The Scarlet Letter is a romantic fiction story authored by Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1850. The story is set in Puritan Boston during the 17th century from 1642 to 1649. The play tells of a woman Hester Prynne whom passion draws to a young pastor causing her to have an adulterous affair with him where she conceives a daughter named Pearl.
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Hester is humiliated in public for her actions and forced to put on a scarlet letter as a symbol of her sin and evil deeds. Hawthorne explores many themes in the story including guilt, sin, evil and legalism. Symbolism is also present in the story with a strong example being Pearl.
The following is an analysis of the character Pearl in the story The Scarlet Letter where more focus is put on her character (traits, personality and qualities) and what she represents/ symbolizes in the story. It also analyzes the nature of her relationship with her mother Hester.
Pearl first appears in the first scaffold scene as an infant and reappears again at the age of three and later on at the age of seven. She is described as a beautiful flower that is growing out of soil full of sin (Hawthorne 89).
She was named Pearl because her mother purchased her with the only treasure she had when she feared that her husband must have been killed by the Indians. However, Pearl inherited her mother’s moodiness, defiance and passion. Her very being does not like the Puritan society strict rules which make her defiance of the rules. She is very mischievous and this makes Hester worried about her.
Pearl’s personality in the play is described as determined, imaginative, intelligent, obstinate and inquisitive. Pearl has mysterious mixture of moods; she can show signs of happiness in a minute and then suddenly change to being gloomy and silent. Pearl has high and fierce temper and she possess so much bitterness and hatred inside her at a tender age.
She has unusual behaviors and that is why she is often referred to as elf-child, imp, and airy sprite, in the play (Hawthorne 110). Governor Bellingham compares Pearl to “children of the Lord of Misrule,” while some of the Puritans views Pearls as “demon offspring” because of her weird behaviors which greatly worries her mother (Hawthorne 109).
Hawthorne describes Pearl as an “imp of evil, emblem and product of sin, she had no right among christened infants (Hawthorne 94).” Pearl is however aware that she is different from other people and that is why when Hester tries to teach her the ways of God she says “I have no Heavenly Father (Hawthorne 95)!”
Pearl seems to be stubborn and arrogant at a tender age. When Pearl was three years old, she pelted the scarlet letter using wildflowers and in frustration her mother Hester asked her, “Child, what art thou (Hawthorne 178)?”
But in return Pearl insisted she wanted to know the origin of the letter. This clearly shows the kind of relationship that Pearl had with her mother. Pearl actually tormented her mother with her evil actions but despite it all Hester still loved her daughter.
Pearl is not a realistic character in the story The Scarlet Letter because she is a complicated symbol of passion and love actually an adulterous act. She is a symbol of Hester’s greatest sin and shame and at the same time she symbolizes her mother’s treasure.
This means that Pearl is her Hester’s punishment and at the same time act as her consolation. Pearl is a symbol that keeps Hester aware of her evils and sins. She also makes her mother aware that she cannot escape from her evil deeds what the Puritans terms as sinful nature (Hawthorne 82).
In conclusion, the story The Scarlet Letter clearly explores the themes of evil, sin, frustration, guilt and passion. Hawthorne has used symbolism in different ways to clearly bring out the dramatic and romantic part of the play. Pearl and the scarlet letter are good examples of symbolism used in the book while Hester’s actions, life and the hard time she faced in Puritan community shows the evil, legalism and frustrations in the play.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. Norton: Public Domain Books, 1992. Print.