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Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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The novel, The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, takes place in Puritanical Boston in the 17th century. Hester Prynne has an infidelity with a well-liked minister, Arthur Dimmesdale, while her husband, Roger Chillingworth, is unlocated. This is considered a crime, so as a punishment, she must wear a red, letter A on her chest. The people of the town know of Hester’s crime but don’t know Dimmesdale is the one she committed it with because Hester refuses to say so that Dimmesdale’s reputation doesn’t get ruined and Dimmesdale himself is too afraid. From this affair, a child is conceived. The child’s name is Pearl. Pearl symbolically evolves from bad to good throughout the novel.

In the beginning of the story, Pearl represents adultery. Pearl and Hester’s friendly teasing argument about whether Pearl is Hester’s child or not turns into something serious when Hester brings up who brought Pearl to the world. Hester says to Pearl, “ ‘Thy Heavenly Father sent thee!’... But she said it with a hesitation that did not escape the acuteness of the child. Whether moved only by her ordinary freakishness, or because an evil spirit prompted her, she put up her small forefinger, and touched the scarlet letter.” (68) Then, Pearl replies, “ ‘He did not send me!’... ‘I have no Heavenly Father!’ ” (68) This is significant because Pearl grew up believing that God is not with her due to what she has heard, and therefore she has no “Heavenly Father”. Hawthorne’s addition of Hester being hesitant when she tells Pearl she was sent by the

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Heavenly Father shows that Hester doesn’t fully believe so, which makes it harder for Pearl to believe it as well. During Pearl’s life, she has been given the sense of being a bad outcome. Evidently, the first thing Pearl saw on her mother was her mother’s punishment, “But that first object of which Pearl seemed to become aware of was- shall we say it?- the scarlet letter on Hester’s bosom!” (67) which shows a connection because Hester’s punishment and Pearl resulted from the same crime. This ultimately ties in the theme of guilt because Pearl, being a constant reminder of Hester’s infidelity, makes Hester feel guilty for what she’s done since she is the outcome. Taking care of Hester in Boston is a way for Hester to cope with the crime she has committed, but is also her power.

As the story develops, Pearl symbolizes strength, specifically Hester's strength.

After Hester goes to Governor Bellingham's home to convince him of letting her keep her daughter, Pearl, she speaks with Mistress Hibbins. Hester says to Mistress Hibbins, “ 'I must tarry at home, and keep watch over my little Pearl. Had they taken her from me, I would willingly have gone with thee into the forest, and signed my name in the Black Man's book too, and that with mine own blood!' ” (81) In other words, Pearl is Hester's purpose to stay in Boston and face the consequence of her sin instead of leaving the town. Hester is able to go anywhere else and the people there would have no idea of what she has done, but she chooses not to because she feels Pearl, resulting from her sin, needs to be raised in Boston as a way for Hester



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