What things do the characters of "The Scarlet Letter" represent?I'm doing a book review for The Scarlet Letter and any help will be most appriciated.

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ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Scarlet Letter is an allegory and therefore the major characters symbolize various traits associated with their characters. However, Hawthorne also believed in the duality of meaning, so some characters represent more than one idea. For example, at first, Hester represents a sinner, an adulteress. As the novel progresses, she begins to represent strength and honesty.

Dimmesdale's inability to admit his guilt and the debilitating effects this has on his health help point to the symbolism he represents, cowardice and the consequences of hidden sin. Chillingworth represents evil and retribution and the effects those sins. His behavior eventually leads to greater physical deformity. After Dimmesdale's death, Chillingworth dies because he not longer has a reason to live. Pearl is another character who can represent more than one thing. At first, she seems to represent judgement. She is a constant reminder to Hester of Hester's sin and her behavior is very strange. She refuses to come to her mother when she removes the scarlet letter during the forest scene with Dimmesdale. However, she also represents innocence. She had nothing really to do with her parent's sin and, as a result, she ends up the happiest of all the characters, rich because of Chillingworth's money and happily married.

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The Scarlet Letter

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