Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Hester Prynne, an attractive young woman living among the Puritans of Boston during the 1650’s. She becomes a martyr because she, presumably a widow, bears a child out of wedlock; this sin results in her being jailed and then publicly exhibited on a pillory for three hours. After she is released from jail, she must wear for a lifetime a scarlet “A” upon her bosom. She becomes a seamstress, stitching and embroidering to earn a living for herself and for Pearl, her child. After her one act of sin, Hester behaves with such uncanny rectitude that she seems an American Jeanne d’Arc, battling not against opposing armies and bigotry but against bigotry alone, the most formidable of antagonists. Hester refuses to name the child’s father, who is the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, her minister; she does not quail when her supposedly dead husband, Roger Chillingworth, comes from out of the forest to witness her appearance on the pillory; and without complaint or self-pity, she fights her way back to respectability and the rights of motherhood. Her situation is made more poignant and heroic by Dimmesdale’s lack of sufficient moral courage to confess that he is Pearl’s father. Hester seems to need no partner to share her guilt. Tragedy befalls her when Dimmesdale dies, but the reader feels that Hester will stoutly and resolutely make her way through life.
The Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale
The Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, a minister in Boston. Emotionally, he is drawn and halved by the consequences of his sin with Hester, and he is pulled apart by...
(The entire section is 660 words.)
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