In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, life is centered around a rigid Puritan society in which one is expected to be the most upright citizen they can be. Hawthorne uses Pearl as a way to show the harsh views of the early Puritans and how they affected the lives of those who were not fully accepted by them. Pearl is one of the most significant examples of a character that Hawthorne uses who has not been accepted into Puritan society. Hawthorne puts characteristics in Pearl that he uses to show just what the early Puritans were like.
Hawthorne shows how Pearl is an oddity in the world of the Puritans through her appearance, her wild and defiant manner, and the way by which she came into existence. First, Nathaniel Hawthorne wastes no time in making it known to the reader that Pearl is no ordinary Puritan character. He emphasizes this when he initially describes Pearl as an infant and again when he describes how her clothes exaggerate her intense beauty. When Hawthorne describes Pearl as an infant he immediately draws attention to the fact that she is out of the ordinary.
He really sets her apart from most Puritan infants, when he says, “The infant was worthy to have been brought forth in Eden; worthy to have been left there, to be the plaything of the angels” (93; ch. 6). The baby Pearl is unique in the sense that she can be seen fitting in with angels in Eden. To add to this, Hawthorne emphasizes Pearl’s intense beauty by the clothes that her sinful mother chooses for her. Hawthorne again makes it obvious that Pearl is not a normal Puritan in any sense of the term.
In chapter six entitled “Pearl”, Hawthorne describes Pearl as “So magnificent was the small figure, when thus arrayed, and such the splendor of Pearl’s own proper beauty, shining through the gorgeous robes” (93; ch. 6). Words such as “splendor” and “gorgeous” are used by Hawthorne to make Pearl seem like a perfect little girl, and to make the readers sympathize towards her. Hawthorne wastes no time in starting to sway the opinions of the readers towards his beloved Pearl. Hawthorne then moves on to describe the attitude of Pearl which furthers her difference from the traditional Puritans.
Pearl’s wild and defiant manner helps to enhance the readers perception of her separation from conventional Puritan society through her disobedience and intuition. Pearl’s disobedient nature is a quality that sets her apart from the normal Puritans in that it is expected that children obey their elders with no questioning. Pearl’s ways are basically summed up in the following quote, “The child could not be made amendable to rules” (94; ch. 6). In this quote, Hawthorne is stating that Pearl just can not be made to follow rules.
This is an attribute of any member of a Puritan society that is really looked down upon. If children don’t respect their elders then what will become of the community? Hawthorne describes Pearls manner when he says, “her wild, desperate, defiant mood” (94; ch. 6). This again, is a summary of Pearl’s mood throughout the whole novel, which is not a characteristic looked highly upon by the Puritan’s. Pearls curiosity is another unique trait, because it contributes to making her an individual which was frowned upon by Puritan authority.
The Puritan’s in The Scarlet Letter, “are deficient in nature, and they are consequently dour and overrighteous” (Fogle 116). Pearl’s individuality can be seen as a direct threat to the Puritan leaders, which is one reason why she has been outcast by the “overrighteous” Puritans. Pearl shows her curiosity when she questions Dimmesdale about joining her and her mother the next day. “Wilt thou promise to hold my and thy mothers hand tomorrow? “(158; ch. 12). Pearl’s manner is quite a noticeable part of her as a character, but more importantly is the way in which Pearl came to be part of the Puritan society in which she lives.
From birth, Pearl was destined to be outcast from Puritan society because of her mother’s sin, and the way in which the common people view Pearl herself. From the beginning of her life, Pearl is shunned because of her mother’s sin. Hawthorne states that, “In giving her existence, a great law had been broken” (94; ch. 6). This says that when Pearl was conceived, one of God’s sacred laws was broken, and that makes people look down upon her. In other words, “She seems to the Puritans a ‘demon offspring. ‘” (Davitt 60). As a result of her mother’s sin, Pearl must live a life separate from the rest of everyone in her village.
When people saw Pearl, they were reminded of Hester’s sin and as a result, they thought of Pearl in a negative way, setting her apart from most other children. “Pearl’s clothes inevitably reminded the beholder of the token which Hester Prynne was doomed to wear upon her bosom. It was the scarlet letter in another form; the scarlet letter endowed with life! ” (105; ch. 7). Whenever people in the community see Pearl, they really see Hester’s sin, which causes them to not consider her a person, but a reminder of sin. Pearl has been outcast from Puritan society by means that are purely beyond her control.
She is rejected by this unforgiving society as a result of her appearance, her attitude, and mainly because of her mother’s sin. Pearl is a character in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s, The Scarlet Letter that really is not a typical character in the sense that she does not seem to fit in. Pearl is maintained in The Scarlet Letter as Hawthorne’s way of showing exactly what the early Puritan’s were truly like. Hawthorne made Pearl an outcast from society so that he could show what qualities were not accepted by the early Puritans.