In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne does an admirable job of expressing the true nature of his characters. Nowhere in his story is this more obvious than in his portrayal of the children. Children, in their innocence will say or do anything, for unlike adults, they are not constrained by societal expectations. They are oblivious to most manners and politics and therefore, are less reserved than the adults when it comes to questioning things or speaking their mind.
Pearl, the leading child in the novel, is an excellent example of childish innocence combined with almost preternatural perception. Her willpower and imagination make her a blessing and a curse to her mother, who has paid such a dear price for her child. "After testing both smiles and frowns, and proving that neither mode of treatment possessed any calculable influence, Hester was ultimately compelled to stand aside, and permit that the child be swayed to her own impulses" (Hawthorne 82).
Pearl could not be controlled by anyone, nor did she easily establish relationships with others. The other children in town would often tease her and gang up on her, berating Pearl and her mother. Pearl's anger, however, was released in fits of fury as she screamed and flung things at her opponents. These heathenish qualities and unintelligible screams made many of the townsfolk believe her to be a witch (Hawthorne 85-86). In one of the final chapters, Mistress Hibbins, a confirmed witch, proclaims Pearl to be the daughter of the Prince of the Air, another term for Satan (Hawthorne 222).
Pearl is never, in the entire book afraid to speak her mind. Her mother, embarrassed by many of these outbursts, tries in vain to shush her, but often to no avail. Pearl seems to realize early on in the book that Dimmsdale is her father, which accounts for her numerous pleas for him to "take her and her mother's hand" (Hawthorne 139, 194). Also, Pearl has a strange attachment to the scarlet letter. As a baby, she would reach out and try to grab it on her mother's breast (Hawthorne 87). She seems to innately realize that it has great significance, but when she confronts Hester about it, her mother lies to her, telling Pearl that she wears it because of its beautiful gold thread. This scene shows an excellent example of innocent curiosity from Pearl, and Hester's lying because of societal regulations (Hawthorne 164).
In the Puritan community, secrets are not revealed or shared with others. Dimmsdale, whose emotional burden saps his strength, cannot bring himself to take the weight off his shoulders by telling his secret to the community (Hawthorne 130). It was simply not done. Once a secret was out, however, everyone in the community knew about it immediately (Hawthorne 45). Hester cannot even bring herself to tell her own daughter the true reason for the scarlet letter upon her bosom. Children, although raised in the same society, knew nothing about these...