Essay, Research Paper: Scarlet Letter And Pearl Character

Literature: Nathaniel Hawthorne

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In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, many of the characters suffer from
the tolls of sin, but none as horribly as Hester's daughter Pearl. She alone
suffers from sin that is not her own, but rather that of her mother. From the
day she is conceived, Pearl is portrayed as an offspring of evil. She is brought
introduced to the pitiless domain of the Puritan religion from inside a jail, a
place where no light can touch the depths of her mother's sin. The austere
Puritan ways punish Hester through banishment from the community and the church,
simultaneously punishing Pearl in the process. This isolation leads to an
unspoken detachment and hatred between her and the other Puritan children. Thus
we see how Pearl is conceived through sin, and how she suffers when her mother
and the community situate this deed upon her like the scarlet letter on her
mother's bosom. Pearl is thought of being an evil child with demon like
qualities, yet she is spirited and very loving towards her mother. Hester Prynn
constantly questions Pearl's existence and purpose asking God, "what is
this being which I have brought into the world, evil?" or inquiring to
Pearl, "Child, what art thou?" Hester sees Pearl as a reminder of her
sin, especially since as an infant Pearl is acutely aware of the scarlet letter
A on her mother’s chest. When still in her crib, Pearl reached up and grasped
the letter, causing "Hester Prynne [to] clutch the fatal token so infinite
was the torture inflicted by the intelligent touch of Pearl's baby-hand"
(Hawthorne 66). The torture Hester felt was reflected by the significant
reminder of the sin that brought Pearl into life. Hester feels guilty whenever
she sees Pearl, a feeling she reflects onto her innocent child. In this manner,
Hester forces the child to become detached from society. Pearl becomes no more
than a manifestation based entirely upon Hester's and Dimmesdale's original sin.
She is described as "the scarlet letter in another form; the scarlet letter
endowed with life!"(70). Or in other words a living child demonstrating her
parents sin. Hester's views toward Pearl changes from merely questioning Pearl's
existence to perceiving Pearl as a demon sent to make her suffer. Hawthorne
remarks that at times Hester is, "feeling that her penance might best be
wrought out by this unutterable pain"(67). Hester even tries to deny that
this "imp" is her child, "Thou art not my child! Thou art no
Pearl of mine!"(73; 67) It is small wonder that Pearl, who has been raised
around sin, becomes little more than a reflection of her environment. Hester
believes that Pearl is an instrument of the devil, when in reality she is merely
a curious child who cherishes her free nature and wants to be loved by her
mother. Pearl is a very spirited child whose love for her mother is deep even
though she does not always show it. Hester feels guilty because she truly
believes in her heart that it is her sin causing Pearl to become aware of harsh
realities of the world. Pearl responds to this harshness by defending her
mother, sticking up for Hester against the Puritan children when they start to
hurl mud at her. Pearl's lack of friends forces her to imagine the forest as her
plaything. However, she is clearly upset about her exclusion from the people of
the town, whom she views as enemies. "The pine trees needed little to
[become] Puritan elders [and] the ugliest of weeds their children" (65).
Pearl acts to use her environment as a basis for her personality: She never
created a friend, but seemed always to be sowing, broadcast the dragon's teeth,
whence sprung a harvest of armed enemies, against whom she rushed to battle. It
was inexpressibly sad- then what depth of sorrow to a mother, who felt her own
heart the cause! (65) “sprung a harvest of armed enemies” is a metaphor that
Hawthorne uses in a way to display Pearls imagination. Hester knows that her sin
is the reason that Pearl has to imagine friends because of the isolation from
the Puritan people and their children. By the end of the story, when Hester is
finally able to release her sin, Pearl is no longer a creation of a secret
passion, but the daughter of a minister and a attractive young woman. She is
only from that moment onward able to live her life without the weight of her
mother's sin. In fact, Hawthorne points out that she is viewed as normal because
of the burden lifted from her soul: "they [Pearl's tears] were the pledge
that she would grow up amid human joy and sorrow." Pearl is an offspring of
sin whose life revolves around the affair between her mother and Reverend
Dimmesdale. Pearl stands out as a radiant child implicated in the sin between
her parents. It is only once the sin is publicly revealed that she is liberated
by the truth.
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