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The novel scarlet letter was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. He wanted to expose the immorality that was committed by two parents of a daughter called Pearl. Nathaniel’s novel explores very clearly the themes of the themes of guilt, sin, and legalism. The plot of the novel takes place in the 17th century in Boston Massachusetts. The novel tells a story of Hester Prynne who gives birth to a daughter having committed adultery and tries all what she can so as to ensure that she live of repentance and dignity. In this paper we are going to explore the characteristics and influence of pearl, the daughter of Hester Prynne, and how she is used by the author in order to advance the themes of the novel. We are also going to look at how symbolism is used in this book and how it was successful in ensuring that Nathaniel Hawthorne’s massage was passed across.
Pearl is among the characters that are complex and elaborate in the novel scarlet letter. Pearl is the daughter illegitimate daughter of Author Dimmesdale and Hester Prynne. As one reads through the novel they realize that she is a very dynamic individual who keeps on changing depending on the prevailing circumstances in order to survive and to also help in bringing out clearly the massage that the writer wanted to pass when he was writing the book (Mary, 99). The other members of the society keep on shunning and avoiding Pearl because of her mother’s sin and she remains a constant reminder of to both the members of the society and also the reader of Hester’s sin. They live in a bad house in the outskirts of Boston where they tend to avoid the humiliation in the hands the other villagers. Pearl is vividly described by Hawthorn in page 81 as the infant whose guiltless life was the product of inscrutable decree of providence (Mary, 133). He refers to her as lovely and a flower that that is immortal that does not realize the guilty that led to its existence.
From the beginning of her life she is viewed as a punishment, a product of sin that should that everybody that has some dignity should avoid at all times. All this treatment affects Pearl and she is not like the normal of the society. Her only rescue is that nature and the animals around her treat her well and somehow accept her in a way that her community did not. It is also important to note that pearl was a very beautiful child. On page 81 and 82 Hawthorne describes her beauty very clearly. Pearl had beauty that really shone with deep and vivid tints. Unlike most of the other girls she had a bright complexion; she had eyes that possessed intensity of both glow and depth. Her hair was also beautiful; it had a deep brown that was glowed whenever she walked. All this physical characteristics made her really beautiful. She also had a good sense of fashion. She always wore lavish dresses that emphasized her beauty and many of the puritan people to think of her as a strange. The main reason for this was that the other puritan children wore the traditional clothing and to them they could never consider a person who did not look liked them or dress like them as one of them. This treatment made Pearl a very troubled child and even when the other children for one reason or another showed her some interest she would be really irritated and pick up stones and fling them at them.
Another characteristic of Pearl is that she is very strong and she turns every situation in to her advantage. Since other children are not willing to accept her as one of them she decides to live with nature and animals because these are the only things that show her acceptance. On page 168 hawthorn talks about the light that happily lingers about the child that is lonely as if it is glad to have found such a loving playing mate. We are also told that the sunshine accepts pearl as an equal. The great forest also becomes the playmate of this lonely child. The natural things become her only friends and this in the end makes this child a very weird child. Every child needs human company so that they may be able to grow in a way that can be considered normal. We are told that Pearl character lacked reference and she could not relate in any way to the world that she was born. She not affected in any way by the life of the Puritan life, the only thing that has influence to this child is only nature and its life. She has been thrust out of her community’s life and the only way of life that she can identify to is that of the forest and the things of nature.
The people of her society views her as not only a weird and strange kid born out of a sinful act, they also consider and view her in very mixed feelings. Many people do not comprehend her. A good example is where Hester tells Dimmesdale that she hardly understands this child but she will love her to the end nevertheless. She goes on and states that sometimes she is afraid of little Pearl. To Dimmesdale, he is really confused in that he really loves the kid and in truth he wants to make peace with her and know her better but this is no possible because he is not prepared to lose his political and social status by acknowledging her in public.
Pearl is a very sensitive and inquisitive child. These characteristics are brought about by the fact that she had a very elaborate and perplexing history. She is brought up without a father and she does not even know who her father is. The only person who she can freely identify with is her mother and even she is ostracized from the community as well. For this reasons she grows to be a very sensitive and a curious kid. She is always on her mother’s case wanting to know what Hester would rather not tell her. She wants to know who her father is and why they live the two of them and not with their father like many of the other families in the society.
