Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of The Scarlet Letter, uses many symbols in his writing. There are four main characters in this book: Hester Prynne; Pearl, Hester’s daughter; Roger Chillingworth, Hester’s husband; and Arthur Dimmesdale, Hester’s lover and Pearl’s father. Hawthorne uses description in his characters through their names. Hester Prynne is the main character, a beautiful woman. She is strong-willed and extremely prideful. “The young woman was tall, with a figure of perfect elegance on a large scale” (Hawthorne 46).
This beautiful, but rebellious lady, commits adultery and has a child because of it. Ester in the Bible is beautiful and strong-willed, just like Hester. Sin rhymes with “Prynne” and gives us a slight description of Hester’s life. Her personality description goes with her name very well. Pearl is the result of Hester’s sin. Hester comes up with the name Pearl because, “she named the infant ‘Pearl,’ as being of great pricepurchased with all she hadher mother’s only treasure” (79).
She is bought with one of the greatest possible prices, people’s lives and happiness. “Her mother, with a morbid purpose that may be understood hereafter, had bought the richest tissues that could be procured, and allowed her imaginative facility its full play in the arrangement and decoration of the dresses which the child wore before the public eye” (80). She symbolizes the “A” in that she is her mother’s conscience and her mother dresses her in the same colors and in the rich material. Arthur Dimmesdale is a weak character.
He is a pale person who has many flaws. He, being Pearl’s father and Hester’s lover, had to keep his sin hidden because he is the minister of Boston. He comes into close contact with Hester’s husband who realizes he is Hester’s lover and wants revenge on him. Dimmesdale gradually starts to die away and comes to depend strongly on Hester. He asks her for strength when he has none, or very little. “Twine thy strength about me! Thy strength, Hester; but let is be guided by the will which God hath granted me” (230).
At the last scaffold scene, he depends heavily on Hester for strength and ends up dying after letting his secret out and letting truth be shown. Roger Chillingworth is a cold and distant person. He carries an air of coldness about him. He marries Hester before he sent her ahead of him into Boston. When he first sees Hester in the new world, she is up on her pedestal of shame, the scaffold. He acts as the town’s physician and mainly becomes Dimmesdale’s personal physician. He eventually convinces Dimmesdale to let him move in with him for around-the-clock care.
Once Dimmesdale figures out that someone, he’s not sure of who yet, is torturing him and trying to kill him gradually, he begins to trust Chillingworth less and less. One night Dimmesdale goes on a walk to the scaffold where he meets Hester and Pearl as they are walking past. Chillingworth shows up in the scene a while later. “‘Who is that man, Hester? ‘ gasped Mr. Dimmesdale overcome with terror. ‘I shiver at him! Dost thou know the man? I hate him, Hester! ‘ She remembered her oath and was silent.
‘I tell thee, my soul shivers at him! uttered the minister again. ‘Who is he? Who is he? Canst thou do nothing for me? I have a nameless horror of the man! ‘” (140). Chillingworth’s name suggests that he is a cold person, which is true. Most of the time when he shows up, people shiver and are cold. He is a cold-hearted, evil man. Hawthorne uses vivid descriptions to describe his characters. All of the character’s names suggest something in their personality. Hawthorne makes sure to use many symbols and easy descriptions in his writing.