The Scarlet Letter Chapter 19 Summary and Analysis
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Chapter 19 Summary and Analysis

Hester tells Dimmesdale that he will learn to love Pearl as her father. He has been afraid of showing any affection or special consideration toward her, because of their situation, but he must admit she's a beautiful child. For the first time, he and Hester look upon her together as her parents. Hester calls Pearl over to speak to Dimmesdale, but Pearl hesitates. For seven years, Pearl has been her mother's only companion, and she's confused by the sudden presence of Dimmesdale in their lives. Instead of heeding her mother's call, she stands on the opposite side of the brook, staring at her parents. Seeing the scarlet letter in the grass, Pearl points at Hester's chest, furious. Pearl stamps her feet and throws a terrible tantrum until Hester finally picks up the scarlet letter and pins it to her clothes. "Now thou art my mother indeed!" Pearl cries, as if she didn't recognize her mother without the letter.

Finally, Pearl comes to her mother's side, kissing Hester, then kissing the scarlet letter. Dimmesdale likewise kisses Pearl on the forehead, but Pearl, jealous of his relationship with Hester and irritated by his refusal to stand with them in public that day, runs to the brook and washes off the kiss. This is the end of their "interview," which can be thought of as an audition where Dimmesdale and Pearl try out the roles of father and daughter.


Hawthorne personifies the babbling brook as one with a "little heart" that collects sad tales.
When Hester calls to Pearl, she shouts, "Thou canst leap like a young deer!" This simile again likens the girl to an animal, emphasizing her wildness and, in this case, her youthful grace.
The Brook.  This brook marks the symbolic divide between the wild natural world Pearl inhabits and the solemn real world of her parents. When Hester removed the scarlet letter, she made that solemn real world a brighter, happier place where Hester's passionate nature becomes obvious. Pearl balks at this change and refuses to cross the brook unless Hester puts on the scarlet letter. In effect, Pearl refuses to allow her mother to enter the wild natural world of freedom...

(The entire section is 546 words.)