The Character Of Pearl In Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

991 words - 4 pages

The Scarlet Letter:  Pearl              

 
Children are incredibly sensitive and can sense almost any emotion of an adult by observing body language and facial expressions. Such is the case with the youthful Pearl from the novel The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. As the daughter of the adulteress Hester Prynne, the townspeople view Pearl as a demon in an angel’s clothing; who not only knows exactly what the letter "A" signifies on the bosom of her mother, but as the demon who placed it there, as well.

The townspeople believe that Pearl uses this information against Hester by constantly mentioning the letter in order to make Hester extremely uncomfortable. This belief of the townspeople is certainly not supported by the following dialogue.

" ‘Nay, mother, I have told all I know,’ said Pearl more seriously than she was wont to speak…’But is good earnest now, mother dear, what does this scarlet letter mean?- and why dost thou wear it in thy bosom?- and why does the minister keep his hand over his heart?’ She took her mother’s hand in both her own, and gazed into her eyes with an earnestness that was seldom seen in her wild and capricious character." (Hawthorne 164)

 

This dialogue does not seem to be the words of a demon, but of a child who is utterly curious about what the letter "A" on her mother’s bosom means.

One should not underestimate Pearl’s intelligence. Pearl is not the demon many townspeople consider her to be; instead she is intelligent and sensitive towards her surroundings and can understand much about the scarlet letter Hester wears. "The neighboring townspeople… had given out that poor little Pearl was a demon offspring; such as ever since old Catholic times had occasionally been seen on earth, through the agency of their mother’s sin, and to promote some foul and wicked purpose." (Hawthorne 91) From this statement and many others similar to it throughout the novel, readers are given the impression that Pearl is a possessed child. It is important for one to understand these references are an attempt on Hawthorne’s part to display to the reader a fragment of Puritanical society. By no means is Pearl a mischievous child. She is a curious child. When Hester refuses to reveal to Pearl the identity of her father, Pearl’s burning curiosity quickly ignites and forces her to scream out the following demand. "Tell me! Tell me!… It is thou that must tell me!" (Hawthorne 90) This is not the only time Pearl’s curiosity is sparked throughout the novel. In fact, there are many times where Pearl becomes inquisitive over one mystery or another; this next example is one of them. "Why, what is this, mother?… Wherefore have all the people left their work today? Is it a play-day for the whole world?" (Hawthorne 208) In this situation, Pearl is overwhelmed by curiosity, as the entire population of Boston is decked in their...

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