Secondary Characters are characters that are utilized to improve the flow of a story along while being impactful to the plot and storyline. Pearl, a key character in the Scarlet Letter functions as a secondary character by being a symbol for the plot of love and sin.
Pearl’s character works throughout the story by bringing out different emotions and feelings from other characters. In Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter, Pearl’s function is to be a significant role in blossoming the traits of certain characters, Pearl’s identity becomes distinct in the growth of her own character which produces the development of the story and development of other characters by serving as a reminder of sin and strength. Throughout the Scarlet Letter, Pearl symbolizes the sins that Hester had done and serves as a reminder of Hester’s transgressions and is similar to the qualities of sin which she represents. Pearl’s life and behaviors point towards the unacceptable and extraordinary nature of Hester’s sin of adultery. Hester is constantly haunted with not only the letter “A”, but she has produced a child from her affair who also serves as a reminder alongside the scarlet “A”.
Ultimately, Hester is able to persevere through the shame that coexists with the Scarlet letter and turn something negative into a positive by creating the most of a family for herself and Pearl. The relationship between Pearl and Hester is crucial to the theme of the novel and the key developments of its characters. “From that epoch, except when the child was asleep, Hester had never felt a moment’s safety; not a moment’s calm enjoyment of her” (Hawthorne, 67). Hester shows that she couldn’t be satisfied with the normal parent relationship with her daughter because of the shameful symbol “A” on her chest. Hawthorne authors, “Weeks, it is true, would sometimes elapse, during which Pearl’s gaze might never once be fixed upon the scarlet letter; but then, again, it would come at unawares, like the stroke of sudden death, and always with that peculiar smile, and odd expression of the eyes” (Hawthorne, 67).
Hester learns that Pearl’s unorthodox expression was her own learning of the significance of the scarlet letter and Pearl herself.As the story progresses, Pearl, at age three, is possessed with the meaning of her mother’s decorative symbol of sin. Hawthorne writes, “… she amused herself with gathering handfuls of wildflowers, and flinging them, one by one, at her mother’s bosom; dancing up and down, like a little elf, whenever she hit the scarlet letter.” (Hawthorne, 67).
Pearl, with the assistance of the letter, played with the emotions of her mother as if it were a game and continued to give it attention for personal amusement. Hester witnessed “little Pearl’s wild eyes”; which is the same expression that she had seen when Pearl was a baby (Hawthorne 67). Pearl is a character that is complex and expressed greatly throughout the novel. Pearl is the daughter of Arthur Dimmesdale and Hester Prynne, a daughter of love and sin.
As stated throughout the novel Pearl’s parents know that she is a very outgoing individual who keeps growing and changing depending on the situation she is presented upon. “On the prevailing circumstances in order to survive and to also help in bringing out clearly the message that the writer wanted to pass when he was writing the book.” (Mary, 99) The citizens of the society furthermore shun not only Hester, but Pearl as well because of her mother’s sin. Pearl serves as the constant reminder of Hester’s sin of adultery. Pearl’s living conditions also play a role in her character as she lived on the outskirts of Boston with her mother in which they avoided the humiliation and embarrassment from the other villagers. Pearl is described to be an “Infant whose guiltless life was the product of inscrutable decree of Providence.
” (Mary, 133) Hawthorn refers to her as lovely and a flower that is immoral and does not realize the guilty that led to its existence. (Hawthorne, 81)From birth, Pearl is seen and treated as a punishment, an outcome of sin that every soul with any type dignity should take heed and avoid at all times. This negative treatment affects Pearl and she cleary is not regular compared to the citizens of her society. Pearl’s only safe haven is nature around her which seems to have connection with her and always treats her nicely in a way her community did not. Another point is that Pearl grows into a gorgeous girl through the book. On page 81 and 82 Hawthorne describes her beauty very clearly. Compared to the other girls, she had bright skin, eyes that had the intensity of glow and depth, and beautiful deep brown glowing hair.
Another key trait of Pearl in the story is her clothing choices. She always wore elaborate dresses that intensified her beauty and caused envy among the Puritan society, therefore giving them the notion to label her as abnormal. Pearl wore clothing that made her stand out and did not follow the same traditional clothing that the other Puritan children wore, therefore causing the society to outcast her. This treatment created a hatred in Pearl towards the other children and in the book we read that she would pick up stones and throw it at them. These actions showed the boldness of Pearl and her mental strength of not backing down and conforming. Characteristically, Pearl demonstrates that she is a strong girl and looks for the her advantage in situations.
The fact of the other children not accepting causes her to turn to nature which automatically accepts her and does not criticize or ridicule her. On page 168 Hawthorne talks about the light that happily lingers about the child that is lonely as if it is glad to have found such a loving playing mate. The nature becomes the only playmate and safe place for Pearl as she matures through the story and learns about herself and her mother. Unfortunately, due to the separation from other children, Pearl does not fit the norm and is looked upon as a mysterious and unearthly child.
The story informs us as Pearl being a character that was missing reference and she could not relate to the people in the society she brought into. Pearl had no influence from the Puritan life and only lived by the influence of nature. She had been casted out from her society, and therefore turned to the beauty of nature which accepted her with open hands.