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The Scarlet Letter

Scarlet Letter term papers illustrate that in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, the main story line revolves around Hester Prynne’s shame at being caught in adultery and struggles to live with the stigma.  Key to understanding the subtext of the work is the presence and personality of Pearl, Hester’s daughter.  In many respects, Pearl is the scarlet letter.  The reason that the townspeople are able to convict Hester is that she becomes pregnant, and her husband is nowhere to be found.  Obviously, they rightly conclude, she was breaking the commandments with somebody.

The Scarlet Letter

From the very beginning, Pearl has an otherworldly awareness and sensitivity.  After one becomes familiar with the work, the reader can see how Hawthorn reveals the father from the earliest chapters.  “Even the poor baby, at Hester’s bosom, was affected by the same influence; for it directed its hitherto vacant gaze towards Mr. Dimmesdale”.  Pearl’s first conscious thought turns to her father.  The child’s sensitivity is also illustrated in chapter 3, as Hester stands in the courtyard being tried by the town.  “The infant, during the latter part of the ordeal, pierced the air with its wailings and screams.”  This is a special, preternatural child.

The next phase of Pearl’s existence is at three years of age.  Chapter 6, “Pearl,” contrast her physical beauty (“worthy to have been brought forth in Eden”) with her unruly behavior (“The child could not be made amenable to rules”).  To the Puritan townspeople, Pearl is an “imp of evil, emblem and product of sin,” but Hawthorn’s characterization of Pearl shows his personal disdain for Puritan strictness.  The physical beauty of the child shows that she was not the product of sin, but rather of love and purity.  Hester and Dimmesdale may have been committing adultery, but the actions of the novel show that they are true lovers.  The tragedy of the work is that their situations and society force them first to keep their love secret, and then to live apart.

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