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The Image of Pearl in Scarlet Letter

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In The Scarlet Letter, not only is Pearl Hester’s daughter, but it is clear that she is also a wicked reminder of the past. In the novel, Pearl symbolizes the scarlet letter itself. The scarlet letter is meant to be a symbol of shame. That means, Pearl happens to be the punishment for Hester’s sin of adultery. Hester received this “A” on her bosom because of the crime she committed. Hester wouldn’t be able to walk the streets without being looked up and down as if she was some sort of demon because of her. Therefore, Pearl is the being that made her mother’s sin known, which resulted in Hester having the scarlet letter.

Pearl was Hester’s daily reminder of her failure as a human being. If she was never born, Hester’s sin could’ve been kept a secret. But, through all the agony and pain she gave Hester, Pearl was all she has left. Throughout the second half of the novel, Hester tries to be the best role model for Pearl swearing she can take care of her. Hester doesn’t want Pearl ending up how she did in her life. She knows she messed up, and is aware of her mistakes. She thinks she can turn Pearl around. The novel states, “ ‘Mother, the sunshine does not love you. It runs away and hides itself, because it is afraid of something on your bosom. Now, see! There it is, playing, a good way off. Stand you from me; for I wear nothing on my bosom yet!’ ‘Nor ever will, my child, I hope,’ said Hester.” (Hawthorne 167). This quote shows that Pearl, with being Hester's daughter, wants to grow up just like she did, but does not realize the symbol on her mother’s bosom is not a symbol of greatness. Hester hopes and prays that when Pearl grows up, she will not commit the same crime she did, and receive the same amount of shame from the people around her.

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Pearl was the consequence of Hester’s private sin. Another way she symbolizes the scarlet letter itself is when the government wanted to take Pearl away from Hester, but Dimmesdale convinces them that Pearl is initially the living reminder of her sin. Without Pearl, it’s like Hester without sin. In the novel it states, “ Therefore it is good for this poor, sinful woman that she hath an infant immortality, a being capable of eternal joy or sorrow, confided to her care---to be trained by her to righteousness, --- to remind her, at every moment, of her fall, --- but yet to teach her, as it were by the Creator’s sacred pledge, that, if she bring the child to heaven, the child also will bring it’s parent thither.” (Hawthorne 103). This quote shows Dimmesdale was speaking to the town government trying to get them to allow Hester to raise Pearl. Therefore, Pearl is literally the walking scarlet letter.

Without Pearl, there would of been no punishment, no “A” on Hester’s bosom, and no conflicts with Dimmesdale and Chillingworth. That’s because if Hester didn’t have a baby, there would have been no crime committed.

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The Image of Pearl in Scarlet Letter. (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 10, 2023, from
“The Image of Pearl in Scarlet Letter.” Edubirdie, 16 Jun. 2022,
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The Image of Pearl in Scarlet Letter [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 16 [cited 2023 Dec 10]. Available from:
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