Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is a novel that focuses on sin in the Puritan society. Hawthorne revolves the theme around the four main characters Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, Roger Chillingworth., and Pearl. Hester Prynne is forced to wear the scarlet letter ‘A’ after committing adultery against her husband Roger Chillingworth, with the minister Arthur Dimmesdale. As a result an odd child is born.
Throughout the passage from The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne uses Hester’s baby, Pearl, to illuminate the theme of beauty in a dark place. Once released from prison, Hester, an adulterer, becomes a public spectacle. Through this hard time, Hester has her daughter Pearl to soothe her and to bring her strength and hope for a better future. By using vivid imagery and juxtaposition, Hawthorne depicts Pearl as Hester’s happiness, light, and beauty during a sad and lonely time.
Throughout the book, Pearl is shown as a symbol of Hester's sin. In The Scarlet Letter, it says “But she named the infant “Pearl”, as being of great price, purchased with all she had, her mother's only treasure!”(Hawthorne 81). This is showing that Hester loves Pearl, but feels bad that she has to live her life being the product of sin. In the novel, Hester is always reminded of her sin and Pearl is the product of Hester and Dimmesdale's sin.
Often times, we interpret a novel at its face value, only reading the text on the page instead of really delving into the true meaning behind that text. Since that meaning is not explicitly stated, different readers can develop different interpretations of the same text. This idea of repeated hidden meanings throughout a novel is classified as a motif, and most of the time motifs are used in order to subtly convey ideas to the reader through seemingly plain text. In the Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne uses motifs and symbols to convey subtle ideas, one example being his harsh criticism of Puritan culture. One of the most prominent motifs in his novel is the Black Man, an imaginary being who Hawthorne equates to the devil. Hawthorne employs
Hawthorne uses symbolism throughout the Scarlet letter to display the sin and indecency people see Hester as. The detail represents ,the deep beauty Hester has inside although most people do not see her as a beutiful women. The deep red is a representation of adultery which shows her being an oncast from society. The symbol of the letter “A” is repetitive throughout the novel and grows with Hester and overcomes this with time as people start to see her as a person again and not just a adulterer. Hester acknowledges her sin in her puritan faith but swears to secrecy on the father of Pearl.
“On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold-thread, appeared the letter A” (Hawthorne 50). The novel states this description of Prynne’s scarlet letter and how she has to put it on her gown, noticeable for everyone to see. Prynne is inwardly questioning herself whose child is Pearl “...child, what are thou? Cried the mother. Oh, I am your little Pearl… Art thou my child, in very truth?...
Pearl is the living embodiment of of the scarlet letter. Pearl constantly reminds Hester of her sins, without meaning to. Whenever she asks questions about Dimmesdale or about the scarlet letter, Hester is reminded of the things she did wrong. Pearl is very smart child, and she likes to ask questions and learn about things. If she sees something that confuses her, she will ask her mother about it.
While reading The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, it is obvious that he uses a lot of symbolism throughout his writing to give the readers a deeper understanding of the Puritans and their views in these times. In this book, the community forces Hester Prynne to wear a scarlet letter on her chest to show her abashment for committing adultery and having a child, Pearl. However, Pearl is actually used as a symbol throughout this book to represent the physical embodiment of Hester’s sin, the repercussions of her breaking the law, and an unworldly being in the usual strict Puritan society. In the beginning of the book, Hawthorne uses Pearl as a way to constantly remind Hester of her sin and as a link between the secret relationship of Hester
She was an outcast to society and would never be accepted because she was considered the child of sin. Hawthorne says, “...whose place was on that same dishonored bosom,...” (Ch 6, 77), this shows that not only is the scarlet letter symbolic to the adultery, but Pearl is also a lasting symbol of Hester’s sin. Chapter 6, Pearl, is entirely dedicated to the child and it is in this chapter the Pearl states, “ “He did not send me!” cried she positively.
This child is not meant to be a realistic character but rather a symbol of Hester’s sin, blessing and scarlet letter. Pearl is the scarlet letter, a blessing and curse, and the love and passion of a dangerous relationship. More than a child Pearl is a symbol of the love and passion between Hester and the minister. Pearl is a symbol that connect her parents forever even if they couldn’t be together. The narrator says, “God, as a direct consequence of the sin which man thus punished, had given her a lovely child, whose place was on that same dishonoured bosom, to connect her parent forever with the race and descent of mortals, and to be finally a blessed soul in heaven!”(86)
Her isolation and the scarlet letter fastened to her bosom permitted her to look at the shortcomings of the society- as an outsider- that is typically overlooked by the civilians themselves. She discovers how women aren’t given power inside the community to think for themselves or make changes, and hence winds up stuck in the same mindset or beliefs. Due to the ideas shared by men, women begin to see themselves as inferior and are easily influenced in remaining silent. Unlike the other women in the Puritan community, Hester is depicted as a strong, unyielding lady- the “wild rosebush”-, who, despite being publicly shamed and mocked, helped the needy and disregarded others opinion of her. She isn’t stifled by the townspeople 's perspective of her, but rather is concerned about the way women are viewed upon, and feels that existence itself- is worthless for them.
In The Scarlet Letter is merely a symbol in the story, her function is to remind Hester of her sin which affects her role in the story to become more antagonistic to Hester. Pearl is a character, yes, but in the novel, she is mostly a symbol. The way Hawthorne writes her, she is not like a regular person, and she 's not
His use of imagery has played a key role in allowing the readers to be connected, throughout the entirety of the novel, and feel more attached to these characters and their lives. Hawthorne has created an alternate universe within the Puritan universe that The Scarlet Letter is based upon, an era in which is personal and historical to him, with his profound use of imagery. This novel holds a twisted love story inside the gloomy life of Hester Prynne and the punishment that she has to cope with for the rest of her life. What the townspeople don’t know of is that she has an added punishment on top of having to wear her scarlet letter A, she also won’t get a chance to be with Pearls father, Reverend Dimmesdale, in a romantic way due to her husband who abandoned her many years prior to Pearl being born. She loves Dimmesdale, and doesn’t get to acknowledge that until Pearl is about seven or eight, and Dimmesdale is sick from the stress of keeping their sin a secret from the public eye.
Since Pearl was basically glued to her mother’s hip, she adapted to Hester’s moods, personality, hobbies, and wardrobe, in a sense. In Chapter 15: Hester and Pearl, Hester and Pearl are on the beach where Hester is conversing with Chillingworth while Pearl is making a mermaid outfit (Hawthorne 155). Pearl utilizes skills for devising drapery and costume she earned from her mother, yet that is not the only thing she picked up from her mother. “As the last touch to her mermaid’s garb, Pearl took some eel-grass, and imitated, as best she could, on her own bosom, the decoration with which she was so familiar on her mother’s. A letter,-the letter A,-” (Hawthorne 155).