Angel and Apostle

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In this first person narrative, Pearl describes herself. She is the daughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne's character Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter. She rebels against the strictures of the Puritan community and acts out, reflecting both her independent, willful personality and her anger at her own unloved state in life. Though she lives close to her mother, Hester remains distracted from her daughter by the events of her own live, longing as she does for one man in a life ruined by another. Pearl escapes her tedious and dreary life in the forest, a place where she feels most herself. In one of her private forays, she discovers a beautiful blind neighbor, Simon. She thrives on showing him her world, and they find joy and peace in each other's company.

Circumstances related to the harsh Puritan culture of Boston require that Hester and Pearl move to England. They gain assistance from surprising sources—Caleb Milton, Simon's father, who finds them a home and employment, and Pearl's father, who sets aside money so they can one day have a home.

Life seems positive when, after Pearl is grown, another apparently ideal opportunity presents itself. Nehemiah, Simon's brother, offers marriage to Pearl. She accepts; they marry, and her mother returns to America. When her husband ships out to sea for months at a time, Pearl faces the same sense of loneliness and abandon she felt as a child. She seeks the familiar comfort of Simon with life-altering effects.

While Deborah Noyes's research has imbued this story of a very contemporary- seeming young woman with the speech and the experiences of another era, Pearl resonates with feelings not bound by time or place.