A 1636 Plymouth Colony law required anyone convicted of adultery to "wear two Capital letters viz AD cut out in cloth and sowed on theire uppermost Garments on their arme or backe; and if att any time they shallbee taken without the said letters whiles they are in the Govrment soewarn to bee forthwith taken and publickly whipt." Other Massachusetts colonies had their own versions of this law. In fact, "The Capitall Lawes of New-England, as they stand now in force in the Common-wealth, by the Court, in the years 1641, 1642, established within the jurisdiction of Massachusetts," proclaim that "if any person committeth adultery with a married or espoused wife, the Adulterer, and the Adulteresse, shall surely be put to death."
Chapter 1—The Prison Door
Paragraph two explains the typical allotment of land in a Puritan town. What three establishments are early accounted for on Isaac Johnson's lot? What does this information tell us about Puritan values?
How does Hawthorne describe the prison? Identify a significant metaphor in the second paragraph.
A pathetic fallacy is a literary device in which Nature appears to understand human feeling and respond accordingly. An example is believing that the sun is shining because you are happy, or that a day is dark and rainy because you are feeling depressed. Hawthorne employs a significant pathetic fallacy in this opening description. Can you locate it?
What grows near the prison? What does Hawthorne say it symbolizes?
Chapter 2—The Market Place
1. When does the story take place?
2. For what purposes did people sometimes gather in front of the prison door?
3. Who seems especially interested in the punishment that is about to take place?
4. Pay attention to conversation among the women. What is their attitude toward Hester? Are they unanimous?
5. Note the description Of Hester, the novel's heroine. What seem to be her outstanding characteristics?