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Scarlet Letter Essay

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If one were to come into this world, to a society where they were already looked down upon with shame for something they had no control over, how would they respond? This is what Pearl had to go through in Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Scarlet Letter", for she was born into a state of sin by the doings of her mother and minister Dimmesdale. Hawthorne uses symbolism to fully develop the character Pearl through her contrasting actions towards the scarlet letter and Dimmesdale.

As Pearl is a young girl, she is unaware of the true meaning of the scarlet letter, but Hester decorates it with gold linen, for she wears it proudly. In Pearl's early years, she sees the scarlet letter as something pretty, not as the meaning of adultery. Hawthorne writes, "In the afternoon of a certain summer's day, after Pearl grew big enough to run about, she amused herself with gathering handfuls of wild-flowers and flinging them, one by one, at her mother's bosom, dancing up and down like a little elf whenever she hit the scarlet letter" (Hawthorne 86). Pearl is attempting to decorate the letter, to enhance its appearance on Hester's bosom. Pearl's age is crucial in this scene, in that she is only 3 years old. She doesn't mean to mock the letter that her mother wears, for Pearl lacks the knowledge of the letter's true meaning on her mother's chest. This action symbolizes how Pearl sees the symbol of the letter, in that its true meaning isn't apparent to Pearl at her young age.

In contrast to Pearl's actions in the first quote, her knowledge has changed as she begins to get older. She asks more and more questions about the letter to Hester, and why she wears it, questions concerning the 'black man' and if Hester has ever met him. Hester, Pearl, and Dimmesdale meet in the forest one day, and Hester takes off the scarlet letter, feeling free again. As Hester calls Pearl over to join them, Hawthorne states, "The child turned her eyes to the point indicated; and there lay the scarlet letter, so close upon the margin of the stream that the gold embroidery was reflected in it. 'Bring it hither!' said Hester. 'Come thou and take it up!' answered Pearl" (Hawthorne 192). Pearl wants Hester to put the letter back on, this symbolizes that Pearl doesn't feel that her mother is free from the sin yet. As she asks Dimmesdale if he will walk into town with them, and is answered with a no, Pearl shows dislike towards Dimmesdale. She feels that the only way her mother can be free of the letter is if their family is seen by the public and accept their past sin.

In light of Pearl's opinion of the letter, at the end of the story Pearl finally shows a loving attitude towards Dimmesdale, for they all are finally seen in the public eye, on the scaffold. As Hawthorne explains, "The child, with the birdlike motion which was one of her characteristics,



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