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What are some specific quotes from The Scarlet Letter that describe Pearl as an...

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colorfuljoy | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 3, 2011 at 5:52 AM via web

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What are some specific quotes from The Scarlet Letter that describe Pearl as an innocent child?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 5, 2011 at 5:55 PM (Answer #1)

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While Pearl is the embodiment of Hester Prynne's passionate nature,  she is yet an innocent infant and child in the novel in Chapter IV. Interviewed in prison by her husband who has returned from living with the Indians from whom he has learned of herbs, he offers a draught of a medicinal potion for the ailing infant.  But, Hester fears for the safety of her child,

"Would thou avenge thyself on the innocent babe?" 

Then, in Chapter VI, entitled "Pearl," Hawthorne narrates,

We have as yet hardly spoken of the infant;... whose innocent life had sprung, by the inscrutable decree of Providence, a lovely and immortal flower.... worthy to have been brought forth in Eden...worthy to have been left there to be the plaything of the angels after the world's first parents were driven out.

When the minister Arthur Dimmesdale appears at the Governor's Hall where Hester and Pearl are already,

the little elf stole softly towards him, and taking his hand in the grasp of both of her own, laid her cheek against it; a caress so tender and withal so unobtrusive, that her mother, who was looking on, asked herself,--"Is that my Pearl?"  Yet she knew that there was love in the child's heart, although it mostly revealed itself in passion, and hardly twice in her lifetime had been softened by such gentleness as now.

Later at the age of seven in Chapter XXII, Pearl and her mother encounter the minister on the scaffold one night.  The Reverand Dimmesdale takes her hand, and Pearl asks innocently, not realizing what shame would be brought upon him if he were to do her request,

"Wilt thou stand here with mother and me, to-morrow noontide?"

In Chapter XV, Pearl asks her mother about the scarlet letter's significance with "earnestness."  Hester feels that Pearl seeks a childlike confidence and a "meeting-point of sympathy." Then, in this same chapter, Pearl asks why the minister keeps his hand over his heart:

Pearl's inevitable tendency to hover about the enigma of the scarlet letter seemed an innate quality of her being.

This same innocent tendency is exhibited by Pearl in Chapter XVI:

Mother, why does the minister keep his hand over his heart? Is it because, when the minister wrote his name in the book, the Black Man set his mark in that place?  But why does he not wear it outside his bosom, as thou dost, mother?

and, later, in the wood, "What does this sad, little brook say,mother?"...."And will the minister be there? [in the market-place on the New England holiday] And will he hold out both his hands to me, as when thou led'st me to him from the brook-side?"

At the New England Holiday, little Pearl plays until she finds herself amidst the sailors. After one of them gives her a message which she carries to her mother, innocent of the import of this message.

Finally, Pearl loses her innocence as she and her mother join Dimmesdale on the scaffold before the community, and she kisses the lips of Dimmesdale: 

Pearl kissed his lifps.  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 up amid human joy and sorrow, nor forever do battle with the world, but be a woman in it.  Towards her mother, too, Pearl's errand as a messenger of anguish was fulfilled.

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