The Scarlet Letter Important Characters

     Hester Prynne is the condemned to carry the letter of shame on her chest since she gave birth to a child with another man, while still married to an Englishman whom no one has ever seen. Immersed deeper in the novel, a reader learns that her life story is not black and white. It is easy to judge a person without knowing the whole story. Namely, Hester is married to a man whom she does not love. Separated from her husband, she falls in love with a clergyman, Arthur Dimmesdale and gives a birth to his child. If there was not for judgmental Puritan society, her life would have been much happier, as she would be able to live and raise a child with the one she loves. However, she obediently takes her punishment and never feels discouraged by evil looks of her fellow citizens. Although she has sinned, her soul is pure and the suffering as the result of the sin teaches her never to give up. That is why she turns out to be the strongest character in the novel, intelligent and capable of resisting the hardships.

     Roger Chillingworth is the true villain in the novel, as his hypocrisy causes sufferings to people around him. He comes to Boston pretending to be someone else, forbidding Hester to reveal his true identity so that he can live unburdened with the past. He seems rather bitter during conversation with Hester in the prison, but soon becomes malevolent, when he realizes that Arthur is the father of Hester's daughter. As a physician, he uses all his knowledge to worsen Arthur's health condition and misuses his social status to take away Pearl from Hester. Furthermore, he goes so far in his vengeance that he books the same ship so that he can spoil every hope for Hester and Arthur's better life. All his deeds clearly indicate how garbled he is, even his facial expression denotes it. Not once his face is described and analyzed in the novel, clearly indicating his true character. He commits his life to the revenge, and once his victim, Arthur Dimmesdale, dies, his life is purposeless, and he dies soon after him, leaving, as a gesture of atonement, a rich succession to Pearl. Since Pearl refuses to be his heiress, this means that he is not being forgiven.

     Arthur Dimmesdale, the clergyman who committed his life to God, finds himself at the dead end after the sinning. He is no longer the God's servant, nor can be the ordinary man in the Puritan society. Burdened with the sin, Arthur's health deteriorates. He cannot bear the fact that Hester has been publicly disgraced, while he hid behind his title. He cannot preach about God, justice and sins, when he is the first one to break God's commandment. He is often seen holding his hand on his chest, which is physically a sign of the chest pain, but on a deeper level, it indicates the heartbrokenness. Arthur does not have an opportunity to learn and grow like Hester does. He is not the one exposed to the public eye and expelled from the society, therefore he does not know how to deal with pain. He is the weakest character in the novel who dies not because someone did him harm, but because he was not able to cope with problems.

     Pearl, Hester and Arthur's daughter, is the most intriguing character. She is undefinable, even to her mother, represented both as an angel and devil. Intuitive and intelligent, she seems to possess the unearthly knowledge of truth, drawing the attention, many times throughout the novel, at the most important questions of society, religion and characters. With the society that believes in her witchy origin, and the narrator who often describes her caprice as if the girl is possessed by devil, her goodness and purity of soul is proven only when she answers to the officials that she was not created, but plucked off from the rose bush near the prison. (the rose bush is the symbol of the good). Her extraordinary beauty, mixed with wild nature, is often interpreted as a consequence of being a fruit of love of two sinners.

     Mistress Hibins is believed to be a witch, and eventually gets hanged for witchery, as she overtly speaks about her night rides to woods where she meets the Black Man. She is the Gothic, dark character, that contributes to the atmosphere of the novel, adding some mystery and horror to it. She also symbolizes the evil and hypocrisy of Puritan society.

     The narrator remains unidentified, but since much of the information he provides about himself matches Nathaniel Hawthorne's, it is believed that the narrator is actually the author of the novel. Anyway, the narrator is the one who finds the manuscript about Hester's life. Passionate about writing, he decides to create an imaginary account of Hester's life, based on the facts he found in the manuscript. He hopes to contribute to understanding of American's heritage and its history.

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