Versions of the Text
Possible Subjet Terms, Themes, Places
Colonies or colonization
Good and evil
Guilt, penitence, redemption
Guilt, innocence, sin
Human frailty and sorrow
Individual vs. Puritan society
Ministry or ministers
Mistaken or secret identity
Narration, Narrator identity
Needlepoint or needlework
New England
North America or North Americans
Northeast, U.S.
Setting- Small colonial town of Boston,
Puritan colonies,
Massachusetts Bay Colony
Seventeenth century
Social authority
Stability, change, and transformation
Symbolism- scarlet letter, wild rosebush, meteor
scaffold, Pearl’s kiss, the forest,
flowers and color, sunlight, etc.
Truth vs. deception

More Keywords and Search Terms

Trancendentalism • Dark Romanticism •Self-Transcendence

American Literature • Transcendentalism in Literature • Faith • Religion

Natural Philosophy • Self-Realization • Tradition

New England • Cultural Movement • Romantic Movement

Best Scarlet Letter Web Resources

Hawthorne in Salem 
Includes historical background, biographical information, literary influences, Hawthorne’s characters and more. The “Scholar’s Forum” section has papers, articles, and lectures on Hawthorne and his world by Hawthorne scholars. (A project of North Shore Community College, Massachusetts)

The Scarlet Letter Page
his site also includes a link to a page on more information about Hawthorne’s work with information about Hawthorne’s life and his writings. It includes links to a substantial number of literary criticisms.

1852 Review of The Scarlet Letter

Google Books
Vocabulary by Chapter



THRONG: a great number of persons crowded together.

EDIFICE: a large, usually impressive building.

UTOPIA: a place or state of political or social perfection. Comes from a novel by Sir Thomas Moore about a perfect society.

ALLOT: to divide or distribute in shares.

SEASONABLE: timely or opportune.

SEPULCHRES: a burial vault built of rock or stone.

PONDEROUS: weighty or clumsy.

CONGENIAL: pleasant, friendly.

INAUSPICIOUS: not prosperous.

PORTAL: a doorway of imposing appearance.


PHYSIOGNOMIES: the facial features held to show qualities of mind or character by their configuration or expression.

AUGURED: foretold.

BETOKENED: given evidence of.

TRIBUNAL: a court of forum of justice.

INFERENCE: the act of passing from one proposition, statement, or judgment considered as true to another whose truth is believed to follow from that of the former.

INDUBITABLY: unquestionably.

ANTINOMIAN: one who rejects a socially established morality.

HETERODOX: holding unorthodox opinions or doctrines.

SCOURGED: to subject to severe criticism or satire.

FIREWATER: strong alcoholic beverage.

MAGISTRATE: a local official exercising administrative and often judicial functions. GALLOWS: the punishment of hanging.

VENERABLE: made sacred especially by religious or historical association.

MEAGRE: lacking desirable qualities; meager.


SCAFFOLD: a platform on which a criminal is executed.

INFAMY: evil reputation brought about by something grossly criminal, shocking, or brutal.

IMPROPRIETY: the quality or state of being improper. F

ARTHINGALE: a support worn in the 16th century beneath a skirt to expand it at the hip line.

FIBRE: basic toughness.

ROTUNDITY: rounded.

BEHOOF: advantage, profit.

MALEFACTRESSES: a person who violates the law or does evil.

TROW: believe.

AUTUMAL: a period of maturity or incipient decline.

BAGGAGE: a worthless or contemptible woman; prostitute. H

EATHENISH: barbarous.

BEADLE: a minor parish official whose duties include ushering and preserving order at services and sometimes civil functions.

ABASHED: to destroy the self-confidence of.

SUMPTUARY: designed to regulate habits on moral or religious grounds. GENTILITY: the members of the upper class.

EVANESCENT: tending to vanish like vapor.

IGNOMINY: disgraceful or dishonorable conduct, quality, or action.

BRAZEN: marked by contemptuous boldness.

HUSSY: a saucy or mischievous girl.

MERIDIAN: midday; noon.

INIQUITY: wickedness.

VISAGE: appearance.

SPURN: stumble.

PILLORY: a means to expose one to public scorn and humility.

FLAGRANT: extremely or purposefully conspicuous usually because of uncommon objectionable or evil.

MIEN: appearance; aspect.

VIED: exchanged in rivalry.

TAINTED: contaminated mark or influence.

CONTUMELY: rude language or treatment arising from haughtiness and contempt. COUNTENANCES: looks; expressions.

