Analysis Of Pearl In Hawthornes “the Scarlet Letter”Analysis of Pearl in Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”One of the most significant writers of the romantic period in Americanliterature was Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne wrote stories that opposed theideas of Transcendentalism. Since he had ancestors of Puritan belief, Hawthornewrote many stories about Puritan New England. His most famous story is theScarlet Letter. This novel tells of the punishment of a woman, Hester Prynne,who committed adultery and gave birth to Pearl. A minister of Boston, ArthurDimmesdale, had an affair with Hester while believing that her husband, RogerChillingworth, had died. However, Chillingworth did not die and appears duringthe early stages of Hester’s punishment.
The purpose of this paper is to analyze the character of Pearl in theScarlet Letter. Her whole life had many difficulties while living in PuritanNew England. Furthermore, Pearl displays much parallelism to the scarlet letterthat Hester must wear. Finally, Pearl’s birth intensified the conflicts in thenovel. Clearly, Pearl becomes the symbol of all the other major characters’tragedies.
ChronologyThe character of Pearl in the Scarlet Letter lived a very difficult life.
Before the novel begins, Hester Prynne gives birth to Pearl after having anaffair with Arthur Dimmesdale, a Puritan minister. Pearl’s birth proves thatHester cheated on her husband Roger Chillingworth provoking the stories action.
The novel opens with the people of Boston staring and laughing at Hester holdingPearl while standing on the town’s scaffold. At this time, Pearl is threemonths old. Years later Hester gets released from jail and lives with Pearl inthe outskirts of town. Since Hester becomes alienated from Boston, Pearl turnsinto “her mother’s only treasure!” (Hawthorne 76). Hester makes bright redclothes for Pearl that parallel the scarlet “A.” At age three, Pearl enduresmany laughs and jokes from other Puritan children but chases them away withstones. Since Pearl’s birth resulted from broken rules, she does not feel theobligation to follow rules. Although her life is an outcast of Puritan society,Pearl’s language shows a high level of intelligence. Later, Hester receivesword that the magistrates want to take Pearl away from her. Hester takes Pearlto the governor’s house where the child meets her father, Arthur Dimmesdale.
After Dimmesdale persuades the governors to allow Hester to keep Pearl, he givesthe child a kiss on the forehead. This kiss hints that Dimmesdale is Pearl’sfather.
When Hester and Pearl return from Governor Winthrop’s death bed, they joinDimmesdale standing on the town’s scaffold. Pearl asks Dimmesdale “Wilt thoustand here with mother and me, to-morrow noontide?” (Hawthorne 131) twice.
Realizing that Arthur is her father, Pearl wants him to confess his sin so thatthe three of them can live peacefully. Next, Hester takes Pearl for a walk inthe woods to meet Dimmesdale. While the two lovers talk and come up with plansto leave for England, Pearl goes off and plays in the woods. After Hester andDimmesdale finish talking, Pearl returns and finds that her mother has removedthe scarlet letter. Pearl, who has grown attached to the “A,” throws a tempertantrum until Hester puts the letter back on her dress. Later, Dimmesdalekisses Pearl, who then runs to a brook and washes off the kiss. Pearl does notaccept Dimmesdale as her father. At the end of the novel, Hester and Pearl goto England, but Hester returns and dies in Boston. Hawthorne never tellsexactly what happened to Pearl. The people of Boston have many different ideasabout Pearl’s fate. For example, some believe that she died or that she marriedand received money from Chillingworth’s will. The character of Pearl portrayeda large role in the plot of the Scarlet Letter.
SignificanceNathaniel Hawthorne develops Pearl into the most obvious central symbol ofthe novel, the scarlet letter. First, Pearl’s birth resulted from the sin ofadultery, the meaning of the “A.” Since she came from a broken rule, Pearl doesnot feel that she has to follow rules. Hawthorne expresses that “The child couldnot be made amendable to rules” (Hawthorne 91). Next, Pearl exhibits the samecharacteristics as the scarlet letter. For example, the letter contains scarletfabric. Hester makes red clothes for Pearl to wear, making her an outcast ofPuritan society. Likewise, wearing the scarlet letter has made Hester an outcastof society. Furthermore, Pearl grows just as Hester continues to enlarge theletter by adding golden thread. During infancy, “The letter is the firstobject that Pearl becomes aware of” (Baym 57). Throughout her life, Pearlbecame very attached to the scarlet letter that was on Hester’s bosom. WhenHester removed it in the forest, Pearl became detached from her mother. Finally,at the end of the novel Hester, still wearing the scarlet letter, returns toBoston without Pearl. Although Hawthorne does not tell what happened to Pearl,the reader learns about the death of Hester. Before Hester died, she continuedto wear the scarlet letter. While all alone in Boston, one can reason thatHester wore the letter to keep Pearl a part of herself. Since Pearl symbolizedthe scarlet letter, she held a large role in the plot of the Scarlet Letter.
Hawthorne’s character of Pearl is the most significant object in developingthe plot of the Scarlet Letter. To start, Pearl’s birth proved Hester’s sin ofadultery. Subsequently, the people of Boston forced Hester to wear the scarletletter. The letter turns Hester into an outcast of society. Next, whenChillingworth found out that Hester gave birth to Pearl, he became determined tofind the father of the child. Chillingworth thinks that Dimmesdale had theaffair with Hester, but he cannot prove it. While caring for Dimmesdale,Chillingworth commits many cruel deeds against the minister. Pearl helped tocreate the conflict between Chillingworth and Dimmesdale. Furthermore, Pearl’sbirth reminded Dimmesdale of his sin of having an affair with Hester. Because ofhis cowardly personality, Dimmesdale tries to fast and whip the sin from hisbody plus “confessing his sin as he faces his Sunday congregation” (Leavitt 74).
The birth of Pearl ignited the conflict within Dimmesdale. Finally, theconflict between Pearl and the children of Boston surfaces. Pearl’s redclothing becomes a target of other children’s jokes. If the affair had neverproduced a child, then the novel’s major conflicts most likely would be lessintense. Therefore, every major conflict has its roots with Pearl’s birth.
In Hawthorne’s novel the Scarlet Letter, Pearl represents the anguish inthe lives of the other major characters. Life in Puritan New England presentedmany difficulties for Hester Prynne’s daughter Pearl. Next, Pearl becomes ascarlet letter as the novel progresses. Finally, the most significant part ofthe Scarlet Letter’s plot was the birth and life of Pearl. The purpose of thisessay was to analyze the character Pearl from the Scarlet Letter.
Most of her characteristics show that Pearl could be a real child. Forexample, Pearl’s language expresses a sign of a child prodigy with a good parentteacher. Pearl’s behavior could also mean that she feels rebellious to all ofthe hardships that she acquires from society. Finally, Pearl compares with areal child in that she constantly tries throughout the novel to find out whattakes place around her. Overall, Nathaniel Hawthorne developed Pearlsuccessfully and made her one of the most significant and memorable charactersin the Scarlet Letter.