Nathaniel Hawthornes book, The Scarlet Letter, uses physical appearance to mirror a characters physiological or spiritual state. Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, whom the reader may remember as having taken a brief part in the scene of Hester Prynnes disgrace, is a complex character. The young minister, whose health had severely suffered, of late, by his too unreserved self-sacrifice to the labors and duties of the pastoral relation. Hawthorne is making the reader aware of Mr. Dimmesdale leaving them to ask themselves why he is getting sick. Is it because he has some hidden guilt or sin?
Dimmesdale is sick because of the nknown truth between him and Hester Prynne, which leads up to Hester Prynnes daughter Pearl, the scarlet vision. Pearl, that wild and flighty little elf, stole, softly towards him, and, taking his hand in the grasp of both her own, laid her cheek against it; a caress so tender . . . little Pearls unwanted mood of sentiment last no longer; she laughed, and went capering down the hall. Pearl, not known to be kind to anyone except her mother, laid her cheek on Reverend Dimmesdales hand to show there is a connection between Dimmesdale and little Pearl.
Furthermore, old Roger Chillingworth is an important character o the story. Hester Prynne . . . perceived what change had come over his features, – how much uglier they were, – how his dark complexion seemed to have grown duskier, and his figure more misshapen, – since the days she had familiarly known him. Roger Chillingworth is looking to seek out whom Hester had slept with. He loved her and the pain of not knowing who committed this crime with her was eating at his soul and tearing away his physical appearance. There are hints that the author leaves to let us think about each individual character and the hidden meanings behind them.