Essay title: The Scarlet Letter Is Pearl
One of the most complex and elaborate characters in The Scarlet Letter is Pearl, the daughter of Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale.
Pearl, throughout the story, develops into a dynamic individual, as well as an extremely important symbol- one who is constantly changing. Pearl is involved in a complex history, and as a result is viewed as different and is shunned because of her mother’s sin. Pearl is a living Scarlet A to Hester, as well as the reader, acting as a constant reminder of Hester’s sin.
Hawthorne uses vivid descriptions to characterize Pearl. She is first described as the infant; “…whose innocent life had sprung, by the inscrutable decree of Providence, a lovely and immortal flower, out of the rank luxuriance of a guilty passion.” (81). From the beginning of her life she is viewed as the product of a sin, as a punishment.
Physically, Pearl has a “beauty that became every day more brilliant, and the intelligence that threw its quivering sunshine over the tiny features of this child.” (81-82). Pearl is ravishing, with “beauty that shone with deep and vivid tints’ a bright complexion, eyes possessing intensity both of depth and glow, and hair already of a deep, glossy brown, and which, in after years, would be nearly akin to black.” Combining with her extreme beauty, are the lavish dresses that she wears. The exquisite dresses and her beauty cause her to be viewed as even stranger from the other typical Puritan children, whom are dressed in traditional clothing. As a result, she is accepted by nature and animals, and ostracized by the other Puritan children. “Pearl was a born outcast of the infantile world… the whole peculiarity, in short, of her position in respect to other children.
” (86). Pearl was not accepted by the children; her unavoidable seclusion was due to the sin of her mother. On the rare occasion that the children would show interest in Pearl she would “grow positively terrible in her puny wrath, snatching up stones to fling at them…” (87)As a result of Pearl’s seclusion from society nature sympathizes with Pearl, which can be seen with the role of the sunshine in the forest. “The light lingered about the lonely child, as if glad of such a playmate,” (168). The sunshine is grateful for Pearl, accepting her as an equal. Hawthorne describes another sign of acceptance as the “great black forest…became the playmate of the lonely infant.
” (187). Eventually it is declared, “The truth seems to be, however, that the mother-forest, and these wild things which it nourished all recognized wildness in the human child.” (188). Because Pearl isn’t accepted by the community she takes on the characteristics of nature because nature accept her as one of its own. Pearl’s character “lacked reference, and adaptation to the world into which she was born. The child could not be made amenable to rules.” (83).
This quote shows a striking resemblance in description between Pearl and nature. Pearl and nature are referred to as not adapting to Puritan society. This characteristic makes Pearl so different because she is unaffected by the community, and is a product of nature and its ways. Hawthorne’s descriptions and developments of the relationship between Pearl and Nature further characterizes Pearl who has been thrust out of Puritan society.
The members of the Puritan society view Pearl as a weird, strange little girl, born from a sinful act. However, the characters with a closer, more in depth relationship to the child, feel differently towards Pearl. “She is a strange child! I hardly comprehend her! But thou wilt love her dearly, as I do, and wilt advise me how to deal with her” (186). Hester describes her unbalanced feelings and emotions to Dimmesdale. This statement shows that although Pearl’s quirks and oddities cause her to become “strange” in the eyes of others, they form into a love from Hester. This relationship between Hester and Pearl is important because both are ostracized for their irregularities and for the sin and shame of Hester.
Dimmesdale responds to Hester’s statement with, “I have long shrunk from children, because they often show distrust- a backwardness to be familiar with me. I have even been afraid of little Pearl!” (186). As Dimmesdale has been trying to find peace with himself because of his sin, he has also been attempting to develop a relationship with Pearl. However, this is impossible because he is unable to acknowledge Pearl in public. Because Pearl continuously demands public recognition (seen in Chapter 19, as well as Chapter 21) Dimmesdale grows a fear towards her. Therefore, it is understood that Pearl does not accept him as a father or loved one until he acknowledges her on Election Day. Hester, again, describes her relationship with Pearl while attempting to convince the Governor to allow her to maintain.