In The Scarlet Letter, why does Pearl cry at the the end of Chapter 7?

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ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the end of Chapter 7, Pearl and Hester have just arrived at Governor Bellingham's. Pearl spots suit of armor in the entryway but Hester draws her away by saying,"“Come along, Pearl!” said she, drawing her away. “Come and look into this fair garden. It may be, we shall see flowers there; more beautiful ones than we find in the woods.” Pearl rushed to the window at the end of the hallway and sees the beautiful rose bushes. "Pearl, seeing the rose-bushes, began to cry for a red rose, and would not be pacified." Hester tries to quiet the child because she says the governor is coming. However, Pearl "in utter scorn of her mother's attempt to quiet her, gave an eldritch scream, and then became silent." Her silence is not because she has been pacified but because "the quick and mobile curiosity of her disposition was excited by the appearance of these new personages."

This passage helps establish Pearl's elfish nature but also her connection with the rose bush and its symbolism. The rose bush represents something beautiful that appears in an ugly setting and also connotes independence because it supposedly the rose bush by the prison sprang up when Anne Hutchinson, a stubborn believer in religious independence, stepped on the place where the rose bush now grew. In this scene, we get a taste of Pearl's independent and stubborn personality. We also see her love for nature, which represents both freedom and beauty in the novel. 

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter VII of "Scarlet Letter," Hawthorne develops his symbolic "A" with imagination:  The scarlet A, unimaginative symbol of itself is magnified in the breastplate as well as in Pearl, the living symbol of Hester's sin.  Pearl herself is developed more in this chapter; her capricious nature is obvious.  In fact, she is almost fiendish in her appearance in the breastplate and in her cruel insistence that her mother look into the reflection that exaggerates the letter "so as to be greatly the most prominent feature of her appearance."

Wishing to distract Pearl from this cruel reflection, Hester suggests that they walk in the garden where Pearl espies the rose bush:

Pearl, seeing the rose-bushes, began to cry for a red rose, and would not be pacified.

Her mother seeks to quiet her by telling her that there are people approaching.  Pearl "scorns" her mother's attempt to quiet her, giving "an eldritch [unearthly] scream," and then quiets down because she is excited by the appearance of the magistrates.

The single red rose outside the prison door in Chapter I is symbolic of Hester and her passionate nature.  Now, in Chapter VII, the rose reappears as a symbol of the passionate nature of Hester's child Pearl.

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The Scarlet Letter

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