The Scarlet Letter Questions and Answers
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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What was Hester's conflict with herself in The Scarlet Letter?  

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Hester Prynne also has a profound internal conflict over her feelings for her daughter, Pearl. On the one hand, there's no doubt that Hester genuinely loves Pearl. She is Hester's happiness, as she herself openly proclaims. Yet, at the same time, Hester frankly acknowledges that Pearl is also "her torture, nonetheless." The main problem is that Pearl acts as a constant reminder of her sin, her adultery. She is Dimmesdale's love-child, and her birth out of wedlock is the direct cause of Hester's public branding as an adulteress and her subsequent expulsion from the community.

But Pearl also represents that side of Hester's character which led her to conduct an adulterous liaison with Dimmesdale, the slightly wild, artistic, creative free-spirit; someone who really doesn't belong in a Puritan theocracy. It is Pearl's wayward, effervescent nature that leads many of the townsfolk to regard her as the devil's spawn. Hester is disturbed by Pearl's nature, but blames herself as she sees it as a...

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