Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) in his most celebrated novel The Scarlet Letter, represents the iconic character, Pearl. Pearl is like the Scarlet letter ‘A’ in the novel. She is the living manifestation of the embroidered letter ‘A’ on Hester’s bosom. There is an irony here. Pearl is actually not a reminder to Hester of her sin but her blessing. Thus, the embroidered letter ‘A’ on Hester’s chest and her daughter Pearl is symbolically the same. They are both the sign of the blessing of Hester. Even Hester does not feel that Pearl is the result of her sin.
More Notes: The Scarlet Letter
Pearl was enchanted by the scarlet letter. She came to associate it strongly with her mother. Pearl is presented in an almost supernatural light throughout the book. She often acts more like a spirit than like an earthly child. She is the Romantic child of nature, strongly linked with spiritual purity, despite her wild ways. Just as the letter is a physical symbol of Hester’s sin and estrangement, so too is Pearl a living symbol of those ideas.
Pearl’s reaction to Hester’s throwing letter
Hester decides to run away with Dimmesdale. So, she throws the letter but this disturbs Pearl. When Hester tells Pearl to come to her and Dimmesdale, Pearl begins to burst into a fit of passion and reacts violently when she sees her mother without the letter on her chest. Pearl only recognizes Hester again when she knots the letter.
In this way, the scarlet letter is linked to Pearl just like linked to Hester. For Hester to move aside the letter and attempt to escape the consequences of her actions would mean abandoning Pearl. This seems to be a possible interpretation of Pearl’s violent reaction.
More Notes: Suggestions
Pearl’s reaction to the realization of the truth
Pearl also washes off Dimmesdale’s kiss. Pearl’s violent response against the lovers suggests that their plan to run away together will not solve their problems. Escaping from the village might be wrong. To run away together might prove the continuation of their sin. Hester must continue to grip her guilt and Dimmesdale must publicly recognize Pearl as his child so that he will no longer live in hypocrisy. Pearl’s reaction to the Scarlet Letter makes the two of them realize this truth.