A Character Analysis of Pearl in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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A Character Analysis of Pearl in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter
Word Count Includes Outline at the End of the Paper

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a book of much symbolism. One of the most complex and misunderstood symbols in the book is Pearl, the illegitimate daughter of Hester Prynne and Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale. Throughout the novel Pearl develops into a dynamic symbol; one that is always changing. In the following essay, I will explore Hawthorne's symbolism of Pearl from birth, age three, and age seven. Also, I will attempt to disprove the notion that Pearl is branded with a metaphorical scarlet letter "A" representing amorality; instead she represents the immorality of her mother's adultery.

In The
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"From that epoch, except when the child was asleep, Hester had never felt a moment's safety; not a moment's calm enjoyment of her" (Hawthorne 67). Hester realized that she could not enjoy the normal maternal relationship with her daughter because of the embarrassing symbol on her chest. Hawthorne states, "Weeks, it is true, would sometimes elapse, during which Pearl's gaze might never once be fixed upon the scarlet letter; but then, again, it would come at unawares, like the stroke of sudden death, and always with that peculiar smile, and odd expression of the eyes" (67). Hester recognized that Pearl's odd expression was her own recognition of the immoral meaning of the scarlet letter and Pearl herself.

At age three, Pearl still possessed the same childish fascination with her mother's decorative symbol of shame. Hawthorne told of one certain incident were "... she amused herself with gathering handfuls of wild flowers, and flinging them, one by one, at her mother's bosom; dancing up and down, like a little elf, whenever she hit the scarlet letter." (67). Pearl, through the use of the letter, toyed with her mother's emotions as if it were a game placed there for her own personal amusement. Hester still bore witness to "little Pearl's wild eyes"; the same expression that she had seen before in her eyes as a baby (Hawthorne 67). Hester could tell that with every day that passed her little girl was becoming more