When the Reverend Mr. Wilson, who is at Governor Bellingham's mansion, asks Pearl who made her, what does she reply?  Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter"

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Scarlet Letter," Pearl, who has a "freakish, elfish cast" is unpredictable in her behavior.  When "the old minister seated in an arm-chair" asks Pearl, "Canst thou tell me, my child, who made thee?" she refuses to answer with what she has learned in her catechism.  Instead, the child who "could have borne a fair examination in the New England Primer, or the first column of the Westminster Catechisms," refuses to respond, putting her finger to her lips. Finally she announces that

she had not been made at all, but had been plucked by her motehr off the bush of wild roses that grew by the prison-door.  This fantasy was probably suggested by the near proximity of the Governor's red roses, as Pearl stood outside of the window; together with her recollection of the prison rose-bush, which she had passed in coming hither.

Of course, this passage is significant because it points to the symbolism of the roses as passion, as well as the close connection of Pearl as a child of Nature, free of the hypocrisy of society. Of course, Mr. Wilson is appalled that the child does not know, appalled that the child's Christian education is being neglected:

Without question, she is equally in the dark as to her soul, its present depravity, and future destiny!

The minister feels that Pearl should, indeed, be taken from her sinful mother.  Clutching the child to her breast, Hester explains that God has given her this child to remind her of the sin of adultery.  Also, Pearl is her punishment to effect her retribution for her sin.  She pleads for Pearl according to her "mother's rights."

Fortunately, Rev. Dimmesdale intercedes upon her behalf, reinforcing what Hester has declared:  "There is truth in what she says...and in the feeling which inspires her!...Therefore it is good for this poor, sinful woman that she hath an infant immortality, a being capable of eternal joy or sorrow, confided to her care,--to be trained up by her to righteousness,--to remind her, at every moment of her fall,--but yet to teach her...the child also will bring its parent thither!

The rose, the passion of Hester humanized in little Pearl will wilt and die unless this mother and child remain together.

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The Scarlet Letter

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