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Beautiful Disasters: Pearl as a Living Breathing Scarlet Letter

Oct 08, 1999 700 Words
Sometimes beauty is found in places as unexpected as a rosebush growing

outside of a prison in a puritan colonial village. Pearl Prynne is an

unearthly beautiful child with a wild spirit born under unimaginably sinful

conditions, all of which are somehow related to the ideas, actions, and

views of others on Hester's punishment. In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet

Letter, Pearl serves as Hester's living, breathing Scarlet letter.

Pearl evokes the same emotion and reactions from the townspeople, as does

the scarlet letter. The people look at the slight sense of pride Hester has

in her letter in the same way they look at the way Hester lets Pearl do

whatever she wants. They feel Hester isn't fit to raise the child. The

extremity of gossip from the females of the village in the beginning of the

book is only matched by the amount that Pearl's wild attitude stirs up later

on. Hester's "A" is the example for all of what sin is. The "A" makes Hester

much avoided and the parents tell their children to watch out for her.

Theses same parents say the same things to their kids about avoiding Pearl,

who is infamous for her uncontrollable behavior with her peers and other

adults. Just as infamous as Hester's "A" for the wild sinful actions it


Like Hester's scarlet letter, Pearl shows extreme beauty in a form that is

not traditional, positive, tame, or fully accepted. When Hester crafts the

"A" that she has to wear on her chest, She uses a deep, passionate shade of

red and embroiders it very intricately with bright gold thread. The "A" was

meant to mark Hester in a negative manor; its purpose is to let everyone

know that Hester is a sinner. Hester takes something extremely negative and

makes it appear as passionately beautiful. Hawthorne portrays Pearl in a

very detailed specific manor, meant to put emphasis on the similarities

between Pearl and the "A". She is the symbol of Hester's sin but the tone

that is used when referring to her makes her out to appear as a stunningly

beautiful creature. The narrator states, "There was a trait of passion, a

certain depth of hue, which she never lost" ( ). Even the adjectives he

uses in describing Pearl suggest something color related ("hue"). There is a

feeling of wildness and uncontrollably in Pearl's appearance; more

specifically in her eyes. Pearl's beauty has a splendor unlike that of any

other child. Like the scarlet letter, Pearl serves as Hester's beautiful


There are also many similarities between the relationship of Hester and

Pearl and the relationship between Hester and her letter. Hester has no

pride in the "A" on her chest, but even after she is not required to wear

it, she keeps it on anyway. She shows this same attitude towards Pearl.

Hester is not proud of her sin, but she understands the consequences of it

and does not try to hide it from anyone. She could've given the child up to

the governor and had one less "branding" to worry about, but she fought for

that child to stay under her care. She even goes so far as to dress Pearl up

in a velvet dress of a deep shade of red when she takes her to the

governor's house. Hester consciously envisions Pearl as a living breathing

scarlet "A", running ahead with free spirit flying. She is proud of her

child through it all.

In conclusion, Pearl is born from and into sin but still manages to be

portrayed as a pure entity. Her wildness and free spirit is something that

was not inflicted by anyone but herself. She manages to embody so many

things that come along with something like a symbol for adultery in a

puritan society, but still holds onto the innocence of a child. It is just

as rare that someone of such a young age is described as so passionately

beautiful as is the use of the same description for something as negative as

Hester's scarlet letter. Pearl is Hester's living, breathing, and

inescapable Scarlet letter.

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