One of the most significant writers of the romantic period in American literature was Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne wrote stories that opposed the ideas of Transcendentalism.
Since he had ancestors of Puritan belief, Hawthorne wrote many stories about Puritan New England. His most famous story is the Scarlet Letter. This novel tells of the punishment of a woman, Hester Prynne, who committed adultery and gave birth to Pearl. A minister of Boston, Arthur Dimmesdale, had an affair with Hester while believing that her husband, Roger Chillingworth, had died. However, Chillingworth did not die and appears during the early stages of Hester’s punishment.
The purpose of this paper is to analyze the character of Pearl in the Scarlet Letter. Her whole life had many difficulties while living in Puritan New England. Furthermore, Pearl displays much parallelism to the scarlet letter that Hester must wear. Finally, Pearl’s birth intensified the conflicts in the novel. Clearly, Pearl becomes the symbol of all the other major characters’ tragedies. Chronology The character of Pearl in the Scarlet Letter lived a very difficult life.
Before the novel begins, Hester Prynne gives birth to Pearl after having an affair with Arthur Dimmesdale, a Puritan minister. Pearl’s birth proves that Hester cheated on her husband Roger Chillingworth provoking the stories action. The novel opens with the people of Boston staring and laughing at Hester holding Pearl while standing on the town’s scaffold. At this time, Pearl is three months old.
Years later Hester gets released from jail and lives with Pearl in the outskirts of town. Since Hester becomes alienated from Boston, Pearl turns into “her mother’s only treasure!” (Hawthorne 76). Hester makes bright red clothes for Pearl that parallel the scarlet “A.” At age three, Pearl endures many laughs and jokes from other Puritan children but chases them away with stones. Since Pearl’s birth resulted from broken rules, she does not feel the obligation to follow rules. Although her life is an outcast of Puritan society, Pearl’s language shows a high level of intelligence.
Later, Hester receives word that the magistrates want to take Pearl away from her. Hester takes Pearl to the governor’s house where the child meets her father, Arthur Dimmesdale. After Dimmesdale persuades the governors to allow Hester to keep Pearl, he gives the child a kiss on the forehead. This kiss hints that Dimmesdale is Pearl’s father. When Hester and Pearl return from Governor Winthrop’s death bed, they join Dimmesdale standing on the town’s scaffold.
Pearl asks Dimmesdale “Wilt thou stand 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 that the three of them can live peacefully. Next, Hester takes Pearl for a walk in the woods to meet Dimmesdale. While the two lovers talk and come up with plans to leave for England, Pearl goes off and plays in the woods.
After Hester and Dimmesdale finish talking, Pearl returns and finds that her mother has removed the scarlet letter. Pearl, who has grown attached to the “A,” throws a temper tantrum until Hester puts the letter back on her dress. Later, Dimmesdale kisses Pearl, who then runs to a brook and washes off the kiss. Pearl does not accept Dimmesdale as her father.
At the end of the novel, Hester and Pearl go to England, but Hester returns and dies in Boston. Hawthorne never tells exactly what happened to Pearl. The people of Boston have many different ideas about Pearl’s fate. For example, some believe that she died or that she married and received money from Chillingworth’s will.
The character of Pearl portrayed a large role in the plot of the Scarlet Letter. Significance Nathaniel Hawthorne develops Pearl into the most obvious central symbol of the novel, the scarlet letter. First, Pearl’s birth resulted from the sin of adultery, the meaning of the “A.” Since she came from a broken rule, Pearl does not feel that she has to follow rules. Hawthorne expresses that “The child could not be made amendable to rules” (Hawthorne 91). Next, Pearl exhibits the same characteristics as the scarlet letter.
For example, the letter contains scarlet fabric. Hester makes red clothes for Pearl to wear, making her an outcast of Puritan society. Likewise, wearing the scarlet letter has made Hester an outcast of society. Furthermore, Pearl grows just as Hester continues to enlarge the letter by adding golden thread. During infancy, “The letter is the first object that Pearl becomes aware of” (Baym 57). Throughout her life, Pearl became very attached to the scarlet letter that was on Hester’s bosom.
When Hester 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 to Boston without Pearl. Although Hawthorne does not tell what happened to Pearl, the reader learns about the death of Hester. Before Hester died, she continued to wear the scarlet letter.
While all alone in Boston, one can reason that Hester wore the letter to keep Pearl a part of herself. Since Pearl symbolized the 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 developing the plot of the Scarlet Letter. To start, Pearl’s birth proved Hester’s sin of adultery. Subsequently, the people of Boston forced Hester to wear the scarlet letter. The letter turns Hester into an outcast of society.
Next, when Chillingworth found out that Hester gave birth to Pearl, he became determined to find the father of the child. Chillingworth thinks that Dimmesdale had the affair with Hester, but he cannot prove it. While caring for Dimmesdale, Chillingworth commits many cruel deeds against the minister. Pearl helped to create the conflict between Chillingworth and Dimmesdale. Furthermore, Pearl’s birth reminded Dimmesdale of his sin of having an affair with Hester. Because of his cowardly personality, Dimmesdale tries to fast and whip the sin from his body plus “confessing his sin as he faces his Sunday congregation” (Leavitt 74).
The birth of Pearl ignited the conflict within Dimmesdale. Finally, the conflict between Pearl and the children of Boston surfaces. Pearl’s red clothing becomes a target of other children’s jokes. If the affair had never produced a child, then the novel’s major conflicts most likely would be less intense. Therefore, every major conflict has its roots with Pearl’s birth.
In Hawthorne’s novel the Scarlet Letter, Pearl represents the anguish in the lives of the other major characters. Life in Puritan New England presented many difficulties for Hester Prynne’s daughter Pearl. Next, Pearl becomes a scarlet letter as the novel progresses. Finally, the most significant part of the Scarlet Letter’s plot was the birth and life of Pearl. The purpose of this essay was to analyze the character Pearl from the Scarlet Letter.
Most of her characteristics show that Pearl could be a real child. For example, Pearl’s language expresses a sign of a child prodigy with a good parent teacher. Pearl’s behavior could also mean that she feels rebellious to all of the hardships that she acquires from society. Finally, Pearl compares with a real child in that she constantly tries throughout the novel to find out what takes place around her. Overall, Nathaniel Hawthorne developed Pearl successfully and made her one of the most significant and memorable characters in the Scarlet Letter.