An analysis of the character pearl in the novel the scarlet letter by nathaniel hawthorne

While Hawthorne does not give a great deal of information about her life before the book opens, he does show her remarkable character, revealed through her public humiliation and subsequent, isolated life in Puritan society.

An analysis of the character pearl in the novel the scarlet letter by nathaniel hawthorne

Rather, she is a complicated symbol of an act of love and passion, an act which was also adultery. She appears as an infant in the first scaffold scene, then at the age of three, and finally at the age of seven. Notice that three and seven are "magic" numbers.

The fullest description of Pearl comes in Chapter 6. There, we see her at the age of three and learn that she possesses a "rich and luxuriant beauty; a beauty that shone with deep and vivid tints; a bright complexion, eyes possessing intensity both of depth and glow, and hair already of a deep, glossy brown and which, in after years, would be nearly akin to black.

She is a baffling mixture of strong moods, given to uncontrolled laughter at one moment and sullen silence the next, with a fierce temper and a capacity for the "bitterest hatred that can be supposed to rankle in a childish bosom.

Governor Bellingham likens her to the "children of the Lord of Misrule," and some of the Puritans believe that she is a "demon offspring. Hester realizes this in the first scaffold scene when she resists the temptation to hold Pearl in front of the scarlet A, "wisely judging that one token of her shame would but poorly serve to hide another.

Pearl also functions as a constant reminder of Hester's adulterous act. She is, in fact, the personification of that act. Even as a baby, she instinctively reaches for the scarlet letter. Hawthorne says it is the first object of which she seemed aware, and she focuses on the letter in many scenes.


She creates her own letter out of moss, sees the letter in the breastplate at Governor Bellingham's mansion, and points at it in the forest scene with Hester and Dimmesdale. As a symbol, Pearl always keeps Hester aware of her sin.

Just as Dimmesdale cannot escape to Europe because Chillingworth has cut off his exit, Pearl always keeps Hester aware that there is no escape from her passionate nature.

An analysis of the character pearl in the novel the scarlet letter by nathaniel hawthorne

The Puritans would call that nature "sinful. Hawthorne's handling of mirror images has both the goal of representing the passionate, artistic side of man and also the idea that life's truths can be pictured in mirror images.

Hester looks into "the black mirror of Pearl's eye" and she sees "a face, fiend-like, full of smiling malice, yet bearing the semblance of features that she had known full well, though seldom with a smile, and never with malice in them.

If so, Pearl is the embodiment of that passion. The poetic, intuitive, outlawed nature of the artist is an object of evil to the Puritans.

As a symbol, Pearl represents that nature. As she looks in the brook in Chapter 19, she sees "another child, — another and the same, with likewise its ray of golden light. Filled with the glory of sunshine, sympathetic, but only "somewhat of its [Pearl's] own shadowy and intangible quality," it is the passion of the artist, the outlaw.

This is a passion that does not know the bounds of the Puritan village.

At a Glance

In the forest, this passion can come alive and does again when Hester takes off her cap and lets down her hair. Pearl is the living embodiment of this viewpoint, and the mirror image makes that symbol come to life.

Hester herself tries to account for the nature of her child and gets no farther than the symbolic unity of Pearl and her own passion. A close examination of Chapter 6, "Pearl," shows the unification of the child with the idea of sin.The Scarlet Letter is the final product.

The story begins in seventeenth-century Boston, then a Puritan settlement. A young woman, Hester Prynne, is led from the town prison with her infant daughter, Pearl, in her arms and the scarlet letter “A” on her breast.

Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel, The Scarlet Letter, is the story of the adulterous affair between Hester Prynne and the Rev.

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Arthur Dimmesdale in s Massachusetts Bay Colony. But it's the couple's illegitimate daughter, Pearl, who plays the most important role in developing the novel's moral themes. Essay Nathaniel Hawthorne 's The Scarlet Letter. its expression frequently so elvish.” (Hawthorne ) This, is a misleading description that Nathaniel Hawthorne depicts of Pearl, the daughter of Hester Prynne, in his classic novel The Scarlet Letter.

Throughout Nathaniel Hawthorne's book The Scarlet Letter, Hester's attitudes toward her adultery are ambivalent. This ambivalence is shown by breaking the book.

In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter, the characters’ hypocrisy represents the pervasiveness of hypocrisy in all people. Hypocrisy is evident in all of The Scarlet Letter’s main characters: Hester, Dimmesdale, Chillingworth, the town of Boston, and Pearl. But the scarlet letter uplifts the theme from the material to the spiritual level.

It is the concentration and type of the whole argument. It transmutes the prose into poetry.

SparkNotes: The Scarlet Letter: Character List