The Character of Pearl in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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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 bee...

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...tions lead a reader to realize that she does see a link between Hester’s letter and Dimmesdale’s habit of covering his heart with his hand, although she does not know what this connection is.

Pearl is an amazing child and perhaps one of the few many-sided characters in the novel. Although some readers of this novel may not care to read between the lines and see beyond the labeling of demon, the true Pearl is completely different from this stereotype. The real Pearl, the inquisitive, intelligent, and beautiful creature that she is, becomes the symbol for salvation in this novel. Pearl may be the product of sin and "filthiness", yet she possesses traits that make her an amazing child. Indeed, Pearl is the rosebush which grows near the prison door: she is the one bright spot the prisoners of this novel see as they peer through the small windows of their confinement.
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