The Scarlet Letter: Pearls Impact on Main Themes

Pearls Impact on the Main Themes In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Pearl is a bastard child living in Boston during the 1600’s. Although she is the youngest character, she is arguably the most important because she emphasizes the main points in the story indirectly through her observations and questions. Two of the main points are that the scarlet letter represents sin and that sin is an inevitable part of life. Throughout most of the book, all the townspeople and even her own daughter, Pearl, associates the scarlet letter as a symbol of adultery, which is a sin.

During their walk in the forest, Pearl makes several comments that reveal her opinions on the impact of the scarlet letter in her mother’s life. Firstly, she points out that “the sunshine does not love” her mother and when it sees her, the sunshine “runs and hides itself” due to the fact that “it is afraid of something on [her] bosom” (Hawthorne 220). In this context, the sunshine refers to the innocence and the pureness of oneself which is the opposite of the scarlet letter, which represents sin.

Because Hester committed adultery and is forced to wear the scarlet letter, the sunshine does not shine upon her because she is neither pure nor innocent. Additionally, the sunshine is also a representation of the community, because they too tend to ostracize her for the same exact reason. Since the sunshine and the scarlet letter are two polar opposites, they tend to avoid each other. In contrast, Pearl realizes that she is “a child” and since she does not “wear [anything] on [her] bosom”, then the sunshine will not flee from her (Hawthorne 221).

Pearl indirectly makes the connection that the scarlet letter is a negative symbol, due to the fact that sunshine tries to avoid her mother, who wears it all the time. Conversely, due to the fact that she is a child and does not bear the sinful meaning of the scarlet letter on her bosom, the sunshine welcomes her under its rays. Even from a very young age, Pearl understands that the scarlet letter dictates her mother in every way. She also understands that it is a symbol of sin and nothing good can amount to it since sinful people are often ignored.

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Similarly to the point mentioned above, Pearl again, indirectly finds out that sin is a part of growing up. After making the association that the scarlet letter is a sinful thing, she tells her mother that she does not wear the scarlet letter yet. Hester responds to Pearl and says that she hopefully never will. Pearl is confused, and proceeds to ask her mother if the scarlet letter “will not come of its own accord when [she] [is] woman grown” (Hawthorne 221). The confusion among the young character reveals that she believes that her mother represents all the women in the community.

By that, Pearl essentially believes that it is only natural that all people will eventually become sinful and bear the scarlet letter to represent it. It is a valid point but, Hester does not tell her whether she’s correct with the assumption. Instead, Hester avoids the topic and tells Pearl to “runaway…and catch the sunshine! It will soon be gone” (Hawthorne 221). Hester’s response can be interpreted in both a literal and figurative way. The literal response is telling her daughter to run and play before its starts getting dark. The figurative meaning is much more complex.

In the paragraph above, sunshine has already been identified as ones pureness and innocence. When Hester tells her daughter that the sunshine is receding and advises Pearl to catch it while she still can, she is emphasizing the fact that sin is a part of life. Like the rotation of the sun, there comes a time in the day where it sets and all becomes dark. Pearl is currently pure and innocent because she is in the sunlight. However, her mother warns her that the sunlight is not going to be present forever and once it gets dark, she too will be sinful.

The combined information about Pearl’s assumption and Hester’s figurative response to her daughter reveals to the reader that sin is an inevitable part of life. Pearl, being the youngest character, does not have the maturity to understand the complex world around her. However, her indirect observations and questions highlight the main points in the story. In this case, a few lines of her interaction with her mother reveals that her mother’s scarlet letter is a representation of sin and that sin is an inevitable part of life, which Hawthorne feels very strongly about.

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