MERRIMENT: lighthearted gaiety or fun making.

PRETERNATURAL: exceeding what is natural or regular.

HEWN: strictly conformed.

PHANTASMAGORIC: a scene that constantly changes.

REMONSTRANCE: objection.

CLOISTER: an area within a monastery or convent to which the religious are normally restricted.

ETYMOLOGIST: studies word derivation.

DEMEANOR: behavior toward others; outward manner.


FURROWS: wrinkles.

HETEROGENEOUS: different in kind.

ABATE: put an end to.

WRITHING: (to twist in pain; to suffer keenly.

INTERVOLUTIONS: twists between SOJOURN: a temporary stay.

INIQUITY: wickedness.

MARRY: to express amused or surprised agreement.

EXPOUND: to explain in careful and elaborate detail.


BETWIXT: between.

HALBERDS: a weapon consisting typically of a battle ax and pike mounted on a handle about six feet long.

TUNIC: a hip-length or longer blouse or jacket.

SAGACITY: of keen mind: shrewd. MIEN: bearing: aspect

OBSTINACY: fixed and unyielding; stubborn.

ALBEIT: although.

FERVOR: intensity of feeling or expression.

LURID: gruesome; sensational.

GARB: clothing.

IGNOMINOUS: shameful.

SAGAMORES: a subordinate chief of the Algonquian Indians of the north Atlantic coast.

AMENABLE: willing to yield or submit: agreeable.

PEREMPTORY: leaving no opportunity for denial or refusal.

ALCHEMY: a power or process of transforming something common into something precious.

AVENGE: to exact satisfaction for a wrong by punishing the wrongdoer.

INQUEST: inquiry, investigation.

AUGHT: nothing. PARAMOUR: an illicit lover.

WOTTEST: to have knowledge of or to know.


VIVIFY: to endure with life or renew life: animate.

CLAUSE: a separate section of a discourse or writing.

ASSIMILATE: to absorb into the cultural tradition of a population or group. T

INGE: an affective or modifying property or influence: touch.

UNCONGENIAL: unfriendly.

THATCHED: a house used as a sheltering cover made of a plant material.

FAIN: rather.

PROGENITORS: an ancestor in the direct line: forefather.

PLEBEIAN: one of the common people.

EMOLUMENT: advantage.

COMMISERATION to feel or express sympathy: condole.

CONTUMACIOUSLY: stubbornly disobedient: rebellious.

TALISMAN: something producing apparently magical or miraculous effects.


EFFICACY: effective as a means of remedy.

RUSSET: a coarse brownish homespun cloth.

IMBUED: inspired as with feelings, opinions, etc.

MUTABILITY: subject to change.

EPOCH: a point in time marked by the beginning of anew development or state of things.

REGIMEN: to organize.

CAPRICE; a sudden, impulsive change: whim. I

NFANTILE: characteristic of infancy or infants: babyish.

SMOTE: having struck something.

DEARTH: scarcity, lack, or famine.

GESTICULATION: expression through gestures.

LABYRINTH: any intricate or perplexing set of difficulties: maze.

AMENABLE: agreeable.

NURTURE: care for; raise up.

ENMITY: established hatred.

PATERNITY: father.


LUDICROUS: amusing or laughable through obvious absurdity, incongruity, exaggeration, or eccentricity.

EMINENCE: position of prominence or superiority.

PRISTINE: uncorrupt by civilization. I

NTRINSIC: originating or situated within the body or part acted on.

IMPERIOUS: commanding; dominant.

AKIN: similar.

TUNIC: a hip-length or longer blouse or jacket.

WAN: pale or sickly.

PALLID: deficient in color: dull.

DAUNTLESS: fearless, undaunted.

EXTANT: not destroyed or lost. C

ABALISTIC: esoteric doctrine or mysterious art.

CAPER: a joyful, bounding leap.

FLANKED: to be situated on the side: border.

FORSOOTH: indeed.

EMBOWED: arched.

FOLIO: a book of the largest size.

TOME: a volume forming part of a larger work.

GILDED: to overlay with or as if with a thin covering of gold.

MAIL: armor made of medal links or sometimes plates.

BURNISHED: polished.

PANOPLY: full suit of armor.

MUSTER: formal military inspection.

EXIGENCES: a state of affairs that makes urgent demands.

PHYSIOGNOMY: facial features held to show quality of mind or character by their configuration or expression.

