Hester Prynne A young woman sent to the colonies by her husband, who plans to join her later but is presumed lost at sea. She is a symbol of the acknowledged sinner; one whose transgression has been identified and who makes appropriate, socio-religious atonement.
Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale Dimmesdale is the unmarried pastor of Hester's congregation; he is also the father of Hester's daughter, Pearl. He is a symbol of the secret sinner; one who recognizes his transgression but keeps it hidden and secret, even to his own downfall.
Pearl Pearl is the illegitimate daughter of Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale. She is the living manifestation of Hester's sin and a symbol of the product of the act of adultery and of an act of passion and love.
Roger Chillingworth The pseudonym assumed by Hester Prynne's aged scholar-husband. He is a symbol of evil, of the "devil's handyman," of one consumed with revenge and devoid of compassion.
Governor Bellingham This actual historical figure, Richard Bellingham, was elected governor in 1641, 1654, and 1665. In The Scarlet Letter, he witnesses Hester's punishment and is a symbol of civil authority and, combined with John Wilson, of the Puritan Theocracy.
Mistress Hibbins Another historical figure, Ann Hibbins, sister of Governor Bellingham, was executed for witchcraft in 1656. In the novel, she has insight into the sins of both Hester and Dimmesdale and is a symbol of super or preternatural knowledge and evil powers.
John Wilson The historical figure on whom this character is based was an English-born minister who arrived in Boston in 1630. He is a symbol of religious authority and, combined with Governor Bellingham, of the Puritan Theocracy.