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CHAPTER 6: Pearl
A lengthy description is given of Hester's daughter, who is named for the first time. Pearl's name was chosen by her mother, for she was "purchased with all she had, her mother's only treasure". In this chapter, she is three years old. She is a lively and beautiful child that Hester dresses in lovely, hand- sewn clothes of bright colors that match her fanciful nature. In spite of her radiant being, the child lives in seclusion with her mother, as an outcast. The presence of Pearl, instead of providing comfort to Hester, is a constant source of worry.
Pearl's impishness, her waywardness, her stubborn nature, and her refusal to observe rules fill Hester with a sense of dread. She feels it is her sin that has affected Pearl's birth and upbringing, and she has a deep sense of grief about it. Hester's attempts at controlling the child fail frequently and she is often reduced to tears that also fail to bring sympathy from the child.
Pearl's solitude is reflected in two ways. She avoids all contact with other children, never mingling with or talking to them. At times, Pearl even attacks them. Normally, however, Pearl spends her time playing by herself and often imagines she is fighting enemies.
Pearl's attraction to her mother's scarlet letter is also described. The child is fascinated with it, often touching it or tossing flowers at it. She is also curious about her birth, often questioning Hester about it and her lack of a father. Because of her behavior, Hester increasingly begins to question Pearl's inner nature and her doubts are further strengthened when Pearl denies God.
This chapter provides a description of Pearl and fills in details of the time span which the author skips. The innocent beauty and charm of Pearl are in sharp contrast to her rebellious nature. The significance of Pearl in Hester's life is indicated in the name chosen for her by Hester. She is a jewel, Hester's only treasure, purchased with her own honor. Unfortunately, Hester finds little solace in her daughter, whose stubborn ways increase her mother's sorrow.
Pearl, like her mother, is treated like an outcast. As a result, she has been deprived of a normal childhood in the company of other children. She does not know how to interact with them and is often aggressive when they come near. She prefers to play alone, fighting all kinds of imagined enemies. Pearl's rejection of humanity fills Hester with a sense of guilt and dread.
When Pearl becomes aware of her mother's scarlet letter, not understanding its meaning or impact, she plays with it. At such times, Hester cringes with shame. Hester is also tormented by and at a loss to answer the child's questions about her birth and parentage. It is not surprising that Hester sees Pearl as a constant reminder of her sin, a living form of her scarlet letter; yet she loves her deeply and dearly, for she is her only companion and the treasure of her life. It is also not surprising that the child, deprived of a father and childhood companionship, questions the existence of a heavenly father.
The author clearly brings out the fact that both society and God have
marked Hester for her sin. "Man has marked this woman's sin by a
scarlet letter, which had such potent and disastrous efficacy that no
human sympathy could reach her. . .God, as a direct consequence of the
sin which man thus punished, had given her a lovely child." Ironically,
the lovely child causes Hester more torture than joy.