The Demon In The Mirror: Pearl's Role In The Scarlet Letter

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The Demon in the Mirror: Pearl’s Role in the Scarlet Letter
In The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne’s daughter Pearl is a character that holds some complexity. Pearl, who begins the novel as an infant, is shown to have an intense correlation with the scarlet letter, which Hester is forced to wear as a token of her act of adultery. Almost every interaction mother and daughter have is under the shadow of the letter in some way or another. She points it out almost every chance she gets, even refusing to interact with her mother when she’s not wearing it. A common interpretation of the text, therefore, has Pearl as a symbol of the letter, especially since Hester dresses her in crimson and gold – she is a living representation of it. However, her
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Hester is already acutely aware of how her society views her as someone who committed adultery, but Pearl, her child, aggravates her negative self-image. This is apparent when Pearl is an infant and the scarlet letter, the symbol of Hester’s adultery, is “the first object of which Pearl became aware”. She “grasp[s] at it, smiling…with a decided gleam” (Hawthorne 66). The fact that she focuses on the letter supports Hester’s view of her as a living representation of it, the constant reminder of her misdeed. Later in the book, when she and Pearl are going to meet the Governor, another incident that parallels this occurs when Pearl points out that she can see her mother in a suit of armor. Hester looks, only to discover that “the scarlet letter was represented in exaggerated and gigantic proportions”, completely obscuring the rest of her body. (Hawthorne 72) The fact that Pearl points this out is yet another cruel trick to Hester, forcing her to recall her fall from grace once more. Pearl is portrayed as a kind of voice in the back of her mother’s head, reminding her of what she’s …show more content…
This is mainly seen in the second half of the book, as he spends the first seven years of her life avoiding contact with Hester, his illegitimate lover. When he and Hester finally reconcile, Pearl asks him “Wilt thou stand here with mother and me, to-morrow noontide?” (Hawthorne 101) This question is a reflection of his own internal conscience. He worries about both the consequences of accepting Hester and Pearl as his family, born of sin, and of abandoning them. His negative answer exposes his inclination to avoid the consequences of his behavior, fueling his guilt and his physical illness. A representation of this guilt is when he sees “Hester Prynne, leading along little Pearl…pointing her forefinger, first at the scarlet letter on her bosom and then at the clergyman’s own breast”. (Hawthorne 96) This is a catastrophizing thought, which is something he is extremely prone to due to his shame, which manifests as Hester pointing at him. He is aware of the situation having no effective solution, which is why he decides to confess during the Election Day procession. In this scene, he calls upon Hester and Pearl to stand with him upon the scaffold. Pearl reacts quickly and happily, “bird-like”, reflecting his own relief at unburdening himself to the public. He is willing to finally let go of the remorse he’d

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