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Hester's refusal to tell Pearl the true meaning of the letter is symbolic of Pearl's role in the novel. Pearl has often been compared to a living version of the scarlet letter. Thus, until she is told what the letter really means, she is unable to know herself. Her role as a living scarlet letter is to announce to the whole world who the guilty parties are, something she has unwittingly done throughout the novel.
The failure of Hester to fully reveal her secret to Pearl creates a conflict that will have to be resolved before the novel ends.Hester's repentance can never be complete until Pearl knows the truth.