BREADTH: something of full width.

VISTA: a distant view through or an avenue or pathway.

RELINQUISH: leave behind.

SUBSISTENCE: real being: existence.

ANNALS: historical records: chronicles.


EXPATIATING: enlarging in discourse or writing.

ANTIQUATE: obsolete.

UNFEIGNEDLY: not pretending.

BEHEST: an earnest request.

BENEVOLENCE: desiring to do good to others.

BEDIZEN: to dress n a gaudy or vulgar manner.

ALBEIT: although or even if.

WARILY: cautiously.

PIOUS: of or pertaining to religious devotion.

IMBIBES: to take or receive into the mind.

AMISS: improper.

INDEFEASIBLE:not to be annulled or made void.

EMACIATED: to make very thin, as to lack of nutrition or to disease.

MOUNTEBANK: any charlatan or quack.

BOON: a favor sought.

ADDUCED: to bring forward as in argument or as evidence.

VEHEMENCE: forceful or violent.

UNOBTRUSIVE: not conspicuous.

CHARGER: plate or platter.


APPELLATION: an identifying name or title.

CONTAGION: the spread as of an idea, emotion, etc.

CHIRURGICAL: surgical.

INTRICACIES: having many interrelated parts or facets: intricate.

COUNTENANCE: to extend approval or toleration of.

PARISHIONER: a member or inhabitant of a parish.

PROPOUND: to offer up for discussion or consideration.

DELVE: to make careful or detailed search for information. S
AGACITY: the quality of keen and farsighted penetration and judgment.

TUMULT: uproar and confusion: commotion, riot.

ERUDITION: extensive knowledge acquired chiefly from books. C

OMMODIOUSNESS: comfortable or conveniently spacious: roomy.

INCANTATIONS: a use of spells or verbal charms spoken or sung as a part of a ritual of magic.

BLACK ART: made practiced by or as if by conjurers and witches.

CONJURER: someone who calls up spirits or ghosts: magicians.

GUISE: manner or fashion.

SANCTITY: Godliness or sacredness.

EMISSARY: messenger.

DIABOLIC: devilish.


SEXTON: an official charged with maintaining church property.

DEEM: to believe or judge.

ASPIRATION: strong desire, longing, or ambition: goal.

GHASTLY: terrifyingly horrible to the senses: frightening.

STEALTHILY: slow, deliberate, and secret in action or character.

INIMICAL: having the disposition of an enemy: hostile.

ASKANCE: with a side-glance: obliquely.

PERFORCE: by force of circumstances.

SOLACE: alleviation of grief or anxiety.

BRETHREN: fellow members of a profession, society, or sect; plural of brothers. PROPAGATE: publicize.

ABASEMENT: to lower in rank, office, prestige, or esteem.

SOOTH: truth, reality.

ARMORIAL: of, relating to, or bearing heraldic arms.

DECOROUSLY: marked by propriety and good taste: correct

IMP: a small demon: fiend.

MIRTH: gladness or gaiety as shown by or accompanied with laughter.

PALLIATE: to cover by excuses or apologies.

ASSENTED: to agree to something.

SOMNIFEROUS: hypnotic.

VESTMENT: an outer garment; a robe of ceremony or office.

PIETY: reverence to God.


MALICE: desire to see another suffer.

LATENT: present and capable of becoming though not now visible or active: dormant.

BALKED: to stop short and refuse to proceed.

ODIOUS: exciting or deserving hatred or repugnance.

MACHINATION: a scheming or crafty action or artful design intended to accomplish some usually evil end.

LORE: traditional knowledge or belief.

ETHEREALIZED: celestially.

ATTESTATION: to be proof of: manifest.

AVOWAL: an open declaration or acknowledgment.

IMPALPABLE incapable of being felt by touch.

VENERATION: commanding respect because of great age or associated dignity.


SOMNAMBULISM: sleepwalking.

DANK: cold and damp.

EXPIATION: to atone for; to make amends for.

DEFUNCT: dead or inactive.

SCANTLY: scarcely enough.
JUTTING: to extend beyond the main portion.

ARCHFIEND: a chief fiend: Satan.
SCURRILOUS: grossly and offensively abusive.

GRISLY: inspiring horror or intense fear.

TUMULT: a turbulent uprising: riot.

AWRY: out of right or hoped-for cause.

FIRMAMENT: the vault or arch of the sky: heavens.

MALEVOLENCE: arising from intense or vicious ill will, spite, or hatred.

