Sin creates a feeling of shame and anguish that is not incited by the sin itself, but from the scorn of others, and thus, it imbues secrecy within the host. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Pearl is endowed with the proclivity to unveil the truth that shrouds the sinners of the Puritan society, especially those of Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale. Pearl, a product of two sinners’ passion, is cast aside from the harsh Puritan society, which envelops her in the utmost freedom that is neither confined by Puritan laws nor thinking.
In truth, Pearl is able to induce philosophical insight into human nature through her connection and fascination with the scarlet letter. Banished from society, Pearl’s perception is influenced by the natural order of life which strengthens her union with nature as a result of the freedom. And so, the child naturally manifests a growing desire to disclose the truth, for the truth is all she has ever perceived.
Because Pearl has acquired intellectual freedom, Pearl is able to understand the complexity of human frailty through the scarlet letter, the connection with nature, and the search for truth to ultimately comprehend the grandeur of human nature. To many, Pearl embodies “the scarlet letter in another form; the scarlet letter endowed with life,” which serves as a facsimile to the letter A symbolically as it is literally (Hawthorne 119).
Observing that Pearl is a “retribution too; a torture to be felt at many an unthought -of moment; a pang, a sting, an ever-recurring agony, in the midst of a troubled joy,” Dimmesdale, in his plea to keep Pearl and Hester together, acknowledges Pearl’s dark existence as a token of shame given by God (134). Pearl, therefore, is an organic configuration of the scarlet letter itself and bares a stronger connection to Hester’s sin then something as artificial as the scarlet letter. In addition to Pearl’s connection with Hester’s sin, the child serves as a link o Dimmesdale’s suffering.
Questioning whether or not “thou stand here with Mother and me, tomorrow noontide,” Pearl attempts to evoke Dimmesdale’s hidden crimes as means of salvation for his misery (182). Being the embodiment of sin herself, Pearl has the uncanny ability to recognize the presence of sin even if the host attempts to conceal it. Upon entering the world, Pearl bares a spiritual connection to the scarlet letter which allows her to bring purpose and redemption to the sinners. Compared to the strict Puritan society, Pearl finds more comfort and sympathy in nature.
Noting that Pearl “lacked reference and adaptation to the world into which she was born (105),” the child does not conform to the synthetic laws set by the Puritans. Pearl resonates with nature because both are secluded from the Puritans, so they observe humanity from a stand point that is free from the law of the land. With Pearls deep affinity with nature, “the mother-forest, and these wild things which it nourished, all recognized a kindred wildness in the human child,” in which Pearl displays the same freedom and spirit as the environment (246).
As such, the “kindred wilderness” embodies Pearl’s spontaneous attitude which perplexes the citizens since her uniqueness has never been encountered outside of the Puritan society. In a sense, Pearl represents the vivacity of nature, and in return the wildlife gives her a safe haven free from oppressive influence. In particular, Pearl has a compelling interest to search for the truth within a concealed world.
Forcing Hester to retrieve the scarlet letter, Pearl “will not abide any, the slightest, change in the accustomed aspect of many thing that are daily” because Pearl knows that Hester will not be true to herself if the stigma was discarded (252). Pearl’s primary role in Hester’s life is to become an endless reminder of Hester’s sinful deeds and to uncover the truths that the adults of the Puritan society tend to overlook. Likewise, Pearl’s sole purpose changes when she is given the truth she so desire. When Dimmesdale professes his sinful deed to the Puritans, Pearl makes a “pledge that she would grow up mid human joy and sorrow, nor forever do battle with the world, but be a woman in it,” which signifies the end to Pearl’s spiritual representation of sin (306).
Because the truth has been revealed, Pearl does not need to embody sin anymore seeing that Dimmesdale has found salvation through the confrontation of his own deeds. And thus, Pearl’s connection to truth guides the sinners towards acceptance rather than ignorance. In summary, Pearl’s role in the Puritans’ lives is to exemplify a greater understanding of human nature through her unique and lively personality.
As such, Pearl’s embodiment of the scarlet letter serves as a relentless reminder to Hester and Dimmesdale of their deeds, and in return, Pearl acquires a greater understanding of the inner soul. With the protection of nature. Pearl is able to think for herself rather than follow the teachings of the Puritans. And most importantly, the child’s penchant for unveiling the truth has given sinners, such as Dimmesdale and Hester, redemption and solace. For a character so honest and natural, Pearl serves as a guide and soothsayer for the Puritans who are shrouded in an idealistic institution.