Symbolism is used very much in this novel. Throughout the whole novel many of the characters represent other ideas. Nathaniel Hawthorne deliberately uses symbolism so as to enhance the themes of the novel. Pearl being one of the most misunderstood characters in the novel is used to advance different themes. Pearl throughout the book, develops into a symbol that is very dynamic. It is very important to note that pearl all through the novel symbolizes evil. She symbolizes evil in the sense that she is born through sin and therefore she represents the punishment that God inflicts on Hester’s adulterous act. Pearl also symbolizes the guilt that her parents are experiencing. She defies the puritans’ law by being cheerful when she is associating with nature instead of suffering. Another way in which pearl symbolizes punishment is the fact that she keeps pestering and bothering her mother. All through this novel it is very important for the reader to note how mocking and pestering her mother, one may get the feeling that he is a witch baby send out to torment her mother. In many cases babies is a joy to their mothers but in Pearl’s case she was just the opposite and in this the author clearly and effectively used symbolism in pearls case to symbolize punishment and suffering. It is also important to note that the Pearl has strong emotions and she also has a bad temper with a capacity to do evil deeds. These characteristics ensure that Hester’s life is full of misery and she once asked god what kind of being she had brought on earth. Her daughter constantly harass her over the scarlet A that she was wearing and in time Hester was the subject of a lot of ridicule from the members of the society and even her own daughter and when this became hard to bear she just decided to live on seclusion.
Pearl as a person symbolizes the sins of both Hester and Dimmesdale. This child is the direct effect and results of the sin of adultery. She also represents the sin of lying. One has to notice the way; Hester and Dimmesdale keep on lying to the society about the affair that led to the birth of Pearl. These two keep on avoiding telling the truth about the biological father of the Pearl. Even Pearl herself did not have a clue who really was her father and this affected her life. We can also see the way Dimmesdale is undergoing a lot of internal pain in that He really wants to show his daughter love but the situation in which this girl was conceived makes it very hard for him to let the members of the society know that he is the real father of pearl. It is very important to also note that the Dimmesdale did not commit the sin of adultery but only the sin of concealing the truth that he was party to the act that brought Pearl to this world.
It is very important to note that Pearl was a very clever child. She could read her surrounding and other people behavior to understand the things that she was not supposed to understand (Edwin and Louis, 143). A good example is where she was very perturbed by the behavior of Dimmesdale when he put his had across is chest just where his heart was. Pearl seemed to connect this to Hester’s scarlet letter and know that something was not right. She is so smart to an extend that her mother thinks that she is not a real human being.
Hawthorn also used symbolism in that he uses pearl to represent the scarlet letter. We are told that even when she was a baby she was attracted to the scarlet letter. This is confirmed on page 90 where we are told that her infant eyes could not leave the glimmering part of the gold embroidery. When she is a little bit older, Hester throws the letter on the ground and Pearl reacts very oddly when she screams demanding that the “A” be picked up. It is also important to note that the “A” is the only way that the colonialists choose to crime and punishment to the criminals in the society.
The functions of Pearl in the novel are great. The reason for this is that she is the character that helps and guides the reader to really know what is happening in the story. There are some hidden meanings in the book and she also helps the reader to pick up these points so that they can really understand what the book is talking about. She aids the reader with her commentaries, her thought process and her inquisitive questions that she asks through out the novel (Edwin and Louis, 56). We can say that Pearl is an indispensable character to the reader that helps him to understand the themes that are being put forward by the author. One has to notice the way Pearl is different from the other children of her own age. She did not make any friends in the society. In fact any child that tried to make friend with were met with a moody child that preferred to play alone and only interact with the natural things. Being a lonely kid Pearl opts to communicate with her own reflection and this also helps the reader to know what is happening in the book. For her age, pearl is able to communicate effectively with adults like her parents. She relates with them in a very complicated way that other children her own age can not do and through this we see he asking her parents very hard questions. This characteristic helps the author to pass across the themes that he intended to pass when he was writing the novel like sin punishment and guilt.
Budd, Louis, and Candy, Edwin. On Hawthorne: the best from American literature. Durham. Duke University Press, 1990.
Cooper, Michael. The Scarlet Letter and Symbolism. January 2009. Retrieved on 30/07/2009. http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Scarlet-Letter-and- Symbolism&id=78659.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel, And Robinson, Herbert. The Scarlet Letter. Washington DC: Plain Label Books, 1954.
Hurst, Mary. The voice of the child in American literature: linguistic approaches to fictional child language. Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 1990.
Schmidt, Anja. Pearl’s Twilight Nature in “The Scarlet Letter”: Emblem of Sin or Self- fulfilling Prophecy?. Berlin: GRIN Verlag, 2007.
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