ERUDITE: possessing or displaying erudition; learned.

REPLETE; fully or abundantly provided or filled: complete.


PAUPER: a very poor person.

GIBE: to tease with taunting words.

MEED: a fitting return or recompense.

DESPOTS: a ruler with absolute power and authority.

FOLIAGE: a cluster of leaves, flowers, and branches.

SEMBLANCE: outward and often specious appearance or show.

IMBIBED: to receive into the mind and retain.

OBVIATED: to see beforehand and dispose of; making unnecessary.

ETHEREAL: celestial, heavenly.

CLEW: clue.

CHASM : a marked division, separation, or difference.

LUNACY: wild foolishness; insanity.

ACQUIESCING: to accept or comply tacitly or passively.

STAFF: a long stick carried in the hand for support in walking.


WIRY: lean and strong.

BEHEST: an earnest request.

RANKLE: to cause persistent keen irritation or bitter resentment.

PROPINQUITY: nearness in place or time.

USURP: to seize and hold (a position, power, etc.) by force or without legal right. RETRIBUTION: punishment given in return for some wrong committed; judgment. CHAPTER FIFTEEN SERE: withered.

VERDURE: condition of health and vigor.

SEDULOUS: diligent in application or pursuit.

HORNBOOK: a child’s reading book consisting of a sheet of parchment or paper protected by a sheet of transparent horn.

PETULANT: insolent or rude in speech or behavior.

PRECOCITY: exhibiting mature qualities at an unusually early age.

ACRID: deeply or violently bitter.

ENIGM A: something hard to understand or explain: mystery.

PROPENSITY: an intense and often urgent natural inclination.

BENEFICENCE: an office to which the revenue from an endowment is attached: fief. VIVACITY: being lively in temper or conduct: sprightly.

TALISMAN: something producing apparently magical or miraculous effects. ASPERITY: roughness of manner or of temper: harshness.

UPBRAIDED: criticized.


SCINTILLATING: to be brilliant or keen, as in talent.

VIVACITY: being lively in temper or conduct: sprightly.

SCROFULA: a form of tuberculosis.

LOQUACITY: exceedingly talkative.

STREAMLET: a small stream.

PRATTLE: to talk in a foolish or simpleminded way.

CADENCE: rhythmic sequence or flow of sounds in language.


SPECTRE: something that haunts or perturbs the mind; specter.

MALEVOLENT: having, showing, or arising from intense often vicious ill will, spite, or hatred.

CONTIGUITY: the quality or state of next or near in time or sequence. MISANTHROPY: a hatred or distrust of mankind.

INVIGORATED: to give life and energy to; animate.

RECOIL: to fall back under pressure.

CONSECRATION: the act of making or declaring sacred.

SATIATING: to satisfy fully.

SENTINEL: one that watches or guards.

BUOY: to support or sustain.

TARRY: stay, sojourn.


ESTRANGED: to alienate the affections of.

COLLOQUY: a conversation especially formal one.

AMISS: out of proper order: wrong.

TRAMMELED: something that restricts activity or free movement: hindrance. MACHINATIONS: a crafty, intricate, or secret plot, usually intended to achieve an evil purpose.

BREACH: a violation as of a law or obligation.

CITADEL: a stronghold.

SOLACE: comfort in sorrow or distress; consolation.

HEATHEN: an irreligious, uncivilized, or unenlightened person.

SUBJUGATED: to bring under dominion: conquer.

DENIZENS: an inhabitant: resident.

CHOLERIC: bad tempered; irritable.


ACCOSTING: address, greeting.

PRATTLE: to utter meaningless sounds suggestive of the chatter of children: babble. INURED: accustomed to accept something undesirable.

MOLLIFIED: soothed in temper or disposition.

GESTICULATING: making gestures especially when speaking.

PRETERNATURAL: existing outside of nature: abnormal

ALLOY: to reduce the purity of by mixing with something debasing.


VICISSITUDE: unexpectedly changing circumstances.

ANTIQUITY: the quality of being ancient.

SOLACE: comfort in sorrow.

INTROSPECTION: the examination of one’s own mental and emotional state. IRREFRAGABLE: not to be disputed or contested.

UNCOUTH: awkward of clumsy.

WEATHERCOCK: a weather vane in the shape of a rooster.

MUTABILITY: being liable or subject to change. C

OMPORT: to conduct or behave.

OBEISANCE: a bodily gesture, as a bow, expressing respect.

