OF THE BABY NAME SCARLET
Arthur Dimmesdale is a main character in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famous 1850 novel, The Scarlet Letter. He is a Puritan reverend who just happens to have fathered the illegitimate child of Hester Prynne, and uses up most of his energy, spiritual and otherwise, in hiding this inconvenient truth. Hester, of course, due to the obvious nature of female biology, has no such solution at hand. Not to worry, however, for Arthur Dimmesdale is absolutely miserable throughout the book, as well he should be. While Hester raises her child alone, spurned by the community and forced to wear the red letter “A” for adultery, Arthur becomes more and more revered by his flock, who see his self-abnegation as a proper attitude for their reverend to take. To be fair, it is Hester who refuses to allow the townspeople the truth, but Arthur goes along with it, to his ultimate destruction. Physically weakened and mentally anguished by years of hypocrisy, Arthur finally confesses just before dying. We would excoriate him for grabbing heaven on his deathbed, but we do have to admit, his whole life has been excruciating. Perhaps he has earned that redemption, after all.
Hester Prynne is the protagonist in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic 1850 novel, The Scarlet Letter. Set in Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony, the novel tells the story of the harsh penance set to Hester for the punishable crime of adultery, and traces her eventual coming to terms with her soul’s redemption on her own terms. Shunned by society, and without any support either from her husband or from her baby’s father, Hester ekes out a living for herself and her child. In addition, she tends to the poor and sick in the community, and contemplates the whys and wherefores of her lot in life. All this she does with dignity and without complaint, but indeed, in an aura of selfless pride in her own person. In the end, it is Hester who stands above the crowd, almost saint-like in her calm acceptance of her fate and in her determination to make a life for herself and her daughter regardless of the constrictions of her time and place. Hester is a woman whom any 21st century person should be proud to call “sister”.
Will Scarlet is one of Robin Hood’s band of Merry Men, those stalwart fellows of Sherwood Forest who stole from the rich to give to the poor, or so legend from the fifteenth century onward would have it. Will Scarlet was an early and very important member of the “gang”. Many stories of origin posit him as a nephew to Robin Hood. Will is often characterized as a young, hot-headed and impulsive teen, with a tendency to be an elegant dandy (he likes to wear red silk). He is also a fine swordsman and a dashing ladies’ man. All in all, an upstanding member of a revered group, second in importance to Robin only after Little John.
Jefferson Hope is a pivotal character in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1887 novel, A Study in Scarlet, the book in which Sherlock Holmes makes his debut appearance. While investigating the murders of two men in London, Drebber and Stangerson, Holmes makes his brilliant deductions, which lead to Jefferson as the murderer. Jefferson is a good man, who had fallen in love with Lucy Ferrier years earlier in the Utah Territory in the United States. Lucy, unfortunately, has been raised a Mormon and is forced to choose a husband from that religion, either Drebber or Stangerson. Jefferson spirits her and her father out of Salt Lake City, but while he is foraging for food, Lucy’s father is killed and Lucy herself is kidnapped and forcibly married to Drebber. Lucy dies shortly thereafter of a broken heart, and Jefferson plots his revenge, following the two men to England and doling out their just desserts. When Holmes’ trail leads to Jefferson Hope, Jefferson gladly affirms his suspicions. Jefferson is ready to accept the consequences of law for his crimes of honor, but his own poor health metes out death before justice can; Jefferson dies with a smile of peace on his face.
Pearl is the “love child” of Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 masterpiece, The Scarlet Letter, set in 17th century Puritan Salem, Massachusetts. Pearl is a beautiful and intelligent child, who is prone to mood shifts, capriciousness and to perceptive questioning of the adults around her. Her mother wears the red cloth “A” upon her bosom at all times as the sign of her adulterous affair, and Pearl seems almost as attached to this symbol of her mother’s transgression as she is to her mother herself. When Hester temporarily removes it, Pearl insists on its being put back. Pearl is as much reminder of the past as is the scarlett letter; she and her mother are shunned by the villagers and forced into isolation together. The very nature of this isolation leads to self-examination, questioning and observation of the most innate truths of human nature – this is exactly how Hester redeems herself, and with her, the child, Pearl. When Pearl’s father is dying, she does not wipe his kiss from her brow, as she did before – now she freely and affectionately kisses him and weeps over him. This is the turning point for the child Pearl; hence forward she begins her own journey to a fulfilling and satisfying womanhood, one that has been prepared for and tempered by early suffering, one that will be lived to the fullest and truest. She is indeed a “Pearl of great price”.
Roger Chillingworth is a major character in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 classic, The Scarlet Letter. In the Old World, Roger Prynne sends his much younger wife, Hester, ahead of him to the New World, while he stays behind to finish up business. Being delayed by several misfortunes over the period of two years, he arrives in Massachusetts, only to find that she has obviously betrayed him, and has born a child in that time. He changes his name to Roger Chillingworth, assumes the role of community doctor, and begins his years-long search for Hester’s partner-in-crime, whose name she will not reveal. Thus he morphs from a respectable businessman and loving husband into the very symbol of evil, as he ages and becomes more and more deformed as the thirst for vengeance drives him further and further astray. Roger Chillingworth has long been heralded as one of literature’s all time bad guys, but in our estimation, he really got a bad deal. He, after all, is not the one who was the adulterer. He is not the one who dallied with another man’s wife and sired a child out of wedlock. He is not the one who keeps that secret for years and years. Indeed, Roger makes it his life’s purpose to find out and punish his enemy, and becomes a dark force. Nonetheless, when Hester’s erstwhile lover finally makes himself known (on his proverbial deathbed, we might add), Roger actually repents his earlier trespasses and goes to his own eternal hereafter in peace, having repented and having left his considerable fortune to Hester’s daughter, Pearl. We’ll call it a draw, and assume that he finds a better deal in the next world.
We cannot find any significant literary characters by the name of Scarlet