individuality . . ."
(E) "Thus, the young would be taught to look at her . . ."

1. All of the following words chosen by Hawthorne indicate future tense EXCEPT:
(A) must sustain and carry
(B) would bring
(C) to be borne
(D) would bring
(E) would be taught

Questions 28 - 37. Read the following passage carefully before you choose your answers.

"Pearl," said he, with great solemnity, "thou must take heed to instruction, that so in due season, thou mayest wear in thy bosom the Pearl of great price. Canst thou tell me, my child, line who made thee?"
Now Pearl knew well enough who made her; for Hester Prynne, the daughter of a pious home, very soon after the talk with the child about her Heavenly Father, had begun to inform her of those truths which the human spirit, at whatever stage of immaturity, imbibes with such eager interest.
Pearl, therefore, so large were the attainments of her three year's lifetime, could have borne a fair examination in the New England Primer, or the first column of the Westminster Catechism, although unacquainted with the outward form of either of those celebrated works. But that perversity, which all children have more or less of, and of which little Pearl had a tenfold portion, now, at the most inopportune moment, took thorough possession of her, and closed her lips, or impelled her to speak words amiss. After putting her finger in her mouth, with many ungracious refusals to answer good Mr. Wilson's question, the child finally announced that she had not been made at all, but had been plucked by her mother off the bush
of wild roses that grew by the prison door.
..."This is awful!" cried the Governor, slowly recovering from the astonishment into which Pearl's response had thrown him. "Here is a child of three years old, and she can not tell who made her! Without question, she is equally in the dark as to her soul, her present depravity, and future destiny! Methinks,
gentleman, we need inquire no further."
Hester caught hold of Pearl, and drew her forcibly into her arms, confronting the old Puritan magistrate with almost a fierce expression. Alone in the world, cast off by it, and with this sole treasure to keep her heart alive, she felt that she possessed indefeasible rights against the world, and was ready to
defend them to the death.

1. The word "solemnity" in the first line of this passage means
(A) formality
(B) softness
(C) confusion
(D) happiness
(E) glee

1. The word "pious" in line six is best interpreted to mean
(A) proud
(B) religious
(C) fearful
(D) broken
(E) free

1. How old is Pearl in this passage?
(A) one
(B) two
(C) three
(D) four
(E) five

1. The word "inopportune" in line 16 of this passage most
clearly means
(A) appropriate
(B) inappropriate
(C) ready
(D) at just the right time
(E) regular

1. The purpose of this passage is primarily to describe
(A) Pearl's normality
(B) the magistrate's kindness
(C) Hester's motherly love
(D) Mr. Wilson
(E) the Puritan character

1. The details of this passage especially emphasize the magistrates'
(A) guilt
(B) obsessiveness
(C) arrogance
(D) fastidiousness
(E) intolerance

1. All of the following represent figurative language EXCEPT
(A) " the Pearl of great price"
(B) "that perversity . . . impelled her to speak words amiss"
(C) Pearl made " many ungracious refusals to answer good Mr. Wilson's question"
(D) " the child finally announced that she had . . . been plucked by her mother off the bush of wild roses"
(E) "Without question, she is equally in dark as to her soul"

1. The symbolism in this passage shows
(A) Pearl as a normal child
(B) Pearl as a treasure
(C) the Governor as a Devil
(D) Hester as a Devil
(E) the magistrate as a Saviour

1. The tone of this passage can best be described as
(A) cynical and exaggerated
(B) gentle but sarcastic
(C) forced and gleeful
(D) dramatic and intense
(E) analytical and reflective

1. The Puritan leaders want to take Pearl away from Hester because they feel
(A) Pearl does not love Hester
(B) Hester is beating Pearl
(C) Hester is not raising her properly
(D) Pearl is in danger
(E) Roger Chillingworth wants to kill her

Questions 38 - 44 . Read the following passage carefully before you choose your answers.

As the minister departed, in advance of Hester Prynne and little Pearl, he threw a backward glance, half expecting that he should discover only some faintly traced features or line outline of the mother and child, slowly fading into the twilight of the woods. So great a vicissitude in his life could not at once be received as real. But there was Hester, clad in her gray robe, still standing beside the tree trunk, which some blast had overthrown a long antiquity ago, and which time had ever since been covering with moss, so that these two fated ones with earth's heaviest burden upon them, might there sit down together, and find a single hour's rest and solace. And there was Pearl, too, lightly dancing from the margin of the brook, now that the intrusive third person was gone, and taking her old place by her mother's side. So the minister had not fallen asleep, and dreamed!
In order to free his mind of this indistinctness and duplicity of impression, which vexed it with a strange disquietude, he recalled and more thoroughly defined the plans which Hester and himself had sketched for their departure. It had been determined between them that the Old World, with its crowds
and cities, offered them a more eligible shelter and concealment than the wilds of New England, or all America, with its alternatives of an Indian wigwam, or a few settlements of Europeans, scattered thinly along the seaboard. Not to speak of the clergyman's health, so inadequate to sustain the hardships of a forest life, his native gifts, his culture, and his entire development would secure him a home only in the midst of civilization and refinement; the higher the state, the more delicately adapted to it the man. In furtherance of this choice, it so happened that a ship lay in the harbor, one of those questionable cruisers, frequent at that day, which, without being absolutely outlaws of the deep, yet roamed over its surface with a remarkable irresponsibility of character. This vessel had recently arrived from the Spanish Main, within three day's time, would sail for Bristol. Hester Prynne, whose vocation as a self-enlisted Sister of Charity, had brought her acquainted with the captain and crewˇcould take upon herself to secure the passage of two individuals and a child, with all the secrecy which circumstances rendered more than desirable.

