Pearl In The Scarlet Letter Essay, Research Paper
Pearl in The Scarlet Letter What is the greatest sin that can be committed by a human being? Is it murder, robbery, or something else? There is no exact answer to this question, it depends on one’s own perception of sin. In The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, a woman by the name of Hester Prynne is condemned for committing a sin, which is adultery. The townspeople, who are Puritans, considers adultery a ghastly crime that is worthy of prosecution. However, Hester does not receive the death penalty because the Massachusetts magistracy were sympathetic towards her. They summoned her only to stand on a public scaffold for three hours and to wear the letter A for the rest of her life. But, this is not the only mark that she has to wear. She gave birth to a child, which is the product of her sin. This child will serve as Hester s other mark of her sin. Hawthorne endorses this child with some important symbols, and in these symbols, he conveys deeper and more complex meanings. Pearl, as the child is named, is utilized by Hawthorne as a treasure, a symbol of Hester’s sin, and as a representation of God s punishment and mercy. Pearl is perceived as a treasure, of the rarest and most precious kind. “Pearl, as being of great price,-purchased with all she had,-her mother’s only treasure!” (Pg. 82) Hester paid a great price for Pearl, the price of isolation, humility, and guilt. The townspeople would not have acknowledged Hester s sin if she did not become pregnant with Pearl. Hester is seen as a outcast among the townspeople, and Pearl is now Hester’s only companion, her only reason to live, her only treasure. There is nothing in this world that Hester deems as more important than her child, for this child is the bond that binds her life together, without Pearl, she has no one left to love, and no one who will love her back (disregarding Dimmesdale, the man she committed adultery with) Pearl is also described as a magnificently beautiful child. “…that there was an absolute circle of radiance around her, on the darksome cottage floor.” (Pg. 83) Her physical appearance is described similar to the appearance of treasure. She radiates a glow around her, similar to how treasure radiates its brilliance. Although treasure is a wonderful earthly possession, it has its own hidden malice, for it can lead to avarice. Comparable to treasure, Pearl is very beautiful and enchanting, but she is quite cold-hearted and even evil in her outwardly attitude towards other people. Throughout the novel, Pearl is constantly referred to a symbol of Hester’s sin, as the scarlet letter that Hester wears. In one scene, Pearl is dressed in red and gold, the colors of the scarlet letter. It was the scarlet letter endowed with life! The mother herself–as if the red ignominy were so deeply scorched into her brain that all her conceptions assumed its form to create an analogy between the object of her affection and the emblem of her guilt and torture. (Pg. 93) It is probable that Hester transformed Pearl into the scarlet letter in order to punish herself. Pearl does not seem to know the true meaning of the scarlet letter, but she must know that the letter is a form of evilness, for she asks Hester if the scarlet letter is a mark of the Black Man. Pearl is shown as a stronger form of the scarlet letter, for she is endowed with life, and can be able to punish her mother by action. When Hester takes off her scarlet letter and throws it into the brook, it is Pearl who demanded her to put it back on. but stamping its foot, wildly gesticulating, and, in the midst of all, still pointing its small forefinger at Hester s bosom! (Pg. 193) When Hester throws away the letter, she is also throwing Pearl away, for Pearl is the scarlet letter. Pearl becomes angry because without the scarlet letter, Hester cannot reach salvation. Hester must abide by the scarlet letter until God has ended the term of punishment, and Pearl is there to remind Hester of her duty to wear the scarlet letter. Therefore, Pearl, as a symbol of her mother s sin, and can also help her mother reach salvation.
God punishes all sinners, but he is also merciful. God may have sent Pearl to Hester as a punishment, but also at the same time, as a gift of compassion. Pearl is utilized as imp-like, who does not seem to possess the knowledge of human sorrow, and Hester becomes frightened of her child. It hardly seemed that Pearl was sent from God, but by the devil. Hawthorne may have purposely characterized Pearl in this way to show that God has punished Hester by sending her a child that is incapable of understanding human feelings. Sometimes Hester would drop to the ground and cry out, O Father in Heaven, if Thou art still my Father, what is this being which I have brought into the world! (Pg. 88) Hester is suffering from deep pains because of Pearl s indifference to human sorrow. She is afraid that Pearl will never learn to be compassionate. Hester realizes that because of her sin, some sort of evil must have possessed Pearl. To discern here, a shadow of reflection of the evil that had existed in herself. All this enmity and passion had Pearl inherited, by inalienable right, out of Hester s heart. (Pg. 87) It tortures Hester that Pearl is this way, hostile and capricious. However, this torture changes into God s mercy. It is an act of mercy that Pearl is put on earth to torture Hester, for without Pearl, Hester may have abandoned the scarlet letter at the brook. If she had, she will never achieve redemption. Hester would have sold her soul to the devil if Pearl was not by her side, reminding Hester to wear the scarlet letter. At the end of the novel, as a final act of mercy, God gives Pearl human qualities. The great scene of grief, in which the wild infant bore a part, had developed all her sympathies; and as her tears fell upon her father s cheek, they were the pledge that she would grow up amid human joy and sorrow .Towards her mother too, Pearl s errand as a messenger of anguish was all fulfilled. (Pg. 233) The truth has been revealed , and God will now forgive them all. God frees Dimmesdale from his guilt, Hester from her scarlet letter, and Pearl from her errand as a messenger of anguish. Pearl is no longer the scarlet letter, and she is freed from her position as a messenger of anguish. Pearl creates many impressions to the reader. She is dynamic, forever changing her moods and feelings. These moods and feelings create a sense of mystery surrounding the child, for the reader never knows what Pearl is feeling or thinking. By utilizing Pearl as a treasure, a symbol of Hester s sin, and a representation of God s punishment and mercy, the reader may be able to understand why Pearl is important to the development of the novel. By focusing in the novel s deeper meanings, one should realize that Pearl is the scarlet letter, the punishment for Hester, and also plays a part in Hester s salvation. Hawthorne ingeniously combines all this into Pearl, making Pearl one of his strongest and most valuable symbols.