The Scarlet Letter is a book of much symbolism. One of themost complex and misunderstood symbols in the book is Pearl, thedaughter of Hester Prynne. Pearl, throughout the story, develops intoa dynamic symbol - one that is always changing. In the followingessay, I will explore some of the symbolism which Pearl came torepresent throughout the novel.
In The Scarlet Letter, Hester, for her sins, received ascarlet letter, "A" which she had to wear upon her chest. This wasthe Puritan way of treating her as a criminal, for the crime ofadultery. The Puritan treatment continued, because as Hester wouldwalk through the streets, she would be looked down upon as if she weresome sort of demon from Hell, that committed a terrible crime. Thiswould give her much mental anguish and grief. On the other hand,God's treatment of Hester for her sin was quite different than just aphysical token: he gave Hester the punishment of a very unique childwhich she named Pearl.
This punishment handed down from God was aconstant mental and physical reminder to Hester of what she had donewrong, and she could not escape it. In this aspect, Pearl symbolizedGod's way of punishing Hester for adultery.
The way Hester's life was ruined for so long was the ultimateprice that Hester paid for Pearl. With Pearl, Hester's life was onealmost never filled with joy, but instead a constant nagging. Pearlwould harass her mother over the scarlet "A" which she wore. Pearlwould also make her own "A" to wear, and sometimes she played gameswith her mother's, trying to hit it with rocks. When Hester would gointo the town with Pearl, the other children would make fun of her,and Pearl would yell and throw dirt at them. So, in this case, Pearlsymbolized the decimation of Hester's life and mental state.
Although Hester had so much trouble with Pearl, she still feltthat Pearl was her treasure. Pearl was really the only thing thatHester had in life, and if Pearl wasn't in Hester's life, Hester wouldalmost surely have committed suicide. Once and a while, Pearl wouldbring joy to Hester's life, and that helped her to keep on living.
Pearl really symbolized a rose to her mother, at some times she couldbe bright and vibrant, and really love her mother, but at other times,she could be wilting. It was at these times when she was "wilting"that brought Hester the most grief.
One final way in which Pearl symbolized something in the novelwas with her association with the scarlet letter. Pearl really wasthe scarlet letter, because if Pearl had never been born, Hester wouldhave never been found guilty of adultery, and thus never would havehad to wear that burden upon her chest. Without that burden, Hesterwould have led a much better life then the one she had throughout thenovel.
In closing, Pearl was a source of many different kinds ofsymbolism. From being a rose, to representing the scarlet letter "A",she was a kind of burden, yet love for Hester. And as a final note,Pearl was more then her mother's only treasure; she was her mother'sonly source of survival.
Hawthorn, H (1981) The Scarlet Letter. Bantam Classics; 5th THUS edition