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The Scarlet Letter

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characters summarized
chapters summarized

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The Scarlet Letter Summarized

Characters Summarized

Hester Prynne

Prior to the events of the novel, Hester lived in Amsterdam with her husband. They had decided to move to Boston, and he sent her ahead. Her husband does not show up, and a lonely Hester gets pregnant and conceives a child out of wedlock. Hester refuses to name the child's father, and her punishment is to stand for two hours in front of the townspeople on the scaffolding. In addition, she is to forever wear a scarlet letter A on her bosom. Hester raises her child, Pearl, on the outskirts of town. She lives a solitary existence making money through her beautiful sewing and embracing community service. When Hester dies, far after the actual events of the novel, she is buried next to Dimmesdale, Pearl's father.

Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale

Dimmesdale is the town's unmarried pastor and, as we slowly discover, the father of Hester’s child. Throughout the novel Dimmesdale is wracked with guilt and shame over this secret. His physical health steadily declines throughout the course of the novel as his guilt eats away at him. At the novels conclusion he finally admits that he his Pearls father, and dies only moments later.


Pearl is the daughter of Hester and Dimmesdale. She is a mischievous child who has no friends and keeps company solely with her mother. Hester is constantly worried about Pearl's troubled personality. She is the embodiment of her mother’s sin and the ways of nature. We see her truly at home and at peace as she cavorts with the animals and her surroundings in the forest. Pearl eventually because a more compassionate and well-rounded person when Dimmesdale admits to being her father in front of the townspeople. Chillingworth leaves her a considerable inheritance upon his death.

Roger Chillingworth

Chillingworth is the alias that Hester's husband uses when he finally appears in Boston. We discover that he has had many troubles, including being held captive by Indians, which greatly delayed his arrival. He convinces Hester to not reveal his true identity to the townspeople. He does not want to be shamed by being recognized as the husband of a faithless woman. In addition, he wants to discover the identity of Pearl’s father. He eventually becomes Dimmesdale’s physician and roommate. Chillingworth’s quest for revenge proves to ravage his physical appearance. He grows grotesque and decidedly evil-looking as the novel progresses. He dies soon after Dimmesdale.

Governor Bellingham

Hester appeals to Bellingham when she learns that there is talk of taking Pearl away from her. Dimmesdale convinces the Governor to let Hester keep Pearl.

Mistress Hibbins

Hibbins is the sister of Bellingham. She is a witch who attempts to lure Hester into league with the Black Man. Hibbins, who is already a “partner” with the Black Man, seems to know more about Hester and Dimmesdale’s secrets than anyone else. Throughout the novel she taunts the two of them. She is executed for witchcraft in 1956, following the events of the novel