How is Pearl dressed, and what is her dress compared to in Chapter 7?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hester Prynne acknowledges in Pearl's habiliment that her daughter is the incarnation of her sin:

It was the scarlet letter in another form: the scarlet letter endowed with life!

At the same time that Pearl is dressed in scarlet as representative of her sin of passion, Pearl, freed from the oppression of Puritanism as the child of the scorned woman, is a "sprite." Truly, she is a free spirit whose tunic is embellished with embroidered "fantasies and flourishes of gold thread," indicative of her imaginative and spontaneous nature. When, for instance, the other children--"those sombre little urchins" of Puritanism--run to fling mud upon Pearl and her mother, the child spontaneously gives chase to them, screaming and shouting "causing the hearts of the fugitives to quake within them." And, yet, she has a part of her that is naturally exuberant. When, for example, she notices the sunshine on the side of a house, Pearl demands that sunshine be stripped off the building and given to her to play with.

Certainly, Pearl is Hester's sin incarnate; in addition, she is the expression of Hester's inner beauty, her golden warmth and creativity. For, Pearl is no conformist; like the fourishes on her tunic sewn by her mother, Pearl, too, has imagination and spirit, and she allows her nature free expression. Vicariously, then, Hester is afforded self-expression through her sprite daughter.



writergal06 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As Pearl grows, the narrator describes her imaginative spirit and beauty as well as her apparel. Chapter 7 describes Pearl's attire as "a crimson velvet tunic, of a peculiar cut, abundantly embroidered with fantasies and flourishes of gold thread." Just attire set Pearl apart, as traditionally Puritans dressed in plain and somber colors, without much adornment at all. Pearl is dressed to resemble the scarlet letter itself, a result of her mother's own imagination and creativity. Shortly after the description quoted above, the narrator tells us, "It was the scarlet letter in another form; the scarlet letter endowed with life!" Pearl serves as a constant reminder to her mother of the scarlet letter, and her garments appropriately reflect this fact.

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The Scarlet Letter

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