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In Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter, how is the name of Hester's child...

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drake32 | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 18, 2013 at 4:56 PM via iOS

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In Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter, how is the name of Hester's child symbolic?

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tinicraw | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted March 18, 2013 at 5:50 PM (Answer #1)

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In the beginning of chapter VI, the very first paragraph in fact, Hester's daughter is named and explicitly discussed. Hester names her daughter Pearl; but as the narrator explains, the name does not signify anything calm, pure, or "unimpassioned" (43). The biblical reference of the name Pearl suggests that Hester valued her daughter like a precious treasure. That value and loyalty is later called into question as the elders of the community seek to take Pearl away from Hester in order to give the young girl a better upbringing than they figured a single mother could give. Hester, however, proves her loyalty to her daughter by arguing with them to keep her daughter in her care. The elders agree as long as Pearl is brought up as a member of the communal religion and accomplishes specific tasks such as communion. So, by defintion, Pearl is a treasure to her mother but does not act like a pearl by merely sitting quietly by and looking pretty for everyone to admire. In fact, Pearl is unpredictable in personality as well as beautiful to look at.

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