Nathaniel Hawthorne's Use of Pearl in The Scarlet Letter

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Nathaniel Hawthorne's Use of Pearl in The Scarlet Letter

Often in novels writers use symbolism as a device to make their themes and ideas come across clearly to the reader. In the novel The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne uses many forms of symbolism. People and objects are symbolic of events and thoughts of hawthorn throughout the course of the book. The Scarlet letter itself is a symbol he uses to contradict the puritanical society of the story. Nathaniel Hawthorne uses Pearl both as a symbol in the novel, and to work on the consciences of Hester and Dimmesdale.

Pearl, Hester's child, is portrayed Puritanically, as a child of sin who should be treated as such, ugly, evil, and shamed. The reader more evidently notices that Hawthorne carefully, and sometimes not subtly at all, places Pearl above the rest. She wears colorful clothes, is extremely smart, pretty, and described as impish. More often than not, she shows her intelligence and free thought, a trait of the Romantics. One of Pearl's Favorite activities is playing with flowers and trees. The reader will recall that anything affiliated with the forest was evil to Puritans. Hawthorne, however, thought that the forest was beautiful and natural. "And she was gentler here [in the forest] than in the grassy- margined streets of the settlement, or in her mother's cottage. The flowers appeared to know it" Pearl fit in with natural things. Also, Pearl is always effervescent and joyous, which is definitely a negative to the Puritans. Pearl is used as a symbol mirroring between the Puritanical views and the Romantic ways.

Hawthorne uses Pearl to work on the consciences of both her mother Hester and her father Arthur Dimmesdale. He uses her to work on Hester’s conscience throughout the novel by little comments made or actions taken by Pearl that appear to be mean or spiteful towards her mother. For example, Pearl laughs and points at her mother’s scarlet letter as if making fun of it or to make Hester feel bad about it. Hawthorne also uses Pearl’s perceptiveness to point out very straight forwardly, her mother’s sin of adultery. Pearl has almost a supernatural sense, that comes from her youth and freewill for seeing things as they really are and pointing them out to her mother. Pearl is a living version of her mother's scarlet letter. She is the consequence of sin and an everyday reminder to her through her actions and being.
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