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The Scarlet Letter - Symbolism


 The Scarlet Letter is a book of much symbolism. One of the 
most complex and misunderstood symbols in the book is Pearl, the 
daughter of Hester Prynne. Pearl, throughout the story, develops into 
a dynamic symbol - one that is always changing. In the following 
essay, I will explore some of the symbolism which Pearl came to 
represent throughout the novel.
 In The Scarlet Letter, Hester, for her sins, received a 
scarlet letter, "A" which she had to wear upon her chest. This was 
the Puritan way of treating her as a criminal, for the crime of 
adultery. The Puritan treatment continued, because as Hester would 
walk through the streets, she would be looked down upon as if she were 
some sort of demon from Hell, that committed a terrible crime. This 
would give her much mental anguish and grief. On the other hand, 
God's treatment of Hester for her sin was quite different than just a 
physical token: he gave Hester the punishment of a very unique child 
which she named Pearl. This punishment handed down from God was a 
constant mental and physical reminder to Hester of what she had done 
wrong, and she could not escape it. In this aspect, Pearl symbolized 
God's way of punishing Hester for adultery. 
 The way Hester's life was ruined for so long was the ultimate 
price that Hester paid for Pearl. With Pearl, Hester's life was one 
almost never filled with joy, but instead a constant nagging. Pearl 
would harass her mother over the scarlet "A" which she wore. Pearl 
would also make her own "A" to wear, and sometimes she played games 
with her mother's, trying to hit it with rocks. When Hester would go 
into the town with Pearl, the other children would make fun of her, 
and Pearl would yell and throw dirt at them. So, in this case, Pearl 
symbolized the decimation of Hester's life and mental state.
 Although Hester had so much trouble with Pearl, she still felt 
that Pearl was her treasure. Pearl was really the only thing that 
Hester had in life, and if Pearl wasn't in Hester's life, Hester would 
almost surely have committed suicide. Once and a while, Pearl would 
bring joy to Hester's life, and that helped her to keep on living. 
Pearl really symbolized a rose to her mother, at some times she could 

be bright and vibrant, and really love her mother, but at other times, 
she could be wilting. It was at these times when she was "wilting" 
that brought Hester the most grief.
 One final way in which Pearl symbolized something in the novel 
was with her association with the scarlet letter. Pearl really was 
the scarlet letter, because if Pearl had never been born, Hester would 
have never been found guilty of adultery, and thus never would have 
had to wear that burden upon her chest. Without that burden, Hester 
would have led a much better life then the one she had throughout the 
 In closing, Pearl was a source of many different kinds of 
symbolism. From being a rose, to representing the scarlet letter "A", 
she was a kind of burden, yet love for Hester. And as a final note, 
Pearl was more then her mother's only treasure; she was her mother's 
only source of survival.



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