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In The Scarlet Letter, what is the significance of the passage that begins with, "Pearl...

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abolze14 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 31, 2012 at 12:56 AM via web

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In The Scarlet Letter, what is the significance of the passage that begins with, "Pearl kissed his lips. A spell was broken." 

 

The great scene of grief, in which the wild infant bore a part, had developed all her sympathies; and as her tears fell upon her father’s cheek, they were the pledge that she would grow amid human joy and sorrow, nor for ever do battle with the world, but be a woman in it"

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 31, 2012 at 6:47 AM (Answer #1)

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When the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale steps onto the scaffold in Chapter XXIII of The Scarlet Letter, he invites Hester and Pearl finally to join him, and Pearl cannot accuse him this time of being false as she has done in Chapter XII--"thou wast not true!"--in the second scaffold scene.  In this scene, too, Pearl is described as a symbol,

The great scene of grief, in which the wild infant bore a part....

Indeed, she is a symbol of the sin of passion committed by Hester and the minister. So, when Dimmesdale kisses Pearl, he truthfully acknowledges her as his daughter; therefore, Pearl kisses him in like recognition as she ceases to be a symbol of her parents' adultery and becomes human, in acceptance and forgiveness of Dimmesdale, and in weeping human tears for the first time in the narrative.  Hawthorne writes, "A spell was broken" because now Pearl is a person and no longer a figurative device of punishment for Hester.  This climactic moment of the novel transforms Pearl from "a messenger of anguish" for her mother to a normal human being. The three people on the scaffold are now made one, a family.

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