“A child called nature”
The life of Pearl in The Scarlet Letter
Pearl is a difficult child. She is unintentionally cruel, unpredictable, intelligent, and demanding. Her mood can change from laughing uncontrollably one minute to completely silent the next. These unique traits make her seem demonic. She is an object of natural beauty. She is throw out of society and into nature. Growing up feeling more at home in the forest than in the town. Being referred to as merely a creature of nature can lead one to take on the personality of nature. In becoming unpredictable and unintentionally cruel to the human society. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.
The Puritan society punishes Hester by forcing her to wear a scarlet letter across her bosom for the rest of her life. Pearl’s unknown father, Dissmmedale is being punished by the guilt that resides deep inside his heart. Pearl is unfairly punished because of the actions of her mother and her father. Pearl is a child born from sin. The society unfairly dehumanizes young Pearl for being the living representation of her mother’s sin. She is the product of an act of adultery between Hester Prynne and Arthur Dissmedale. She is the only visible tie that keeps Hester and Dissmedale together.
The Puritan Community does not accept Pearl or recognize her as one of their members. Pearl does not learn the customs of the community because she is banished from the community. They believe she belongs to nature, not to man or human society. Hester dresses Pearl in outfits that resemble the scarlet letter. Her mother dresses her as the scarlet letter. She is the physical description of the scarlet letter.
The first object Pearl sees becomes the of Pearl’s obsession, her mother’s sinful badge. The scarlet letter mesmerizes Pearl as an infant she would reach out for it. As a young girl Pearl becomes obsessed with the scarlet letter. She constantly touches it and throws wild flowers at it. “She amused herself with gathering handfuls of wildflowers and flinging them, one by one, at her mother’s bosom, dancing up and down like a little elf whenever she hit the scarlet letter” (112). The scarlet letter wore by her mother inspires Pearl to make her own. “Pearl took some eel-grass and imitated as best she could on her own bosom, the decoration with which she was so familiar on her mother’s A letter-the letter “A” but freshly green, instead of scarlet” (142). Pearl uses part of her home to make this letter. The green eel-grass from nature. Pearl strongly desires her mother to ask her about her A “I wonder if mother will ask me what it means” (143).
Pearl understands that the scarlet letter is her mother’s punishment and embarrassment yet, Pearl is too young to understand the meaning of the scarlet letter.
“And Mother, he has his hand over his heart! Is it because the minister wrote his name in the black book” (148). This statement allows one to realize that Pearl makes a connection that the fact her mother wears a scarlet letter over her bosom and Dismmedale’s habit of covering his heart with his hand. Pearl is a very observant and curious child. Pearl wants to her a story about the black man. Hester confesses “oh in my life I met the black man. This scarlet letter is his mark” (148).
The child and her mother are banished from their community and church. The only place this mother and child feel at home is in the forest. Pearl grows up making connections with the natural world around her.
Pearl finds herself at home when she is outside in the forest. There is a conscious desire to merge with natural objects. Pearl plays with her reflected image in
a pool of water “a passage for herself with her reflected image in a pool of water and seeks a passage for herself. Growing up as a young creature of nature influences Pearl to take on the common unpredictable and uncontrollable characteristics of nature. Pearl “cannot be amenable to rules” ( ).
The traits that Pearl encompasses are not traits of “normal” Puritan society. These are not normal traits of Puritan children, so the Puritan society refers to Pearl as “one of those naughty elfs or fairies” ( ). The society kicks her out and nature takes her in. Pearl seems to be in tune with nature. The Governor quizzes Pearl on her knowledge of her heavenly father is. Pearl does not separate herself from nature. Pearl laughingly states “I have no heavenly father” (97). Pearl refuses to say who made her and as a child she says “had not been made at all, but she had been plucked by her mother off the bush of wild roses that grew by the prison door” (97).
The Puritan society wants to take Pearl away from her mother. They feel they can raise Pearl the proper Puritan Christian way. Hester pleads to the community to allow her to keep her child. “Pearl is a child of it’s father’s guilt and it’s mother’s shame, but still she has come from the hands of God, that is why she is a blessing (98). Her child is her happiness and punishment at the same time. Pearl is her purpose for her life, if Hester were to lose Pearl she would gladly join the black man in the forest. Pearl keeps her mother from evil and she is the reason that her mother does not go with the black man. Dissmedale defends Heter and explains to the community Pearl is a blessing and a reminder of sin. She is a punishment to Hester. Pearl sees the distressed face of her mother soften after Dismmedale’s statement, Pearl shows her appreciation to Dissmedale “stole softy toward him, and taking his hand in the grasp of both of her own, laid her cheek against” (196). This is not the action of a demonic child. Pearl can
sense almost any emotion an adult might feel just by observing a particular person’s
body language and facial expression. She expresses her thanks and gratitude towards her father.
The forest is full of companionship for Pearl and her mother. In the forest Pearl can run and play freely and her mother can freely let down her hair, feel like a woman again, and throw away her Scarlet Letter. Pearl is at home when she is in the forest. Even when Pearl is in the dark forest and the sun some how finds its way to Pearl. The sun that shines on Pearl is God’s approval and desire for guilt free happiness. Pearl runs and grabs the sunshine. Her mother tries to grab the sunshine but the sun will fade away. Pearl explains to her mother “the sunshine does not love you. It runs and hides itself, because it is afraid of something on your bosom” (146).
The brook that runs though the forest has so much in common with Pearl. The brook like Pearl is from an unknown source and it travels through gloom. Pearl feels she can understand the brook. “inasmuch as the current of her life gushed from a well-spring as mysterious, and had flowed through scenes shadowed as heavily with gloom” (149). Hester believes Pearl cannot understand the brook and its sorrows until she has sorrows and troubles of her own. Pearl’s actions at the brook side are directed to belittle her mother, but it affects Dismmedale. Pearl demands the truth. Her mother and Dismmedale are on one side of the brook and little Pearl is on the other. Her mother shouts at Pearl “thou canst leap, like a young deer” (164). Pearl extends her finger indicating to her mother that she will not take the leap that a creature of nature would take until her mother replaces the scarlet letter that lies on the forest’s floor. Pearl wants her mother to accept and face her sin. Pearl kisses her mother and kisses the scarlet letter. Pearl cannot accept Dissmedale as her father until he accepts and publicly confesses his sin. “Doth he love us? Will he go back with us, hand in hand,
we three go together into town?” (166). Pearl is again implying that she wants her father to expose his scarlet letter.
When Dismmedale confesses his sin, Pearl is no longer a creation of secret passion, but the daughter of a minister and a beautiful young woman. From the moment Dismmedale makes this confession Pearl’s bond with nature weakens and her human bond strengthens. “Pearl kissed his lips. A spell was broken” (196). The kiss is a kiss of life, from this kiss Pearl develops all of her sympathies. Tears begin falling from her eyes onto her father’s cheek, with each tear drop Pearl’s bond with nature was dying and her humanity was growing. Pearl is able to live her life with out the weight of her mother’s sin on her shoulders and in her soul. Pearl is finally given the opportunity to feel joy and sorrow and grow up as a woman not a symbol of sin. Pearl finally gets the life she deserves. She wants the truth to be known to all. She is finally acknowledged as a real human, that has a mother and a father.