The Scarlet Letter Character List 📖

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’ carries the reality of a 1600’s puritan Massachusetts community, and as such, readers can expect a character list awash with religiosity, prudishness, and imperfections.

The Scarlet Letter

Nathaniel Hawthorne

When there are strict laws, there is also a possibility to defect on those laws, and this becomes the fate of Hester, the leading character of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter.’ Despite some moral flaws and a widespread characteristically prissy indignation, readers will also find other qualities such as remorsefulness, accountability, and simple, communal living. This article will examine the characters in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter.’

The Narrator

Although this character is not named or properly introduced, from the tone of his voice and the mostly anti-Puritanism views that he shares, that author Nathaniel Hawthorne himself may likely have taken up such a role as The Narrator – acting as a major character in his book.

The Narrator is the reason readers have a book to read because he discovers parts of the book’s manuscript littering away in the attic of the Salem Custom House. Following the dismissal from his job at the Custom House, The Narrator shifts his focus on piecing the scripts together and polishing the story in it. 

Hester Prynne 

She is the protagonist in the story told by The Narrator in ‘The Scarlet Letter.’ She is described as a strong, independent, and gutsy woman who is not afraid of going against the beliefs of society to stand by hers. 

In ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ Hester is legally married to Roger Chillingworth but starts a romantic affair with preacher Arthur Dimmesdale – after her husband had gone missing for a long time and rumors circulated he was dead and gone.  

Her affair with the priest results in the birth of Pearl and her subsequent public shaming at a raised platform over which she is forced to appear before the crowd carrying her baby and wearing a robe with the bold letter ‘A’ written on her chest.

Hester never wavers from her belief in herself, and despite the shaming, she always stands by her words by not revealing the father of her child – even though she feels completely remorseful for her sin.

Roger Chillingworth

The estranged husband to Hester Prynne, shows up after a long time, with everyone – including his wife – already thinking he had died. Hit the resurfaces at the same time his wife is paraded at the platform with her child wearing the dress with the bold letter A.

Although Hester’s marriage to Chillingworth isn’t spurred by love, and this is maybe for the sake of his age or lack of romance, his missing presents her with the perfect excuse to hit it off with Arthur Dimmesdale whom she truly cares for, and loves.

Chillingworth decides to be cruel and punish her and her lover by exposing them and bringing greater disgrace to them – and this is very likely due to jealousy of Hester never having to love like she does Dimmesdale, but also for being unfaithful to him. 

Arthur Dimmesdale 

He is the preacher who has a secret romantic relationship with Hester Prynne, leading to them having an illegitimate baby, Pearl. Unlike Chillingworth, Dimmesdale is described as being more good-looking, gentle, and emotionally intelligent. 

Dimmesdale constantly punished himself for his sin with Hester but somehow could never bring himself to confess publicly to the people, and this might be down to two things; his pride, and his unwillingness to disillusion his followers who greatly respect him and will be gutted to find he’s a hypocrite who doesn’t keep to what he preaches.


She is the girl child born as a result of her mother’s relationship outside of marriage with preacher Arthur Dimmesdale. She is viewed as an outcast, a freak, and quite frankly, she acts as she begins to come of age. She is described as stubborn and rebellious and by a close margin, a physical manifestation of her mother’s Scarlet letter. 

She brings her mother pain through her personality and circumstances surrounding her birth, but at the same time, she comforts her mother and is her only true companion, giving her hope for a better future. 

Pearl turns out quite alright in her adult life, as the narrator tells readers that she travels through Europe and gets married into an affluent family, and has a normal, happy life – only coming to visit her mother in Boston once in a while. 

Governor Bellingham

He is arguably the most powerful character in ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ who is rich, respected, and controls the government of Salem. Bellingham is a strict adherer to Puritanism and fervently abhors witchcraft and its practices – and would punish anyone who faulted on that front, even if they were his family member. 

During the heat of Hester’s punishment for adultery, he attempts to use his power to separate Pearl from her mother, for the reason that the little girl doesn’t stand a chance to learn any helpful morals from her adulterous and sinful mother. 

Perhaps the height of Governor Bellingham’s involvement in the book is the time he has to order the execution of his sister, Mistress Hibbins, a mysterious woman who is convicted of being a witch.

Mistress Hibbins

She is the sister to Governor Bellingham, who also dies by his judgment after he convicts her of witchcraft. She’s bold and confident in her belief and goes on to practice it, even if it endangers her life. She has a tremendous influence on Hester and more so on young Pearl, as she one time invites them to the witches’ convention. 

The Black Man 

Mistress Hibbins often talks about ‘The Black Man’ – who is a character that loosely represents the devil. He is fairly an imaginary character, and not much is captured about him – and is only popular in the society of witches. 

Jonathan Pue 

He is very likely the real owner of the littered manuscripts, which the narrator finds and makes a story out of. His name is written on the scripts, and he happens to have worked at the Salem Custom House a long, long time ago. 


He is the master of the Salem Custom House who enjoys the privilege of keeping his job for any number of times that he wants. Unlike the narrator, who gets fired from his job at the Custom House, the Inspector is not insecure about his job and is probably the happiest man in the book. 


Who is the major character in ‘The Scarlet Letter’? 

Hester Prynne becomes the lead character in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ and the book is centered around her sin of adultery, her public shaming for it, and her quest to restore the dignity of her family name. 

What does Pearl represent in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’?

Pearl as a product of Hester’s affair with Dimmesdale outside of marriage, represents shame, disgrace, and punishment for the couple’s sin but also stands for hope and victory following Pearl’s good exploits in her later life in Europe. 

Is Hawthorne the narrator of his book, ‘The Scarlet Letter’? 

It seems likely that Nathaniel Hawthorne takes the place of a character in his book, ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ as The Narrator, although this is not expressly announced in the book.

Victor Onuorah
About Victor Onuorah
Victor is as much a prolific writer as he is an avid reader. With a degree in Journalism, he goes around scouring literary storehouses and archives; picking up, dusting the dirt off, and leaving clean even the most crooked pieces of literature all with the skill of analysis.
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