The Scarlet Letter

Discuss the various purposes that Pearl serves in the novel. Include page numbers.

Give specific examples of her behavior and comments to the other characters to illustrate each purpose.

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“Mother,” said little Pearl, “the sunshine does not love you. It runs away and hides itself, because it is afraid of something on your bosom. . . . It will not flee from me, for I wear nothing on my bosom yet!”

“Nor ever will, my child, I hope,” said Hester.

“And why not, mother?” asked Pearl, stopping short. . . . “Will it not come of its own accord, when I am a woman grown?” (Chapter 16)

Pearl is an expert at asking people questions that make them uncomfortable.

“Mother, was that the same minister that kissed me by the brook?”

“Hold thy peace, dear little Pearl!” whispered her mother. “We must not always talk in the market-place of what happens to us in the forest.”

Little girls are better seen than heard. She get's her mother again.

"Her Pearl—for so had Hester called her; not as a name expressive of her aspect, which had nothing of the calm, white, unimpassioned lustre that would be indicated by the comparison. But she named the infant 'Pearl,' as being of great price—purchased with all she had—her mother's only treasure!" (Chapter Six)

She is seen as her mother's greatest treasure.

"After testing both smiles and frowns, and proving that neither mode of treatment possessed any calculable influence, Hester was ultimately compelled to stand aside and permit the child to be swayed by her own impulses. Physical compulsion or restraint was effectual, of course, while it lasted. As to any other kind of discipline, whether addressed to her mind or heart, little Pearl might or might not be within its reach, in accordance with the caprice that ruled the moment." (Chapter 6)

Pearl is just an innocent child. A child of whimsy.

"Pearl was a born outcast of the infantile world. An imp of evil, emblem and product of sin, she had no right among christened infants. Nothing was more remarkable than the instinct, as it seemed, with which the child comprehended her loneliness: the destiny that had drawn an inviolable circle round about her: the whole peculiarity, in short, of her position in respect to other children." (Chapter 6)

Pearl was born an outcast. Hester wished for nothing more than her child be allowed to just be a kid amongst the other children. Unfortunately, she was ostracized.


The Scarlet Letter