The Symbolism of Pearl in The

January 2, 2017 General Studies

Throughout Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Pearl acts as several symbols, which are imperative in bringing out important aspects of the other characters. Pearl is Hester Prynne’s daughter who is thought of in the novel as both a devil child and a treasure. Although she is only seven years old, Pearl makes a major impact on all of the adults of the story. According to Nina Baym, “the character of Pearl is as much, or more, a symbolic function as she is a representation of a human child” (56). Pearl’s significance in the novel is portrayed best through her mirror image of the scarlet letter itself. In more ways than one, she is analogous to her mother, Hester Prynne. Roger Chillingworth and Arthur Dimmesdale are also severely affected by the presence of Pearl. In an ambience of guilt, Pearl serves as innocence. .

When comparing the actual scarlet letter to Pearl, numerous similarities are established. Pearl is “its [the scarlet letter’s] symbol, its double, its agent: “it was the scarlet letter in another form; the scarlet letter endowed with life!”” (Baym 56). When Hester commits the sin of adultery, the punishment is wearing the scarlet letter. Pearl herself is living proof of sin, which is what the letter represents. Pearl’s appearance replicates that of the letters: Hester dresses her in “the richest tissues” and stitches elaborate dresses for Pearl to wear “before the public eye” (Hawthorne 92). Hester takes of the letter because it is a constant reminder of her sin, which is Pearl. When Hester calls to her child at the brooke, Pearl only responds to her mother when the scarlet “A” is on her bosom. Without the letter, Hester doesn’t get anything from Pearl. Pearl even goes as far as mimicking her mother by making an “A” on her chest out of eelgrass. The letter, and Pearl, became Hester’s purpose.

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Throughout The Scarlet Letter, many implications point towards Pearl being exactly like Hester.


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