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Symbolism in the Scarlet Letter

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famous novel, The Scarlet Letter, depicts the shame of Hester Prynne, who has had a baby named Pearl by the local minister, Arthur Dimmesdale. In Puritanical New England, she was branded an adulteress and subjected to scorn and embarrassment by others in her town. While Hester was, to Hawthorne, a symbol of a woman repressed, Pearl represented something different, which we will examine in this symbolism in The Scarlet Letter research paper.

Symbolism in the Scarlet Letter

While her mother endured the taunts of the townspeople and tried as best she could to make a living as a sewer of garments, Pearl had her own ostracism, being taunted and shunned by other children in Puritanical New England. Throughout the novel, Pearl is what we today would call a “rebel,” a “wild child” who was seemingly beyond the reaches of affection. Unlike Hester, who demonstrated a remarkable dignity despite her being humiliated by her peers, Pearl even got the attention of the governor of Boston, who doubted she could ever be any kind of Christian.

When Hester named her baby Pearl, she chose her name because pearls are expensive items and Pearl was all she had. More than that, Pearl had a mind of her own, which led the unnamed narrator of The Scarlet Letter to proclaim, “There was a fire in her, and throughout her; she seemed the unpremeditated offshoot of a passionate moment” (Ch. 7, p. 93).

So, what is the symbolism of Pearl? Where her mother was humiliated by her brief, but meaningful affair with the Rev. Dimmesdale,  and she tried so hard to be accepted again by the Puritanical society that was New England in the 17th century, Pearl remained a rebel. But was she that, really?

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