Hester's Parenting Of Pearl In The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne

Great Essays
Emotional neglect is defined as, “the failure to provide adequate nurturing and affection to a child or the refusal or delay in ensuring that a child receives needed treatment for emotional or behavioral problems” (Emotional Neglect Law and Legal Definition n.p.) Hester’s parenting of Pearl in The Scarlet Letter treads dangerously close that definition. Pearl is an interesting and complex character that seems to be very overlooked. Her supposedly supernatural powers and the way that she is portrayed in the book make many forget that she is just a child, and no one thinks about how she is being affected by the people around her, and especially living in a town that hates her. Pearl’s inner thoughts are never actually revealed, but it is not …show more content…
There is some conflict throughout the novel between Hester and her religion, but she continues to hold onto her beliefs for the most part, leading her to have the same ideas as the townspeople about how her sin would manifest itself in her offspring. The guilt that Hester felt from her sin is somewhat taken out on Pearl, as she was the physical outcome of the sin. Hester, like the townspeople, expected Pearl to be evil to confirm her own villainy, “Day after day, she looked fearfully into the child’s expanding nature; ever dreading to detect some dark and wild peculiarity, that should correspond with the guiltiness to which she owed her being” (Hawthorne 92). This shows that Hester holds the same ideas about her child as the other members of her community, possibly even moreso as she is being directly affected by Pearl, and is constantly reminded of her sin. Hester notes that as an infant, Pearl recognized the letter on her chest before she recognized her face, and once when Pearl reached out and touched the letter, Hester recoiled in shock, and only then did Pearl smile at her face. After this incident, Hester felt scared, as if Pearl could hurt her, as demonstrated in the text, “But that first object of which Pearl seemed to become aware was . . . the scarlet letter on Hester’s bosom! . . . From that epoch, …show more content…
However, how much Hester actually cares about Pearl is very uncertain and seems to change chapter to chapter. Hester’s opinion of Pearl is very volatile and difficult to understand because of the circumstances that surround their relationship. Hester is not completely silent about her feelings for Pearl, and whether subconsciously or not, she subjects Pearl to many situations that would be concerning today. It is apparent that the guilt of Hester’s sin affects her greatly, so it is conceivable that Pearl, as the direct result, also has the same effect on her. This would not be beneficial for Hester's mental health and would subsequently also negatively affect Pearl. The first obvious sign that something is off about how Hester feels about Pearl is in her name, “But she named the infant ‘Pearl,’ as being of great price—purchased with all she had—her mother’s only treasure” (Hawthorne 91). This already shows that she has some dubious feelings regarding Pearl. Hester could have had stronger hostile feelings towards Pearl because of how recently everything had occurred, resulting in her bitter naming. This is just the start of her strange actions towards Pearl. Hester never shows much true love towards Pearl, and she seems to force herself to find anything positive in Pearl because of how she sees Pearl as a reflection of herself and her sins. She needs to reassure

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