1. The term "fated" (line 9) in this passage is best interpreted to mean
(A) lucky
(B) hurt
(C) doomed
(D) fragile
(E) cheerful

1. The term "solace" (line 11) in this passage is best interpreted to mean
(A) depravity
(B) peace
(C) loneliness
(D) obscurity
(E) war

1. The "intrusive third person" (line 13) referred to here was
(A) the minister
(B) Pearl
(C) Hester
(D) the vessel's captain
(E) the Indian from the wigwam

1. From the phrase "indistinctness and duplicity of impression" we can conclude that Dimmesdale was all but one of the following:
(A) peaceful
(B) happy
(C) disquieted
(D) elated
(E) disinterested

1. The Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale and Hester agreed that ___ offered them more concealment.
(A) the old World
(B) the wilds of New England
(C) all America
(D) the new World
(E) the Spanish Main

1. From this passage we can conclude that Hester was
(A) lazy
(B) in love with Chillingworth
(C) a good mother
(D) too friendly with the captain
(E) happy

1. All but one of the qualities of Romanticism can be seen in this passage:
(A) The setting is "a long antiquity ago."
(B) Hawthorne chooses such lofty words as "vicissitude" or "disquietude."
(C) Dimmesdale had trouble believing these events were "real."
(D) Hester and Dimmesdale were said to have "earth's heaviest burden on them."
(E) It was true that ships of that time could be arriving from the Spanish Main.

Questions 45 - 50. Read the following passage carefully before you choose your answers.

Thus had there come to the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale, as to most men, in their various spheres, though seldom recognized until they see it far behind themˇan epoch of life line more brilliant and full of triumph than any previous one, or than any which could hereafter be. He stood, at this very moment, on the very proudest eminence of superiority, to which the gifts of intellect, rich lore, prevailing eloquence, and a reputation of whitest sanctity could exalt a clergyman in New England's earliest days, when the professional character was of itself a lofty pedestal. Such was the position which the minister occupied, as he bowed his head forward on the cushions of the pulpit, at the close of his Election Sermon. Meanwhile, Hester Prynne was standing beside the scaffold of the pillory, with the scarlet letter still burning on her breast!
Now was heard again the clangor of the music, and the measured tramp of the military escort, issuing from the church door. The procession was to be marshaled thence to the town hall, where a solemn banquet would complete the ceremonies of the day.
Once more, therefore, the train of venerable and majestic fathers was seen moving through a broad pathway of the people, who drew back reverently, on either side, as the Governor and the magistrates, the old and wise men, the holy ministers, and all that were eminent and renowned, advanced into the midst of them. When they were fairly in the market place, their presence was greeted by a shout. This, though doubtless it might acquire additional force and volume from the childlike loyalty which the age awarded to its rulers, was felt to be an irrepressible outburst of enthusiasm kindled in the auditors by that high strain of eloquence which was yet reverberating in their ears . . . . Never, from the soil of New England, had gone up such a shout! Never, on New England soil, had stood the man so honored by his mortal brethren as the preacher!

1. The word "epoch" in line three means
(A) a new and important time
(B) a change in life
(C) the edge of town
(D) an oath of allegiance
(E) an ugly birthmark

1. The word "clangor" in the text most clearly means
(A) continued ringing
(B) soft music
(C) popular music
(D) exalting music
(E) silence

1. At this point in the story, the townspeople think Arthur Dimmesdale is
(A) a coward
(B) a liar
(C) an honorable man
(D) a Catholic saint
(E) Hester's lover

1. The word "renowned" in this passage most clearly means
(A) loved
(B) hated
(C) needed
(D) famous
(E) unreal

1. The Procession was an annual celebration that included
(A) Master Dimmesdale's confession
(B) The Election Sermon
(C) Hester's hanging
(D) a Thanksgiving feast
(E) the Governor's birthday

50. What does this passage tell us about the New England society?
(A) They love to give parties.
(B) They hate their ministers.
(C) They love their ministers.
(D) They like foreigners.
(E) They love their women.

Essay Portion of the Exam

On your own piece of paper, you are to select two essay questions to respond to. Write a conherent essay that includes and introduction and conclusion. I suggest using a 5-paragraph essay format. Use your interpretation of the story, and cite examples to support and develop your answer.

1. Central Theme
What is the central theme of The Scarlet Letter? (for example, the effects of sin, redemption, or hypocrisy) In addition to identifying the theme, tell how the plot, setting, characters,and symbolism in the novel contribute to the theme. Support your ideas with specific examples from the novel.

2. Minor Characters
Explain and evaluate the role of one of the following minor characters in the novel: John Wilson, Governor Bellingham, the sexton, or the shipmaster.

3. Screen
Tell whether or not you think that The Scarlet Letter could be successfully adapted for the movie screen. Support your opinion with specific references to scenes from the novel.

4. Foreshadow
Several times in The Scarlet Letter, a future event is suggested or foreshadowed. Cite how the author used this technique, giving examples of how such foreshadowing connected to later events.

5. Symbols
Discuss Hawthorne's use of symbols in The Scarlet Letter. Give at least three symbols used in the novel and explain their meaning. Show how the symbols relate to the central theme of the novel..

6. Puritan Setting
Explain the effect of the Puritan setting on the plot of the novel and what you believe to be Hawthorne's attitude toward the Puritan view of morality.

7. Irony
Discuss the use of irony in The Scarlet Lette. Give specific examples and explain how these are ironic. Evaluate the effective of this technique in the novel.


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