"Scarlet Letter" (Hawthorne) paper

Essay by Anonymous UserCollege, UndergraduateA, November 1996

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'What is one man's poison...is another's meat or drink,' Beaumont and Fletcher wrote in one of their plays. Almost everything in the world is interpretable in at least two conflicting ways. In The Scarlet Letter, the Puritan society shuns a character named Pearl, yet the author, who lived in the Romantic period, views her with awe and reverence. Nathaniel Hawthorne's use of nature imagery in The Scarlet Letter reflects Pearl's wild, capricious character that serves as a constant reminder of Hester's sin and whose romantically idealistic beauty frightens the Puritan society.

In Hawthorne's descriptions of Pearl as an infant and toddler, nature imagery emphasizes Pearl's startling beauty and unpredictable, yet innocent, character. Pearl's beauty and innocence are apparent from the time of her birth. Hawthorne describes Pearl's 'innocent life [as] a lovely and immortal flower'(Hawthorne 81). Even though Pearl is a product of the 'guilty passion'(81) between Hester and Dimmesdale, both her soul and her body are untainted and flawless.

Hester notices that Pearl has no physical defects, but Pearl's character has an unexplainable aspect of oddity and unpredictability. When she plays near Hester's cottage, Pearl '[smites] down [and] uproot[s] most unmercifully [the] ugliest weeds'(87) which she pretends are the Puritan children. Hester believes that Pearl is so emotional and temperamental because the passion which Hester

and Dimmesdale experienced during their sinful act somehow transferred into Pearl's soul. However, Pearl's antipathy for the Puritans is justified; the children often torment her for no good reason. When Hester and Pearl go into town, the Puritan children stop playing and either surround Pearl and stare at her or prepare to hurl mud at the unfortunate pair. Both actions by the Puritans result in a fit of outrage by Pearl. One reason that the Puritans treat Pearl badly is because of her...