In the Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne, the writer, has created a miserable love story which is mainly developed around a symbol of adultery¡ªthe scarlet letter. Apart from Hester Prynne, the woman who bears the shame of the Letter A, her daughter Pearl Prynne is also an important character closely connected with the symbol of sin in the book. From being a living letter ¡°A¡± to an elf rising above the vulgar crowd, Pearl, throughout the story, has developed into a dynamic symbol which brings us hope and strength. The most significant symbolic meaning of Pearl Prynne is that she is the living version of the scarlet letter, the scarlet letter endowed with life. To Pearl herself, the scarlet letter is part of her life which accompanied her to grow up.
Pearl, the outcome of the relation between Hester Prynne and Reverend Dimmesdale, is the very embodiment of Hester. Pearl represents them same thing the scarlet letter represents in once sense, as both are bound to Hester forever and are both outcomes of her sin. Both Pearl and the letter A add to the anguish and pain that the scarlet letter offer from her mother's sin. Pearl is not just a reminder of the deed like the scarlet letter, but actually helps in the torturing of her mother without knowing it. As it did to Hester, the scarlet letter became a big part in Pearls life.
Guilt is a consequence of sin that Hester must endure throughout her life, which also begins to have a profound effect on her life and thinking. Then, Pearl evolved into the very manifestation of Hester¡¯s sin. Pearl is not just a passive reminder of Hester¡¯s terrible deed; on the contrary, she is active in the role of torturing her mother. From the very beginning she drives to cause Hester to suffer. ¡°But that first object of which Pearl seemed to become aware was--shall we say it?--the scarlet letter on Hester's bosom!¡± (66).
“Religion today is too often merely the worship of guilt, an obsession with sin and an exercise in the rubrics of repentance” (Evely) 1. Such is the case of all sin, including the adultery of Hester Prynne, the main character in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. The novel takes place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1642-1649 during an era of strict religion under Puritan watch. Hester Prynne, one of such people living in the colony, is punished greatly for her sin, although she is not punished in death. Long ago stated, “All the sins of the body fly away if one chants the name of God” exemplifies the true status of Hester Prynne (Ramakrishna) 2.
The Scarlet Letter that Hester Prynne wears symbolizes the change in perception of sin through out the novel. Due to the revelations of the governor Winthrop and the reverend Dimmesdale, the way sin is perceived changes from one of shame to the idea that every one is a sinner in their own right. In the beginning of the Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne is standing on a scaffold, before puritan elders, being tried for adultery. The elders find her to be guilty and sentence her to the wearing of a scarlet letter on her chest for the rest of her life. The people of the town were angry and astonished that Hester, a fair young lady, had sinned.
From the moment she is born in the cold, heartless prison, Pearl is placed under scrutiny. The townspeople see her as a visible reminder of sin, and it isn't long until even her own mother searches for evil in her. The girl is described as "the scarlet letter in another form; the scarlet letter endowed with life! "(Hawthorne 103). With her fascination from an early age with the scarlet letter, Hester believes that Pearl's very reason for existence is to torment her mother.
Because of the affair, Hester and Arthur have a daughter named Pearl. The sin that Hester commits is adultery. Hawthorne uses a variety of symbols throughout The Scarlet Letter, and he symbolizes the scarlet letter "A" in several ways. In the Puritan community, "A" is a sign of punishment, and the red "A" is worn on the chest of the offender's clothing. The "A" may mean adultery, Angel and Able.
After knowledge of her affair is made known, Hester is forced to wear a scarlet letter “A” on her chest to symbolize her crime of adultery, and is separated from the Puritan society. Another “A” appears in the story, and is not embroidered, but instead scarred on Dimmesdale’s chest as a symbol of guilt and suffering. Hester’s symbol of guilt comes in the form of her daughter, Pearl, who is the manifestation of her adultery, and also the living version of her scarlet letter. Each of these symbols come together to represent that with sin comes personal growth and advancement of oneself in society as the sinner endures the good and bad consequences. With sin there is personal growth, and as a symbol of her sin, Hester’s scarlet “A” evokes development of her human character.
Once Arthur Dimmesdale confesses to the town his sin, "Pearl kissed his lips. A spell was broken. The great scene of grief in which the wild infant bore her father's cheek, they were the pledge that she would grow up amid human joy and sorrow, nor forever do battle with the world, but be a woman in it. Towards her mother, too, Pearl's errand as a messenger of anguish was all fulfilled." (Hawthorne 180) Throughout the book, pearl is described as a devil child, an imp, but when Dimmesdale confesses, all emotions run out of Pearl, her immortal character changes and she turns into a real human being with feelings, all that Hester wants for her child.
The infamous scarlet letter of Hester Prynne not only eradicates her reputation but becomes the barrier that isolates her from the Puritan community. Through the story, traits that were attributed to the scarlet letter develope in the eyes of Hester, Pearl, the village people, and the narrator. These views help to show the main ideas coming across from this story that reflect not only the sins of the Puritans but the sins of all mankind. Hester, the unlikely protagonist of this narrative, constantly battles with what her condemning “A” means to her. Although she makes and embroiders the letter herself, this scarlet “A” becomes its own individual persona.