Beautiful Disasters Pearl as a Living Breathing Scarlet Letter



Sometimes beauty is found in places as unexpected as a rosebush growing
outside of a prison in a puritan colonial village. Pearl Prynne is an
unearthly beautiful child with a wild spirit born under unimaginably sinful
conditions, all of which are somehow related to the ideas, actions, and
views of others on Hester’s punishment. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet
Letter, Pearl serves as Hester’s living, breathing Scarlet letter.
Pearl evokes the same emotion and reactions from the townspeople, as does
the scarlet letter. The people look at the slight sense of pride Hester has
in her letter in the same way they look at the way Hester lets Pearl do
whatever she wants. They feel Hester isn’t fit to raise the child. The
extremity of gossip from the females of the village in the beginning of the
book is only matched by the amount that Pearl’s wild attitude stirs up later
on. Hester’s “A” is the example for all of what sin is. The “A” makes Hester
much avoided and the parents tell their children to watch out for her.
Theses same parents say the same things to their kids about avoiding Pearl,
who is infamous for her uncontrollable behavior with her peers and other
adults. Just as infamous as Hester’s “A” for the wild sinful actions it
symbolizes.
Like Hester’s scarlet letter, Pearl shows extreme beauty in a form that is
not traditional, positive, tame, or fully accepted. When Hester crafts the
“A” that she has to wear on her chest, She uses a deep, passionate shade of
red and embroiders it very intricately with bright gold thread. The “A” was
meant to mark Hester in a negative manor; its purpose is to let everyone
know that Hester is a sinner. Hester takes something extremely negative and
makes it appear as passionately beautiful. Hawthorne portrays Pearl in a
very detailed specific manor, meant to put emphasis on the similarities
between Pearl and the “A”. She is the symbol of Hester’s sin but the tone
that is used when referring to her makes her out to appear as a stunningly
beautiful creature. The narrator states, “There was a trait of passion, a
certain depth of hue, which she never lost” ( ). Even the adjectives he
uses in describing Pearl suggest something color related (“hue”). There is a
feeling of wildness and uncontrollably in Pearl’s appearance; more
specifically in her eyes. Pearl’s beauty has a splendor unlike that of any
other child. Like the scarlet letter, Pearl serves as Hester’s beautiful
disaster.
There are also many similarities between the relationship of Hester and
Pearl and the relationship between Hester and her letter. Hester has no
pride in the “A” on her chest, but even after she is not required to wear
it, she keeps it on anyway. She shows this same attitude towards Pearl.
Hester is not proud of her sin, but she understands the consequences of it
and does not try to hide it from anyone. She could’ve given the child up to
the governor and had one less “branding” to worry about, but she fought for
that child to stay under her care. She even goes so far as to dress Pearl up
in a velvet dress of a deep shade of red when she takes her to the
governor’s house. Hester consciously envisions Pearl as a living breathing
scarlet “A”, running ahead with free spirit flying. She is proud of her
child through it all.
In conclusion, Pearl is born from and into sin but still manages to be
portrayed as a pure entity. Her wildness and free spirit is something that
was not inflicted by anyone but herself. She manages to embody so many
things that come along with something like a symbol for adultery in a
puritan society, but still holds onto the innocence of a child. It is just
as rare that someone of such a young age is described as so passionately
beautiful as is the use of the same description for something as negative as
Hester’s scarlet letter. Pearl is Hester’s living, breathing, and
inescapable Scarlet letter.



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