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Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.


Page 93

incomprehensible intelligence.” Pearl lends this story its note of exquisiteness: she is the light that flashes across the gloom, the color that warms the sober tapestry, the wings that wake the scene when intensity has arrested movement. Nothing better than the figure of Pearl illustrates the intimate connection between Hawthorne’s most delicate fancy and the closely scrutinized actuality upon which he founded his art. When he shaped her he must have been thinking constantly of his little daughter Una, who during the composition of the book, while his mother lay dying in his house, frolicked before his eyes like a bright fairy at the doors of a tomb. It was of pearl that he says: “Hester could not help questioning, at such moments, whether Pearl were a human child. She seemed rather an airy sprite, which, after playing its fantastic sports for awhile upon the cottage floor, would flit away with a mocking smile.” It was of Una at nearly the same time that Hawthorne wrote in his diary, among many other comments which suggest the qualities of Pearl: “there is something that almost frightens me about the child,—I know not whether elfish or angelic, but, at all events, supernatural. She steps so boldly into the midst of everything, shrinks from nothing, has such a comprehension of everything, seems at times to have but little delicacy, and anon shows that she possesses the finest essence of it,—now so hard, now so tender; now so perfectly unreasonable, soon again so wise. In short, I now and then catch an aspect of her in which I cannot believe her to be my own human child, but a spirit strangely mingled with good and evil, haunting the house where I dwell.”



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