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The Importance Of Pearl In Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

1887 words - 8 pages

The Significance of Pearl
One of the most complex characters in The Scarlet Letter is Pearl, the illegitimate daughter of Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale. Throughout the story, she develops into a dynamic individual, as well as an extremely important symbol. Pearl is shunned from society because of her mother's sin. She is a living representation of the scarlet letter, acting as a constant reminder of Hester's sin.
Hawthorne uses vivid descriptions to characterize Pearl. She is first described as the infant, "...whose innocent life had sprung, by the inscrutable decree of Providence, a lovely and immortal flower, out of the rank luxuriance of a guilty passion." (Hawthorne 81). From the beginning of her life she is viewed as the product of a sin, as a punishment. Physically, she has a "beauty that became every day more brilliant, and the intelligence that threw its quivering sunshine over the tiny features of this child." (Hawthorne 81,82). Pearl is ravishing, with "beauty that shone with deep and vivid tints' a bright complexion, eyes possessing intensity both of depth and glow, and hair already of a deep, glossy brown, and which, in after years, would be nearly akin to black." Combining with her extreme beauty, are the lavish dresses that she wears. The exquisite dresses and her beauty cause her to be viewed as even stranger from the other typical Puritan children, whom are dressed in traditional clothing. As a result, she is accepted by nature and animals, and ostracized by the other Puritan children. "Pearl was a born outcast of the infantile world... the whole peculiarity, in short, of her position in respect to other children." (Hawthorne 86). The children did not accept Pearl, her unavoidable seclusion was due to the sin of her mother. On the rare occasion that the children would show interest in Pearl she would "grow positively terrible in her puny wrath, snatching up stones to fling at them..." (Hawthorne 87)
As a result of Pearl's seclusion from society nature sympathizes with her, which can be seen with sunshine in the forest. "The light lingered about the lonely child, as if glad of such a playmate," (Hawthorne 168). The sunshine is grateful for Pearl, accepting her as an equal. Hawthorne describes another sign of acceptance as the "great black forest...became the playmate of the lonely infant." (Hawthorne 187). Eventually it is declared, "The truth seems to be, however, that the mother-forest, and these wild things which it nourished all recognized wildness in the human child." (Hawthorne 188). Because the community does not accept her, Pearl takes on the characteristics of nature because nature accepts her as one of its own. Pearl's character "lacked reference, and adaptation to the world into which she was born. The child could not be made amenable to rules." (Hawthorne 83). This quote shows a striking resemblance in description between Pearl and nature. Pearl and nature are referred to as not adapting to...

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