My American Seminar students have read up through chapter 18 in The Scarlet Letter. This point in the novel is filled with important themes, changes, symbols, and relationships, and to make sure my students were noticing and understanding these, I made a group discussion activity for them.
To start, I had the students spend about 20-30 minutes doing individual research/notes. They had been assigned specific groups/questions and would work independently first, finding the answers to their questions.
Today in class, they will meet with their groups for the first 5-8 minutes of class. Then we will move to large-group discussion of the topics and they will report the essential information out to the class while the class takes notes–thus, all the important components of chapters 13-18 will be understood and notes taken. (This will also help to prepare for a quiz in the future!)
The Scarlet Letter Chapters 13-18 Discussion Groups/Questions:
Group One: Seven years have passed since Pearl’s birth. What has happened to Hester, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth since then? What are the changes each character has experienced? What events, relationships, or happenings have made these changes occur? How does Hawthorne’s characterization of Hester, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth make us feel towards them? Does Hawthorne help the reader to sympathize with each character?
Group Two: What images and references does Hawthorne use to describe Chillingworth? How is he defined, especially in chapter 13? How do these images help to characterize him? What do these images represent? What other significant images characterize others in the novel?
Group Three: What is mood? What is the mood of the opening paragraphs in chapter 15? What is the mood of the opening of chapter 16? Are these moods similar or different? What words/phrases are used to create these moods? How does Hawthorne use mood in the novel?
Group Four: What is personification? In chapter 16, Hawthorne uses personification frequently—where and what does he use personification to describe? Locate at least four examples in the text and explain what quality is shared between humans and what is being described. How does personification add to the story?
Group Five: In chapter 17, dialogue plays a major role. Who is speaking? What conversation is the reader privy to in this chapter? How is the dialogue? Is there tension? Does this tension increase or improve? How is the relationship between the two characters displayed through dialogue? Does the dialogue help develop the relationship?
Group Six: What is Transcendentalism and how is it used in The Scarlet Letter? Look specifically at symbols in chapter 18. Where is Transcendentalism used in chapter 18 and how do elements of nature change throughout the chapter? How do elements of nature symbolize character relationships or the spiritual state of characters?