Precocious Pearl

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Precocious Pearl



Children are, by nature, incredibly sensitive creatures. They can sense almost any emotion an adult might feel just by

observing a particular person’s body language and facial expressions. Such is the case with the youthful Pearl from the novel The

Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. As the daughter of the adulteress Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale, the townspeople

view Pearl as a demon in an angel’s clothing; as an imp who not only knows exactly what the letter "A" signifies on the breast of her

mother, but as the demon who placed it there as well. " ‘Nay, Mother, I have told all I know,’ said Pearl more seriously than she was

wont to speak…’ But in good earnest now, Mother dear, what does this scarlet letter mean? -and why dost thou wear it on thy bosom?

-and why does the minister keep his hand over his heart?’ She took her mother’s hand in both her own, and gazed into her eyes with an

earnestness that was seldom seen in her wild and capricious character" This dialogue does not seem to be the words of a demon, but a

child who is utterly curious about what the letter on her mother’s bosom means. One must not underestimate Pearl’s intelligence

though. In fact, Pearl is not the demon many consider her to be; instead she is intelligent and sensitive towards her surroundings and

can thus understand much about the scarlet letter her mother wears. "The neighboring townspeople…had given out that poor little

Pearl was a demon offspring; such as, ever since old Catholic times, had occasionally been seen on earth, through the agency of their

of their mother’s sin, and to promote some foul and wicked purpose." From this statement and many others similar to it throughout the

novel, many readers are given the impression that Pearl is a possessed child. Before any type of statement can be made on Pearl’s

intelligence or sensitivity, it is imperative for one to understand these references are an attempt on Hawthorne’s part to display to the

reader a fragment of Puritanical Society. By no means is Pearl an imp. She is a curious child and, until one separates Hawthorne’s

fictitious references towards Pearl’s demonic soul and Pearl’s true intelligent nature, a character analysis of Pearl’s identity cannot be

created. Pearl is a living Scarlet A to Hester, as well as the reader, acting as a constant reminder of Hester’s sin They also believe Pearl

uses this information against Hester by constantly mentioning the letter in order to make Hester extremely uncomfortable. Pearl,

throughout the story, develops into a dynamic individual, as well as an extremely important symbol - one who is constantly changing.

Pearl is involved in a complex history, and as a result is viewed as different and is shunned because of her mother’s sin. Pearl is a living

Scarlet A to Hester, as well as the reader, acting as a constant reminder of Hester’s sin. Pearl is the living embodiment of the scarlet

letter because she forces Hester and Dimmesdale to accept their sins. The Puritan society looks at Pearl as a child of the devil, and a

black hearted girl because she is the result of sin. Hester and Dimmesdale are both in the same situation in Pearl’s eyes. Pearl wants

Hester to realize that she is not the worst person in the world before she removes the scarlet letter. Pearl wants Dimmesdale to accept

his sin, and be part of their life publicly.

With the rumor of Pearl’s impish nature dispelled, one can now study her inquisitive and sensitive nature. When Hester

Prynne refuses to reveal to Pearl the identity of the young child’s father, Pearl’s burning curiosity quickly ignites and forces her to

scream out the following demand. "Tell me! Tell me!…It is thou that must tell me!"This is not the only time Pearl’s curiosity sparked

throughout the novel. In fact, there are many times where Pearl becomes inquisitive over one mystery or another; this next example is

one of them. "Why, what is this, Mother?…Wherefore have all the people left their work today? Is it a playday for the whole world?" In

this situation, Pearl is overwhelmed by curiosity, as the entire population of Boston is decked in their finery for a reason that Pearl is

not aware of. Instead of "keeping silent," as a behaved Puritan child would, Pearl spills out question after question in hopes of

understanding something that is an enigma to her. While Pearl’s natural curiosity drives her on the quest of discovering the truth

behind the scarlet letter, it is her sensitive and intelligent nature which answers a few of the questions associated with the mystery. An

example of this sensitive nature occurs after the custody battle in which Hester fights for the right to remain as the guardian of Pearl.

"Pearl…stole softly towards him, and taking his hand in the grasp of both her own, laid cheek against it." This seems to be Pearl’s act

of gratitude towards the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale. One might wonder why the short-tempered child would behave in such a sweet

way towards Dimmesdale. Perhaps she notes her mother’s frantic voice and posture as Hester pleads with the men whose wish it is to

take Pearl away and give her a "proper Christian upbringing." Pearl might also notice Dimmesdale’s request that the child remain with

her mother, and then the softening of Hester’s face as her crisis ends. Without hearing a single word uttered, Pearl can easily see how

Dimmesdale saves both her and her mother from a situation neither would enjoy. Thus, the loving gesture Pearl makes towards

Dimmesdale is her silent way of saying, "Thank you for the gift of youth you have just given me." Using Pearl’s characteristics of

curiosity and sensitivity, one can make assumptions about whether or not Pearl understands what the scarlet letter symbolizes. While

she is too young to possibly comprehend Puritanical sin and punishment, Pearl can easily understand that the letter is her mother’s

chastisement and embarrassment. "And, Mother, he has his hand over his heart! Is it because, when the minister wrote his name in the

book, the Black Man set his mark in that place? But why does he not wear it outside his bosom, as thou dost, Mother?" Through this

statement made by Pearl, one may realize Pearl does see a connection between Hester’s letter and Dimmesdale’s habit of covering his

heart with his hand, although she does not know what this connection is.

Hawthorne uses vivid descriptions to characterize Pearl. She is first described as the infant; “…whose innocent life had

sprung, by the inscrutable decree of Providence, a

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