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The Blameless Pearl in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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The Scarlet Letter - The Suffering of the Blameless Pearl

The Puritan life is based purely on sin. The Puritans believe that all people are sinners and are thus despised and hated by God. Sinners are subject to the worst punishments and suffer the worst torment. In Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel, The Scarlet Letter, several characters serve as models of sinners in agony from their error. Both Arthur Dimmesdale and Hester Prynne bear the punishment of their adultery, which evidenced itself in their daughter Pearl. While Dimmesdale plagues himself with guilt and Hester lives with the brand of the scarlet "A", it is Pearl who receives the worst penalty, suffering for a sin which she did not even commit. The village where she resides associates her with the circumstances of her birth, branding her with a reputation as difficult to bear as her mother's. Although many in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter endure the results of sin, none have punishment equal to that of little Pearl's.

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. Hester fails to realize that the letter is just something bright and significant to which Pearl reacts; instead, she sees every glance, every word aimed at the letter, every touch of Pearl's tiny fingers to her bosom as an added torture resulting from her adultery. Hester, considering Pearl's very existence, goes so far as to question if the impish child is even her own. "Thou art not my child! Thou art no Pearl of mine!"(Hawthorne 99) she tells Pearl, only half-jokingly. In her own way, she wonders whether Pearl was sent to her by God or by a demon wishing to cause her pain. She is not alone in this speculation; many of the town's citizens believe there is something of the Devil in Pearl.
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