When does Hawthorne show Pearl beginning to show a remarkable degree of intuition?

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shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne uses the young Pearl to enhance the characterizations of both Hester Prynne and Reverend Dimmesdale. She is presented as an extraordinary young child, possessing an uncommon physical beauty along with an untamed nature. She is also intelligent and intuitive.

Her intuition is manifested in her behavior toward Reverend Dimmesdale, who is, unbeknownst to her and the community at large, her father. The reader first sees this intuitive behavior in chapter 8: “The Elf-Child and the Minister.” Near the end of this chapter, Governor Bellingham, believing that Hester is not an appropriate parent, is seriously considering removing Pearl from her mother’s care. Hester is terrified of this possibility, and in her desperation she demands that Reverend Dimmesdale plead on her behalf. He does so effectively, and Governor Bellingham agrees to let Pearl remain with Hester.

It is here that Pearl’s intuitive sense is first made evident. When Dimmesdale finishes speaking, Pearl goes to him:

Pearl, that wild and flighty little elf, stole softly towards him, and taking his hand in the grasp of both her own, laid her cheek against it; a caress so tender, and withal so unobtrusive, that her mother, who was looking on, asked herself, “Is that my Pearl?”

Pearl’s action indicates that she has a positive predisposition toward Dimmesdale. In fact, he is the only person (other than her mother) toward whom Pearl has such an affection. This gives the reader an inkling that Dimmesdale may be her unnamed father.

acousticnic | Student

Great question. Look up any interaction between Pearl, Dimmesdale and Hester Prynne. Pearl remarks how Dimmesdale often covers his heart with his hand. There is also a scene in the forest where Hester beckons Pearl to join her and Arthur on the other side of a brook (or wherever Pearl is standing opposite). Pearl responds that she cannot join them. There is a symbolism here for the immorality of the action. There might also be an example of this when we first learn about Hester's life alone, on the outskirts of the town. Pearl might have commented on the villagers' relationship with Hester.

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The Scarlet Letter

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