SparkNotes: The Scarlet Letter: Character List

"Did you read the book?" one of your classmates asks the kid sitting across the table. "Dude, of course not," he replies. "Neither did I," replies your classmate. Oops. It looks like no one has read the book. How are you all going to survive Mr. Chillingbone's class? Noticing the increasing frenzy, the class clown tries to calm everyone down: "Relax. All we have to know is that the book is about a lady who has an affair with a priest, like, thousands of years ago. We can make it up as we go."

At that point, and what a hit it was. Oh, sure, it was one of the first mass-produced books sold in America, and it received praise from no less than —but can that compare to being on almost every American literature reading list in the history of everywhere?

A list of all the characters in The Scarlet Letter

No one says a thing. Your classmates  their glossy copies, unwilling to fess up.

"What!" Mr. Chillingbone roars. "You've had a whole week to read this classic tale, and you HAVEN'T READ THE BOOK?!" He stares around the room in scholarly horror. "Who else has neglected to read this work of sheer genius? Who?!"


The novel itself came out of a difficult time in Hawthorne's life. After graduating from , where he hung around with the likes of poet and future United States President , Hawthorne found a government job at the . He lost the job in 1849, just before his beloved mother died. Instead of lying on the couch eating Flamin' Hot Cheetos and playing Halo during his unemployment (ahem), Hawthorne decided to write a book. When he read the final words of the final chapter to his wife, he ran to bed crying.

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Yep. It's the second one. Nathaniel Hawthorne set the story of poor, persecuted Hester Prynne and her lover in the early , where his ancestors played a role in the persecution of women, as well as in the prosecution of women in the . In The Scarlet Letter's preface, Hawthorne actually alludes to this history, taking blame for the actions of these ancestors and hoping that any curse brought about by their cruelty will be removed.

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Passion, wild emotion, and forbidden love: Or is it Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, published in 1850 and set over a century earlier, amid those with their funny hats and buckles?

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It's Monday morning, and you slink into your American Studies class with a conscience so guilty, you begin to think the words "I didn't read the book" are tattooed on your forehead. Your classmates are gleefully exchanging anecdotes about their weekends as they pull out their glossy copies of The Scarlet Letter.