In Chapter 6 of The Scarlet Letter, how is Pearl's play contrasted with the play of the town's children?
In Chapter 6 we see that Pearl shares her mother's status as an "outcast": "Pearl was a born outcast of the infantile world." Her identity as the illegitimate child of Hester Prynne ensures that she had no place with the children of her own age. Pearl, too, seems to shun her contemporaries and their ways of playing:
She saw the children of the settlement on the grassy margin of the street, or at the domestic thresholds, disporting themselves in such grim fashions as the Puritanic nurture would permit; playing at going to church, perchance; or at scourging Quakers; or taking scalps in a sham-fight with the Indians; or scaring one another with freams of imitative witchcraft. Pearl saw, and gazed intently; but never sought to make acquaintance.
In comparison to these permitted "grim fashions," Pearl uses her imagination to create her own playmates and world, to ensure that Pearl does not lack company:
At home, within and around her mother's cottage, Pearl watned not a wide and various circle of acquaintance. The spell of life went forth from her ever creative spirit and communicated itself to a thousand objects, as a torch kindles a flame wherever it may be applied. The unlikeliest materials - a stick, a bunch of rags, a flower - were the puppets of Pearl's witchcraft...
It is interesting how Hawthorne chooses to describe Pearl's play - explicity in the terms of sorcery and magic, as if to heighten and underline the divide between Pearl and other Puritan children and also exacerbate the sense that there is something other-worldly about Pearl in her character.