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In "The Scarlet Letter" Mr. Wilson asks Pearl "Who made thee?" What...

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choijames | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 11, 2009 at 1:01 PM via web

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In "The Scarlet Letter" Mr. Wilson asks Pearl "Who made thee?" What is Pearl's answer and why does she reply as she does?

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mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 11, 2009 at 1:18 PM (Answer #1)

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Pearl answers that "she had not been made at all, but had been plucked by her mother off the bush of wild roses that grew by the prison-door."  This rather unusual and creative answer was probably not what Mr. Wilson was looking for; he was attempting to verify Hester's "worthiness" as a mother, to see if Hester was instructing Pearl correctly.  The thing is, Pearl knew the answer that would have satisfied Mr. Wilson more, but Hawthorne states that she doesn't give it because "that perversity, which all children have more or less of...closed her lips, or impelled her to speak words amiss."  So, he basically states that Pearl is a child, and children tend to be stubborn and mischievious, and that is why she didn't answer "correctly", and this only after she was asked several times.  Pearl, being only 3 years old at the time, can't be blamed for her answer; it is just, as Hawthorne states, given at a "most importune moment."  Gratefully, Dimmesdale intervenes on Hester's behalf, and Hester is allowed to keep Pearl.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 16, 2009 at 2:22 AM (Answer #2)

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Pearl's response is indicative that, like the prison rose bush,she, too, is a symbol of passion.  In fact, she is more symbol than human until the events of Chapter XXIII bring her fully into the world of humanity as Dimmesdale beckons her onto the scaffold,

'Dear little Pearl, wilt thou kiss me now? Thous wouldst not, yonder, in the forest!'....Pearl kissed his lips.  A spell was broken.

In Chapter IV Hawthorne elaborates on Pearl's function as symbol as he tells the reader that when Chillingworth attended to her in the prison, she

writhed in convulsion of pain, and was a forcible type in its little frame, of the moral agony which Hester Prynne had borne throughout the day.

The struggles of Hester's spirit are symbolized in the behavior and nature of Pearl.  In Chapter VI, the author tells the reader this much: 

The mother's impassioned state had been the medium through which were transmitted to the unborn infant the rays of its moral life; and...they had taken the deep stains of crimson and gold, the fiery lustre, the back shadow, and the untempered light of the intervening substance.  Above all, the warfare of Hester's spirit, at that epoch, was perpetuated in Pearl.

This "perpetuated" spirit of Hester in Pearl as symbol is exemplified in the forest as Pearl delights in the sunshine, stands on the other side of the brook, and insists on Hester's replacing the cast-off letter, for Hester delights in being with the minister and stands at a point of possible freedom, but she later must resume the wearing of the letter. When all three are joined as family, they can be true to Nature and Pearl, thus, acquires her humanity.

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ana36 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted February 1, 2012 at 1:25 PM (Answer #3)

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Pearl is a smart but very mischievous child; she stubbornly refuses to answer truthfully and therefore makes a very bad impression of her mother. After taking her leisurely time she finally responds that, “…she had not been made at all, but had been plucked by her mother off the bush of wild roses, that grew by the prison-door.” (102)This unusual and creative answer was not what Mr. Wilson was looking for. He was attempting to verify Hester's "worthiness" as a mother, to see if Hester was instructing Pearl correctly.  The thing is, Pearl knew the answer that would have satisfied Mr. Wilson more, but she doesn't give it because that the same naughtiness present to some degree in all children existed ten-fold in Pearl.  Hester had talked with Pearl about her heavenly Father and taught her all the religious truths that young children tended absorb. In her three short years, Pearl had learned so much about religion that she could have passed any test without having to study, at least that’s what her mother thought. In my opinion, Governor Bellingham expected Pearl to say that God made her or perhaps even reveal who her father was if she knew. Pearls’ answer was unexpected to everyone since it was a very unusual response. This answer suggests to us that Pearl is a very creative and bright individual who still has childlike qualities. Pearl is without a doubt an unusual child, after all her mother is an adulter and she lived her short life without any real friends, her personality is very different from the boring and somber ones of the towns’ people.

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