English Honors II
November 2, 2014
Human Nature Represented Through Pearl
Symbols and archetypes are literary devices that are used to display the meanings of common items. They can be found not only in text, but our daily lives. It could be something found in nature or manmade. For example, water is a symbol for escape and passage, and darkness represents evil and mystery. Throughout Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, every minute detail seems to be some type of symbol. The four main characters; Pearl, Hester, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth are symbols for the human traits: raw human nature, hope, guilt, and evil. These traits are further represented in direct images within the novel. Pearl, one of the more complex characters, is represented with imagery of nature because both are free and removed from society. Through the imagery of the sunlight, the forest, and the brook, Hawthorne reveals the complexities of Pearl’s character.
Sunlight symbolizes purity, truth, and goodness. Pearl is represented by the imagery of sunlight because she too possesses these traits. Pearl is raised on the outskirts of town, which initially separates her from the rest of the Puritan society. Upon her arrival to the governor’s mansion she “began to…dance and…required that the whole breadth of sunshine should be stripped off its front, and given to her to play with” (Hawthorne 71). Not only, at age three, does the sun shine on Pearl, but she craves its warmth because her intuition tells her that it is representative of good. This shows further how she is set apart from the rest of the Puritan society. Pearl continues to defy the Puritan society by being dressed in flashy garments by her mother. They all live in a gray world with extreme beliefs and limitations while she is free and can do what she pleases. Another way that Pearl is pure is, even though she was born from a sin, she is innocent because she was given to Hester from God and she had no way of controlling her mother. Hawthorne continues to illuminate Pearl’s purity by casting the sunlight upon her when she is in the forest with Hester. Pearl “did catch the sunshine, and stood laughing in the midst of it all”, but as Hester approached and tried to touch it with Pearl, “the sunshine vanished” (Hawthorne 126). Hester cannot touch the sun because she is bearing the secret of her sin, while Pearl can touch the sunshine because she has nothing to conceal.
Pearl can be compared to the forest similarly as she was to the sun. The forest symbolizes the uncut and untamed side of human nature, as does Pearl; which is why the two go hand-in-hand. When Dimmesdale arrives, Hester sends Pearl away to play. During Pearl’s time alone she “[becomes] the playmate” of the forest which “put[s] on the kindest of its moods to welcome her” (Hawthorne 140). At one point, “A wolf…offer[s] his savage head to be patted by her hand” (Hawthorne 140). This occurred because “The mother-forest…recognized a kindred wildness in the human child” (Hawthorne 140). The forest comforts Pearl and treats her as if she is one of its own to show how they are connected. They are both unique creatures that cannot easily be controlled or understood. Hester believes, at times, that Pearl is a demon offspring, when in actuality she is only acting true to herself. This perplexes Hester because she cannot understand why Pearl is unlike the other Puritan children. She is in fact more aligned with the ways of the forest because “she was gentler here than in the grassy-margined streets of the settlement” (Hawthorne). The