Notes on Characters from The Scarlet Letter

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The Scarlet Letter Major Characters

Arthur Dimmesdale: A well-respected and learned pastor in Boston. Arthur is Hester Prynne’s pastor and the father of her illegitimate child. A sickly man, he constantly appears as if he is in pain. He is pale and thin, and speaks in a tremulous voice.

Governor Bellingham: The Governor of Massachusetts during this period, and a well-respected leader of the community.

Mistress Hibbins: Governor Bellingham’s widowed sister, who is executed as a witch during the Salem Witch trials during the time span of the book. A notorious and colorful character.

Hester Prynne: The main character in the book. A young married woman from Europe who has come to Boston without her husband. She is beautiful – black hair, black eyes, and shining skin. She has an illegitimate child, Pearl, with Arthur Dimmesdale.

Pearl: Hester Prynne’s illegitimate daughter with the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale. A naughty, temperamental child, who nevertheless is quite beautiful.

Roger Chillingworth: Hester Prynne’s husband from Europe. A learned man of many skills who poses as a physician to get close to Arthur Dimmesdale . He is ugly, and his shoulder is slightly deformed.

Minor Characters

Mr. Wilson: A pastor in the Boston area; an old man who respects and is respected by Arthur Dimmesdale.

Three Ladies at the Prison Door: Female, married residents of Boston who are waiting at the prison door to see Hester as she appears for the first time with her daughter, Pearl.

Master Brackett: The jailer and town officer who announces Hester’s appearance from the prison, and who pushes Hester out the door of the jail when she first emerges.

Deacon: A pious old man confronted by Arthur Dimmesdale while he is struggling not to say evil things inspired by the devil.

Commander of the Spanish Pirate Ship: A colorful character who has license, simply because of his station, to wear outrageous things and act inappropriately by Puritanical standards.

Narrator – Surveyor of Revenue: The narrator is assumed to be the direct voice of the author, Nathaniel Hawthorne.

permanent Inspector': A man who inherited his position in the Customs House from a long line of men in his family. This is his career, from which he has complete job security.

General Miller – Collector: A former hero from the War of 1812, who retired to a job in the Salem Custom House. A man with a great deal of presence, but very frail and old when we meet him.

Collector’s Junior Clerk: Assistant to General Miller. The only person educated and interested enough to have literary conversations with Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Jonathan Pue – Surveyor: A Custom House employee from a number of years ago who died suddenly, leaving some undiscovered personal papers in the Custom House building. These papers include documents recounting the story of the scarlet letter, as well as the letter itself. This story was of great personal interest to Mr. Pue.

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