One of the most significant writers of the romantic period in American literature wasNathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne wrote stories that opposed the ideas of Transcendentalism. Since he had ancestors of Puritan belief, Hawthorne wrote many stories about Puritan NewEngland. His most famous story is the Scarlet Letter. This novel tells of the punishment of awoman, 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, RogerChillingworth, had died.
However, Chillingworth did not die and appears during the early stagesof Hester’s punishment. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the character of Pearl in the Scarlet Letter. Herwhole life had many difficulties while living in Puritan New England. Furthermore, Pearl displaysmuch parallelism to the scarlet letter that Hester must wear. Finally, Pearl’s birth intensified theconflicts in the novel.
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 novelbegins, Hester Prynne gives birth to Pearl after having an affair with Arthur Dimmesdale, aPuritan minister. Pearl’s birth proves that Hester cheated on her husband Roger Chillingworthprovoking the stories action.Order now
The novel opens with the people of Boston staring and laughing atHester holding Pearl while standing on the town’s scaffold. At this time, Pearl is three monthsold. Years later Hester gets released from jail and lives with Pearl in the outskirts of town. SinceHester becomes alienated from Boston, Pearl turns into “her mother’s only treasure!” (Hawthorne76). Hester makes bright red clothes for Pearl that parallel the scarlet “A. ” At age three, Pearlendures 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 ofintelligence. 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 akisson the forehead.
This kiss hints that Dimmesdale is Pearl’s father. When Hester and Pearl return from Governor Winthrop’s death bed, they join Dimmesdalestanding on the town’s scaffold. Pearl asks Dimmesdale “Wilt thou stand here with mother andme, to-morrow noontide?” (Hawthorne 131) twice. Realizing that Arthur is her father, Pearlwants him to confess his sin so that the three of them can live peacefully. Next, Hester takesPearl for a walk in the woods to meet Dimmesdale.
While the two lovers talk and come up withplans to leave for England, Pearl goes off and plays in the woods. After Hester and Dimmesdalefinish talking, Pearl returns and finds that her mother has removed the scarlet letter. Pearl, whohas grown attached to the “A,” throws a temper tantrum until Hester puts the letter back on herdress. Later, Dimmesdale kisses Pearl, who then runs to a brook and washes off the kiss.
Pearldoes not accept Dimmesdale as her father. At the end of the novel, Hester and Pearl go toEngland, but Hester returns and dies in Boston. Hawthorne never tells exactly what happenedtoPearl. The people of Boston have many different ideas about Pearl’s fate.
For example, somebelieve that she died or that she married and received money from Chillingworth’s will. Thecharacter of Pearl portrayed a large role in the plot of the Scarlet Letter. SignificanceNathaniel 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. Hawthorneexpresses that “The child could not be made amendable to rules” (Hawthorne 91).
Next, Pearlexhibits the same characteristics as the scarlet letter. For example, the letter contains scarletfabric. 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, Pearlgrows 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, Pearlbecame very attached to the scarlet letter that was on Hester’s bosom. When Hester removed itin the forest, Pearl became detached from her mother. Finally, at the end of the novel Hester,stillwearing the scarlet letter, returns to Boston without Pearl. Although Hawthorne does not tellwhat happened to Pearl, the reader learns about the death of Hester.
Before Hester died, shecontinued to wear the scarlet letter. While all alone in Boston, one can reason that Hester worethe letter to keep Pearl a part of herself. Since Pearl symbolized the scarlet letter, she held alargerole in the plot of the Scarlet Letter. Hawthorne’s character of Pearl is the most significant object in developing the plot of theScarlet Letter. To start, Pearl’s birth proved Hester’s sin of adultery. Subsequently, the people ofBoston 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 findthe father of the child. Chillingworth thinks that Dimmesdale had the affair with Hester, but hecannot prove it. While caring for Dimmesdale, Chillingworth commits many cruel deeds againstthe 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 bodyplus”confessing his sin as he faces his Sunday congregation” (Leavitt 74). The birth of Pearl ignitedthe conflict within Dimmesdale. Finally, the conflict between Pearl and the children of Bostonsurfaces. Pearl’s red clothing 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 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 theother major characters. Life in Puritan New England presented many difficulties for HesterPrynne’s daughter Pearl. Next, Pearl becomes a scarlet letter as the novel progresses.
Finally,themost significant part of the Scarlet Letter’s plot was the birth and life of Pearl. The purpose ofthis 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’slanguage expresses a sign of a child prodigy with a good parent teacher. Pearl’s behavior couldalso 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 whattakes place around her. Overall, Nathaniel Hawthorne developed Pearl successfully and madeher one of the most significant and memorable characters in the Scarlet Letter.Category: English