The character of Pearl in “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter is an American novel, published by Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1850. The theme revolves around sin, punishment and the psychology of guilt in the Puritan society of the Massachusetts Bay Colony during the mid-17th century. The passage under study is located at the beginning of chapter 19 called “The child at the Brook-side”. This chapter focuses on Pearl, Hester’s and Dimmesdale’s daughter; the parents are looking at their daughter, explaining on how Pearl looks like to both of them, while Pearl is on the brook-side, watching them and we are going to see to what extent Pearl is the allegory of the sin? First I will expose the relationship between pearl and her parents and then I will focus on her behavior.

In this first part, we shall look at the mother, and the father. Hester is the mother of Pearl, the sinned love between Hester and Dimmesdale. Hester accepts her sin and takes off her “A”. In fact, Pearl associates the scarlet A with her mother: the letter has always adorned Hester’s chest for as long as Pearl has known her. Pearl does not accept her mother without the letter on, Hester is forced to put the “A” back on her chest if she wants Pearl to obey her.

About Dimmesdale, the father of Pearl, he is  not accepted by her own daughter, Pearl: he doesn’t even accept his own sin, therefore he does not accept his own daughter. Pearl is a representation of nature in the brook-side: she is the boundary between her parents because she won’t accept Dimmesdale until he confesses his sin. Her existence is the uniting between her parents but Dimmesdale won’t confess anything about his sin. There can’t be an happy ending on it. As I quote Dimmesdale saying “I have a strange fancy” observed the sensitive minister, “that this brook is the boundary between two worlds and that thou canst never meet thy Pearl again” Even at the end of the chapter, her daughter rejects his kiss and tried to wash it off with water.; so the reconciliation is not yet achieved.

In this second part, we shall explain the tantrum and the eerie behaviour of Pearl. Pearl is an innocent little girl, who used to live with her mother wearing the scarlet letter on her chest. Over Hester’s removal of the letter, it suggests a sense of personal rejection: Pearl feels that she is

intuitively connected to the scarlet letter : her own mother said so. Only when Hester puts the letter back on, she is oddly affectionate. While pointing her mother’s chest, she wanted to show her that without her scarlet letter, her mother is not her mother; she doesn’t recognize her as her mother.

As Hester takes the symbol back and puts it on, she feels herself thrown back into the prison of shame. She puts her hair back in her cap and she is transformed back into the old Hester. And it is then that Pearl agrees to cross the brook and join her. Pearl kisses her mother and then kisses even the scarlet letter at page 197 (one hundred ninety seven) (I quote) “In a mood of tenderness that was not usual with her, she drew down her mother’s head, and kissed her brow and both her cheeks. But then, by a kind of necessity that always impelled this child to alloy whatever comfort she might chance to give with a throb of anguish, Pearl put her mouth, and kissed the scarlet letter too!”

Except the fact that she threw a tantrum, Pearl’s also acting oddly; indeed, her behavior is strange, she strikes a strange note: why would she be staring at her parents the way she was doing it? Was it like she was throwing a spell on them as if she was a witch? I can remind the fact that Pearl was kind relative to Mistress Hibbins who calls her self as a witch and her friends doing witch stuff in the forest with the Black Man: Pearl was surrounded with witchcraft and other supernatural things. During the 17th century, witches were persecuted in New-England as well as Puritans they were in England. It echoes with the Salem with trial that happened in 1692 in the Massachusetts witchcraft wasn’t legal at this time, they were considered as evil and were burnt if guilty.

To conclude, we can say that Pearl is indeed the allegory of the sin, because God punished her mother Hester to remind her what she had done wrong by giving life to her daughter Pearl and so she can’t escape from her as she did in the society. This chapter presumes an unhappy ending for Hester and Dimmesdale if they choose to be together although their daughter disapproves.