Pearl As An Expression Of Hester’s Emotions In Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

852 words - 3 pages

The Scarlet Letter:  Pearl as an Expression of Hester’s Hidden Emotions

  In literature, authors often represent a character’s hidden emotions or inner thoughts by presenting them in a separate character.  Such is the case in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter as he uses Pearl to express Hester’s inner thoughts and hidden emotions.  “Above all, the warfare of Hester’s spirit, at that epoch, was perpetuated in Pearl.” 

            Despite the public shame she has experienced and many years of wearing the intimation of her adulterous sin, Hester Prynne remains proud and displays her letter boldly.  Anyone that did not possess quite her level of emotional stamina and pride would have surely decreased in character and may possibly even lose all hope in life, but Hester proves to be very different.  Instead of reacting to the humiliation and remarks of the commons in a hostile manner, Hester instead ignores these things and focuses her mind more toward memories of years past, as she did while standing on the scaffold for the first time.  Hawthorne thus uses her young, spriteful daughter, Pearl, to represent the emotions that Hester either cannot, or chooses not to, display openly to others.  In chapter 6, Pearl is described as showing “a love of mischief and a disrespect for authority,” which frequently reminded Hester of her own sin of passion.  Similarly, in Pearl’s games of make-believe, she never creates friends.  She creates only enemies – Puritans whom she pretends to destroy.  It is a rare occurrence that a child so young in age should think such thoughts of morbidity, thus strengthening the evidence of Hawthorne’s use of Pearl as a display of Hester’s thoughts – thoughts of retaliating against the Puritans for all they have done to her.

            Furthermore, Pearl is often displayed as a direct representation of Hester’s spirit and soul.  Later in chapter 6, in describing Pearl, it is stated, “She could recognize her wild, desperate, defiant mood, the flightiness of her temper, and even some of the very cloud-shapes of gloom and despondency that had brooded in her heart.  They were now illuminated by the morning radiance of a young child’s disposition…”  Hester is actually recognizing aspects of her own character, though now hidden under the cloak of remorse and inquietude, in the actions and traits of her own daughter.  While she tends to ignore rude comments or strange looks from other people in regards to her public symbol of shame, her daughter does exactly the opposite.  “If the children gathered about her, as they sometimes did, Pearl would grow positively terrible in her puny wrath, snatching up stones to fling at them,...

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