Pearl: Scarlet Letter

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PearlHester’s illegitimate daughter. Pearl is a young girl with a moody, mischievous spirit and the ability to perceive things others do not. She quickly discerns the truth about her mother and Dimmesdale, though neither will confirm her suspicions. The townspeople say that she barely seems human and spread rumors that her unknown father is actually the Devil. Pearl has grown up with her mother outside of the town, and she often terrorizes the town’s children, who view her as a curiosity. She is wise beyond her years, frequently engaging in ironic play having to do with her mother’s scarlet letter. Pearl

Hester’s daughter, Pearl, functions primarily as a symbol. She is quite young during most of the events of this novel—when Dimmesdale dies she is only seven years old—and her real importance lies in her ability to provoke the adult characters in the book. She asks them pointed questions and draws their attention, and the reader’s, to the denied or overlooked truths of the adult world. In general, children in The Scarlet Letter are portrayed as more perceptive and more honest than adults, and Pearl is the most perceptive of them all. Pearl makes us constantly aware of her mother’s scarlet letter and of the society that produced it. From an early age, she fixates on the emblem. Pearl’s innocent, or perhaps intuitive, comments about the letter raise crucial questions about its meaning. Similarly, she inquires about the relationships between those around her—most important, the relationship between Hester and Dimmesdale—and offers perceptive critiques of them. Pearl provides the text’s harshest, and most penetrating, judgment of Dimmesdale’s failure to admit to his adultery. Once her father’s identity is revealed, Pearl is no longer needed in this symbolic capacity; at Dimmesdale’s death she becomes fully “human,” leaving behind her otherworldliness and her preternatural vision.

Quote 11: "Throughout all, however, there was a trait of passion, a certain depth of hue....The child could not be made amenable to rules....The mother's impassioned state had been the medium through which were transmitted to the unborn infant the rays of its moral life; and, however white and clear originally, they had taken the deep stains of crimson and gold, the fiery lustre, the black shadow, and the untempered light of the intervening substance. Above all, the warfare of Hester's spirit, at that epoch, was perpetuated in Pearl." Chapter 6, pg. 83

Quote 12: "There was a fire in her [Pearl] and throughout her; she seemed the unpremeditated offshoot of a passionate moment." Chapter 7, pg. 93

Quote 14: "'I am my mother's child,' answered the scarlet vision, 'and my name is Pearl!'" Chapter 8, pg. 101

Quote 15: "After putting her finger in her mouth, with many ungracious refusals to answer good Mr. Wilson's questions, the child finally announced that she had not been made at all, but had been plucked by her mother off the bush of wild roses that grew by the prison-door." Chapter 8, pg. 103

Quote 20: "Come away, mother! Come away, or yonder old Black Man will catch you! He hath got hold of the minister already. Come away, mother, or he will catch you! But he cannot catch little Pearl!" Chapter 10, pg. 123

Quote 34: "'Truly do I!' Answered Pearl, looking brightly into her mother's face. 'It is for the same reason that the minister keeps his hand over his heart!'" Chapter 15, pg. 166

Quote 35: "'Mother,' said litter Pearl, 'the sunshine does not love you. It runs away and hides itself, because it is afraid of something on your bosom. Now see! There it is, playing a good way off. Stand you here, and let me run and catch it. I am but a child. It will not flee from me, for I wear nothing on my bosom yet!' 'Nor ever will, my child, I hope,' said Hester. 'And why not, mother?' asked Pearl, stopping short, just at the beginning of her race. 'Will not it come of its own accord, when I am a woman grown?' 'Run away, child,' answered her...
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