DEVOUT: sincere or hearty. BARTER: to trade by exchanging one commodity for another.

ENSHRINED: preserved or cherished as sacred.

GRANDAM: an old woman: grandmother.

AUGHT: at all.

PITHY: having substance and point.

GILD: to give an attractive but often deceptive appearance to.

TARRY: stay, sojourn.

POTENTATE: one who wields controlling power.

STUPEFIED: astonished.

MALIGNANT: disposed to cause harm deliberately.

GRATUITOUS: without apparent reason or justification.

DELL: a secluded hollow or small valley usually covered with trees or turf.

REQUITE: to make return for: repay.

STEED: a spirited horse for state or war.


BETIMES: at times: occasionally.

PLEBIAN: one of the common people.

QUAFF: (PG. 213) to drink (a beverage) deeply.

WORMWOOD: (PG. 213) something bitter and grievous: bitterness.

LEES: the settling of liquor during fermentation and aging: dregs.

EFFERVESCE: to show liveliness or exhilaration.

MIRTH: gladness or gaiety as shown by or accompanied with laughter. QUARTERSTAFF: a long stout staff formerly used as a weapon and wielded with one hand in the middle and the other between the middle and the end.

BUCKLER: a shield worn on the left arm.

BROADSWORD: a sword with a broad blade for cutting rather than thrusting. SCRUPLE: an ethical consideration or principle that inhabits action.

QUAFFING: drinking (a beverage) deeply.

TEMPESTUOUS: turbulent, stormy. PROBITY: adherence to the highest principles and ideals: uprightness.

UNBENIGNANTLY: (acting in a way that is not favorable or beneficial. ANIMADVERSION: adverse and typically ill-natured or unfair criticism.

GALLIARD: gay, lively. BERTH: safe distance.


CLARION: a medieval trumpet with clear shrill tones.

MERCENARY: one that serves merely for wages.

MORION: high-crested helmet with no visor.

SOBRIETY: the quality or state of being sober.

MORBID: abnormally susceptible to or characterized by gloomy or

unwholesome feelings.

NECROMANCY: Magic, sorcery.

PATHOS: an emotion of sympathetic pity.

GRADATIONS: a series forming successive stages.

ORB: something circular: circle, orbit.

INDEFATIGABLE: incapable of being fatigued: untiring.

REQUITAL: something given in return, compensation, or retaliation.

SWARTHY: being of a dark color, complexion, or cast.

SMITE: to attack or afflict suddenly and injuriously.

UNSCRUPULOUS: unprincipled.

SURMISE: to imagine or infer on slight grounds.

STIGM A: a mark of shame or discredit: stain.


ORACLES: a person (as a priest) through whom a deity is believed to speak.

DEITY: Supreme Being: God.

LORE: something that is taught: lesson.

WROUGHT: deeply stirred: excited.

APOTHEOSIS: elevation to divine status.

INTIMATIONS: the act of making known: announce.

NETHER: situated down or below: lower.


CONJECTURE: a conclusion deduced by surmise or guesswork.

NECROMANCER: a person who is believed to communicate with the spirits of the dead for purposes of magically revealing the future of influencing the course of events.

PORTENT: something that foreshadows a coming event: omen.

NUGATORY: having no force: inoperative.

BEQUEATHED: to hand down: transmit.

RECLUSE: marked by withdrawal from society: solitary.

PENITENCE: regret for sin or wrongdoing.

ESCUTCHEON: a protective or ornamental shield. SABLE: the color black: dark. GULES: the heraldic color red.

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Database Articles and Literary Criticism

Jamestown Databases:  You are automatically logged into the following databases from school.  If you are elsewhere you will need to use the login information provided.

Williamsburg Regional Library Databases:  WJCC students can access these using wjcc+student number, ex. wjcc100010076. The first two listed are under the Books, Reading and Literature section.  However, it is highly recommended that you choose “See All Databases” as there are several others listed below that are helpful.

Contemporary Literary Criticism Select

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Ebsco Host

Expanded Academic ASAP

InfoTrac OneFile

Research In Context

Additional ResourcesJSTOR and Google Books:  JSTOR is a subscription library of digital articles that virtually every college and university uses.  You can sign up to get up to three articles but it can also be useful to locate scholarly books.

For example: Searching JSTOR using search terms “great gatsby” and “racism” gives one result of a brief book review but not the text itself.  However, you can search for that book in Google Books.  Google Books previews gives you about 85% of a book and you can search within them.