Pearl Quotes in The Scarlet Letter: Examples & Analysis

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  • 0:03 Using a Child Character
  • 0:30 Pearl and the Scarlet 'A'
  • 1:57 Pearl and Dimmesdale
  • 2:53 Pearl Is Hester's Passion
  • 3:33 Pearl's Spirit Becomes Human
  • 5:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Mallett Smith

Jennifer has taught high school English for eight years and has a master's degree in curriculum and assessment.

This lesson discusses the complexity of the character Pearl from Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel ''The Scarlet Letter.'' There is an obvious connection between Pearl and the letter 'A' in representing Hester's sin of adultery.

Using a Child Character

Strong-willed children can be some of the most entertaining and most difficult. They playfully reject authority while simultaneously charming us with their mispronounced words and cuteness.

The character of Pearl in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter might appear to be just a normal child full of mischief. Hawthorne's development of her character and his description of her add multiple layers to this very complex character.

Pearl and the Scarlet 'A'

Pearl, Hester's daughter from her lover, and the scarlet letter 'A' for 'adultery' that Hester is forced to wear, both serve as reminders to Hester of her infidelity. A pearl is something of great worth that many people will pay money for. Hawthorne writes, 'she named the infant 'Pearl,' as being of great price, - purchased with all she had, - her mother's only treasure!' Pearl's name is representative of the cost of Hester's indiscretion, just as the scarlet letter is.

The two also resemble one another. Pearl is a beautiful child who is often dressed in red and gold and is described as 'a scarlet vision'. Of course, we know that the scarlet letter is also an intricate red and gold creation of Hester's.

The scarlet letter is something that Pearl has always paid attention to. As an infant, she reached out for it; as a toddler, she plays with it and admires it: 'The child bent her chin upon her breast, and contemplated this device with strange interest; even as if the one only thing for which she had been sent into the world was to make out its hidden import.'

Pearl seems to only be complete when the letter is on her mother's chest. When Hester takes off the letter, Pearl rejects her and only returns to her when she puts it back on. Hester says to Dimmesdale: 'But, in very truth, she is right as regards this hateful token.' Pearl seems to be the embodiment of the purpose of the scarlet letter - to remind Hester of her infidelity.

Pearl and Dimmesdale

This reminder is also demonstrated in Pearl's interactions with Dimmesdale, Pearl's father, who, unlike Hester, hides his sin in secret. Pearl's curiosity in Dimmesdale is sparked after she interacts with him in the woods. She continues asking her mother if he will embrace her in public. She recognizes that he hides his guilt by placing his hand over his heart and that if he were to recognize her in public, it would be an outward display of his sin. 'Would he have clapped his hand over his heart, and scowled on me, and bid me begone?' She withholds affection as a punishment of his failure to admit them.

Pearl asks Dimmesdale to climb the scaffold with her and Hester during the day instead of at night. Though there is no evidence that she knows exactly what his sins are, it seems that her character wantd him to take ownership for his sins. She denies him a kiss when he does not agree to stand with them in front of the whole town, saying, 'Thou wast not bold!--thou wast not true!'

Pearl Is Hester's Passion

Pearl is also associated with the passion that Hester felt while she was in the act of lovemaking. Pearl is a beautiful child that is difficult to manage. Some parents might wonder if their children are demons at one time or the other, but Hester has good reason to wonder if her child is punishment for her sin.

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