In the classic novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, we follow the story of Hester Prynne, a woman who is forced to wear the letter “A” for adultery on her chest. Throughout the book, she struggles to be a mother to her daughter Pearl and to find a way to connect with God and the community again.
Pearl, who was an infant when Hester was sent out into the wilderness, is now two years old and fiercely independent—and more than a little wild. She has been forced to grow up without any company other than that of an elderly woman named Goody Cloyse, who is only allowed outside of prison at certain times because of Pearl’s presence there.
Pearl embodies everything shameful about her mother. Her very existence calls to mind Hester’s sin and makes it impossible for her to walk through the streets without being reminded of what she has done. In this way, Pearl represents both Hester’s shame and her strength. Hester is able to come out of hiding and face the public by having a reason to do so—Pearl provides that reason in her need for love and care.
Hester`s ability to take care of another person gives her purpose when life would be easier if she just gave up. In this way, Pearl represents redemption as well—the idea that good can come from something bad—that Hester may be able to find some good in what happened even though it was terribly wrong and hurtful.