Show MoreScarlet Letter - Pearl as a symbol
Pearl is a symbol of Hester’s transgressions and even has similar qualities as the sin which she represents. Pearl’s life and behavior directly reflects the unacceptable and abnormal nature of Hester’s adulterous sin. Hester is plagued with more than just a letter “A”; she is given a child from her affair who is just as much a reminder of her sin as the scarlet letter. Ultimately Hester overcomes the shame associated the scarlet letter and creates a sense of family for herself and Pearl. This relationship is integral to the theme of this novel and the development of its characters.
Pearls behavior could be described as abnormal, disrespectful, undignified, or altogether opposite of most Puritan…show more content…
Although Pearl is definitely a positive, spirit building, influence on Hester’s life, Pearl’s main role as the scarlet letter proves to challenge Hester’s resolve. Pearl is “the scarlet letter, only capable of being loved, and so endowed with a millionfold the power of retribution…” (p64) As a symbol of her sin, Hester dresses up Pearl to look nice just like she does to the scarlet letter itself. This is Hester’s way of overcoming her tribulation, she is, nevertheless, constantly aware of her shortcomings… “Thou must gather thine own sunshine. I have none to give thee!” (p54)
As time passes, Hester’s endurance and determination shines through. Many people in the Puritan community “refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said that it meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman's strength." (p113) Pearl grows in her understanding of life in the Puritan society and in her understanding of her mother and father. The scarlet letter matures into a symbol of Hester’s perseverance, while Pearl continues to enhance herself as a subject of Hester’s past indiscretions.
It is clear that Pearl is as much a blessing to Hester as she is a wicked reminder of the past. All human beings are naturally endowed with good qualities and bad qualities. A steady balance of each is what makes an interesting and assertive individual. Pearl is the complete fulfillment of Hester’s roles as a
In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne does an admirable job of expressing the true nature of his characters. Nowhere in his story is this more obvious than in his portrayal of the children. Children, in their innocence will say or do anything, for unlike adults, they are not constrained by societal expectations. They are oblivious to most manners and politics and therefore, are less reserved than the adults when it comes to questioning things or speaking their mind. <br> Pearl, the leading child in the novel, is an excellent example of childish innocence combined with almost preternatural perception. Her willpower and imagination make her a blessing and a curse to her mother, who has paid such a dear price for her child. After testing both smiles and frowns, and proving that neither mode of treatment possessed any calculable influence, Hester was ultimately compelled to stand aside, and permit that the child be swayed to her own impulses (Hawthorne 82). <br>Pearl could not be controlled by anyone, nor did she easily establish relationships with others. The other children in town would often tease her and gang up on her, berating Pearl and her mother. Pearls anger, however, was released in fits of fury as she screamed and flung things at her opponents. These heathenish qualities and unintelligible screams made many of the townsfolk believe her to be a witch (Hawthorne 85-86). In one of the final chapters, Mistress Hibbins, a confirmed witch, proclaims Pearl to be the daughter of the Prince of the Air, another term for Satan (Hawthorne 222). <br>Pearl is never, in the entire book afraid to speak her mind. Her mother, embarrassed by many of these outbursts, tries in vain to shush her, but often to no avail. Pearl seems to realize early on in the book that Dimmsdale is her father, which accounts for her numerous pleas for him to take her and her mothers hand (Hawthorne 139, 194). Also, Pearl has a strange attachment to the scarlet letter. As a baby, she would reach out and try to grab it on her mothers breast (Hawthorne 87). She seems to innately realize that it has great significance, but when she confronts Hester about it, her mother lies to her, telling Pearl that she wears it because of its beautiful gold thread. This scene shows an excellent example of innocent curiosity from Pearl, and Hesters lying because of societal regulations (Hawthorne 164).<br>In the Puritan community, secrets are not revealed or shared with others. Dimmsdale, whose emotional burden saps his strength, cannot bring himself to take the weight off his shoulders by telling his secret to the community (Hawthorne 130). It was simply not done. Once a secret was out, however, everyone in the community knew about it immediately (Hawthorne 45). Hester cannot even bring herself to tell her own daughter the true reason for the scarlet letter upon her bosom. Children, although raised in the same society, knew nothing about these unspoken rules, and did not learn of them until they had gained maturity. <br>The children in The Scarlet Letter also, have a kind of mischievous intelligence and cruel nature. The village children, who know the significance of the scarlet letter, but in many cases, do not fully understand it. They observe that the adults treat Hester with scorn, and also that she lives apart from the rest of the village. In attempts to imitate the adults, they sometimes harass her, or spy on her (Hawthorne 73). They tease little Pearl, a less formidable-looking opponent than her mother, but Pearls temper frightens the other children into submission.<br>Pearls mischief stands out from that of the other children, for Pearl is more often seen than the other children. Her temper is mercurial, and her anger is as formidable as that of any adult, sometimes more so. Her cruelty came out in her mischief and then just as easily hidden behind a guise of childish sweetness.<br>It was a face, fiend-like, full of smiling malice, yet bearing semblance of features that she had known full well, though seldom with a smile, and never with malice, in them. It was as if an evil spirit possessed the child, and had just then peeped forth in mockery (87).<br>In a juxtaposition of images, Pearl threw flowers, the symbol of love, at her mothers scarlet letter, the symbol of shame and unspoken torture to Hester (87). Hester is dismayed at her daughters flighty displays of cruelty and wonders if her child is an elf, a demon, or an evil spirit. Although Hester loves Pearl very much, Pearl is a curse, the living personification of the scarlet letter, and just as much of a torture as the symbol upon her breast (88).<br> It seems, perversely, that as much as Hester is afraid of Pearls imagination and temper, she seems to encourage it and permit it as well. She does not control her child, except to make vain attempts to silence her and allows her to play games of imagination that smack of witchcraft by the towns standards. In some ways, Hester behaves like a child, without any respect for conventional rules; however, Hester knows the full implications of what she is doing. Although she does set herself apart from society, she does not have the innocence that allows her to do or say anything without a good excuse. <br> The innocence of children is an unchanging part of humanity. Maturity and responsibility come with time, but so do the restraints that humans put on their actions, tongues, and hearts. Children, however, are very perceptive, and Hawthorne makes this very clear. Their eyes and ears are always open, yet no one notices a child. Pearls wisdom and innocence are infuriating and lovable aspects of her personality, and in many ways, she voices what Hester only thinks. Adults in The Scarlet Letter, especially Mr. Dimmsdale, keep their thoughts, feelings, and emotions to themselves, sometimes with disastrous results. In truth, only children can be trusted to tell the complete and utter truth, for they do not understand the tact of white lies, the manners with which we must conduct ourselves, or the politics of society. <br> <br>Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. 1850. New York: The Modern Library, 2000.