The Symbolic Pearl Essay, Research Paper
Most novels usually have a main symbol, which teaches a character, or the reader, a very important lesson or moral. This is true in Nathaniel Hawthorne s classic The Scarlet Letter, where Hester Prynne s daughter Pearl serves as the most extensive living symbol in the entire novel. She is much more of a symbol than an actual character. Pearl symbolizes Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale s concealed love affair and plays a key character in The Scarlet Letter as well.
Little Pearl, the so-called elf child, is the daughter and result of the minister Arthur Dimmesdale and Hester Prynne s unthinkable sin of adultery. She is an imaginative, intelligent little girl who is full of life and shows a rich and luxuriant beauty; a beauty that shone with deep and vivid tints. She is a living, breathing child who can see and talk. The only real characteristics that prove she is an actual person are shown by her emotions; she has a very unfavorable temper and usually ends up getting her way by throwing tantrums. For example, in the forest scene, she sees her mother s scarlet letter discarded on the ground, fusses and screams for her to put it back on, which eventually Hester does.
Pearl is obviously a definite person, but she is also a definite symbol of many things. First, she is a distinct symbol of the relationship between Hester and Dimmesdale. She is a representative of the passion, which came with Hester s sin of adultery. Second, she is an active reminder of Hester s sin besides the letter A on her breast. And lastly, Pearl becomes mesmerized by her mother s scarlet letter. She pelts the letter with flowers, covering the mother s breast with hurts for which she could find no balm in this world. Pearl s inevitable tendency to hover about the enigma of the scarlet letter is fully developed when Pearl imitates her mother by placing a seaweed letter A on her own breast.
But the most important symbol that Pearl reflects is when they are in the forest. In one of the book s most dramatic scenes, Pearl blocks her mother s attempt to escape from her symbol of shame. After Hester has tossed her scarlet letter on the ground, Pearl shrieks in a fit and will not recognize or come to her mother until she proceeds to put her letter back on and puts her hair back up under her white cap. Pearl also becomes an embodiment of Hester and Dimmesdale s conscience, which means she is a far stronger way for punishing Hester than the letter A on her breast. When Pearl is a baby she held up her little arms, with a half-pleased, half-plaintive murmur toward Dimmesdale. It is just as true that what Pearl repeatedly requests Dimmesdale to do is exactly the thing that he must do to save his soul from guilt, which is to confess his sins of adultery.
It is known that Pearl played a major part in the classic novel The Scarlet Letter. Not only was she a key character throughout the story, she was a tremendous symbol of two people s uncontrollable lust for one another. Pearl serves as a major living symbol of both Dimmesdale and Hester s relationship and conscience. She completes her function as a symbol when Dimmesdale dies on the scaffold, after saving his soul. It was as if a spell had been broken, finally.