How is Pearl both a sin and a joy to Hester?

Hester's sin is the fact that she has had a child out of wedlock.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Hester Prynne's child, Pearl, is her sin incarnate; yet, as her child she brings joy to her forlorn mother. In her interview with Governor Bellingham and the Reverend Wilson, who wish to take Pearl from Hester, Hester fiercely replies to them,

"God gave me the child!" cried she....

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Hester Prynne's child, Pearl, is her sin incarnate; yet, as her child she brings joy to her forlorn mother. In her interview with Governor Bellingham and the Reverend Wilson, who wish to take Pearl from Hester, Hester fiercely replies to them,

"God gave me the child!" cried she. "He gave her, in requital of all things else, which ye had taken from me. She is my happiness!--she is my torture, none the less! Pearl keeps me here in life! Pearl punishes me, too! See ye not, she is the scarlet letter, only capable of being loved, and so endowed with a million-fold the power of retribution for my sin? Ye shall not take her! I will die first!"

As a constant reminder of her sin of passion, Pearl is the living scarlet letter that brings on the ridicule of the children and glances of the community.  She is the fruit of Hester's trangression that demands penitence, love, and patience.  For, Pearl laughs at the As exaggerated shape reflected in the governor's armor, she pelts her mother's mark of shame with burrs, she refuses to cross the brook until her mother replaces the cast off letter upon her bosom.  And, yet, she is a constant companion to the alienated woman bereft of all human companionship but hers. It is with Pearl, who holds her hand "in both her own" when they look up to the minister that Hester feels loved. It is with Pearl that Hester finally returns to the old country from which she has come; it is with Pearl that she has the joy of seeing her daughter married happily. It is with Pearl that Hester feels worthy, for her motherhood is fulfilled.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Pearl is a constant reminder of sin because she is the "love child" born of the secret and illicit union of Hester and Dimmesdale. She is the reason Hester was exposed as a sexually "impure" and is now shunned by society and shamed by having to wear the scarlet letter.

Nevertheless, Pearl is a joy to Hester because of the child she is. She is pure and innocent, her soul white like a pearl. She is a child of nature, and she has a way of seeing through the surface of things to discern true goodness. She is likened to animals and sunlight.

Ironically, a union that in the eyes of society has left Hester stained "red" as a harlot has produced a "pearl-like" child of innocence and purity. Pearl calls into question just how sinful Hester and Dimmesdale's union really was.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Hester loves Pearl because she is her child and brings her such joy in her life. However, Pearl was conceived due to Hester's adultery with Dimmesdale, so she's a constant reminder of Hester's shame, of why she must wear the scarlet A.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Pearl is a constant reminder of sin because Hester conceived her through adultery, and she is always around. Her very existence is evidence of sin.

She's a joy because she's a fine and loving child, and because Hester loves her dearly.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on