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Activity Overview


Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify themes and symbols from the book, and support their choices with details from the text. This book is particularly rich in symbolism, so as a classroom activity, students can track the rich symbolic and thematic writing Hawthorne uses.


Sin

The novel centers around the sin of Hester Prynne in her Puritan society. The sin of adultery, even though her husband is thought to have been lost at sea, is not something that can be discussed or argued about in 17th-century Boston. Hester’s sin follows her for the rest of her life, and she begins to fear that the sin of passion she shares with Dimmesdale has been embodied in her daughter Pearl, who is full of passion and light, very much unlike the standards of Puritan Boston.


Guilt

Dimmesdale is haunted by his guilt from not coming forward as Pearl’s father for seven years. His internal struggles become external problems, and even the townspeople notice. When Chillingworth arrives, posing as a doctor, the townspeople believe divine providence has sent him to Boston to help their dear Reverend overcome his illness.


Isolation

Hester and Pearl live in isolation during their time in Boston. They live in a small shack, and they are shunned by the townspeople for many years. They are mocked by children, avoided by adults, and Hester is often the topic of the weekly sermon at church. Her only connection to the town is through her seamstress work.


Rosebush

The rosebush is the one, beautiful piece of nature that blossoms against the gray of the prison in the center of town. When Hester walks out of the prison door to her punishment on the scaffold, the rosebush reflects her beauty in a sea of gray, her uniqueness in a town of judgment and frowns.


Scaffold

The scaffold serves as stage for many of the novel’s key moments: it is the scene of Hester’s punishment, where she stands alone holding baby Pearl, enduring the town’s shame. The reader sees Dimmesdale connected to Hester and Pearl; their first time together as a family. Chillingworth is watching this same scene and hiding in the shadows, plotting his revenge. Finally, the scaffold is where Dimmesdale delivers his final sermon, rips open his shirt, and reveals the letter “A” engraved into his chest, thus confessing his sin of adultery and crushing the dream he and Hester had of escaping to a new life in Europe.


The Letter “A”

The letter A, for “Adultery”, is, at first, a source of shame and guilt for Hester. As time wears on and Hester works among the people, however, it comes to mean “Able”, because she is a quiet, prudent worker who does a lot for those in need. While Hester, Dimmesdale, and Pearl are united on the scaffold in the middle of the night, a meteor in the shape of an “A” lights up the sky, signifying to the reader that this is the family we have been waiting to be revealed. Finally, it is said that when Dimmesdale rips open his shirt, as he dies after his Election Day sermon, the letter “A” was engraved into his chest, signifying his part in the affair with Hester, and his guilt for allowing Hester to carry their burdensome secret alone.


Lesson Plan Reference

Grade Level 9-10

Difficulty Level 3 (Developing to Mastery)

Type of Assignment Individual or Partner

Type of Activity: Themes, Symbols & Motifs

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/2] Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/3] Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/5] Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise


Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Use This Assignment With My Students", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)



Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in The Scarlet Letter. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify the theme(s) from The Scarlet Letter you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for the example(s) that represents this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.



Rubric

(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)



Themes, Symbols, and Motifs (Grades 9-12)
Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes, symbols, and/or motifs in the story. Illustrate instances of each and write a short description that explains the example's significance.
Proficient Emerging Beginning Needs Improvement
Identification of Theme(s), Symbol(s), and/or Motif(s)
All themes are correctly identified as important recurring topics or messages in the story. Symbols are correctly identified as objects that represent something else at a higher level in the story. Motifs are correctly identified as important recurring features or ideas in the story.
Most themes are correctly identified, but others are missing or incomplete. Most symbols are correctly identified, but some objects are missing or incomplete. Some motifs are correctly identified, but others are missing or incomplete.
Most themes are missing, incomplete, or incorrect. Most symbols are missing, incomplete, or incorrect. Most motifs are missing, incomplete, or incorrect.
No themes, symbols, or motifs are correctly identified.
Examples and Descriptions
Quotes and examples are accurate to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) that are being identified. Descriptions accurately explain the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) and highlight their significance to the story.
Most quotes and examples are accurate to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motifs that are being identified. Descriptions mostly accurately explain the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s), and highlight their significance to the story.
Most quotes and examples are minimal, incorrect, or unrelated to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) that are being identified. Descriptions contain inaccuracies in their explanations, or do not highlight their significance to the story.
Examples and descriptions are missing or too minimal to score.
Depiction
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are accurate to the story and reflect time, effort, thought, and care with regard to placement and creation of the scenes.
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are mostly accurate to the story. They reflect time and effort put into placement and creation of the scenes.
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are inaccurate to the story. The depictions may be rushed or show minimal effort, time, and care put into placement and creation of the scenes.
Most depictions are missing too many elements or are too minimal to score. Little time or effort has been put into placement and creation of the scenes.
English Conventions
There are no errors in spelling, grammar, or mechanics throughout the storyboard. All writing portions reflect careful proofreading and accuracy to the story.
There are a few errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics throughout the storyboard. All writing portions show accuracy to the story and some proofreading.
There are several errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics throughout the storyboard. Most writing portions do not reflect proofreading or accuracy to the story.
Errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics in writing portions of the storyboard seriously interfere with communication.




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