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The Mystery of Pearl in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter Essay

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The Mystery of Pearl in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter


Among many nuances present in the novel, The Scarlet Letter, is the mystery of Pearl. This mystery is never actually in the real person of Pearl, but in the child she appears to be. At times, the townspeople and even Pearl’s mother, herself, call Pearl the demon-child, a fiend, and a torturer. Hester feels Pearl’s purpose on earth is to torture her but at the same time to be her joy. In reality, Pearl is a normal child, except for the fact that she is somewhat sealed off from the rest of the world.

In the novel, Hawthorne makes it appear that Pearl is possibly an abnormal child. Chapter six is where he first discusses the child. In the sixth paragraph of that chapter, Hawthorne writes, "Pearl was a born outcast of the infantile world. An imp of evil, emblem and product of sin, she had no right among christened infants." Early on we see this powerful statement, which is supported by the rest of the novel. In chapter seven when Hester and Pearl are visiting the governor’s mansion, Hawthorne writes, "Pearl, in utter scorn of her mother’s attempt to quiet her, gave an eldritch scream, … because the quick and mobile curiosity of her disposition was excited by the appearance of those new personages." This action of Pearl’s can hardly be seen as normal. Few children scream when meeting people, although many are a bit shy and stay close to their parents. One explanation, though, for this is that Pearl is not used to being around people. She had been shut off from the rest of the world because of her mother’s sin and doesn’t know that screaming around strangers isn’t normal.

Pearl’s strange actions in various situations, such as at the governor’s mansion, is not the only t...


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...rthy to have been left there, to be the plaything of the angels, after the world’s first parents were driven out. The child had a native grace which does not invariably coexist with faultless beauty; its attire, however simple, always impressed the beholder as if it were the very garb that precisely became it best." Although Pearl appears to be a demon-child, she cannot actually be a demon-child and be worthy of coming forth from Eden at the same time. Pearl can either be a normal child, or an abnormal one, not both.

The mystery of Pearl is never in what she actually is because the people in the story are so caught up with Hester’s sin that they attribute the normal actions of a child to a devilish spirit. Had Hester been married to Arthur and given birth to the child, Pearl would have been seen by the people as the beautiful, innocent, and curious girl she was.


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