Last Updated on January 24, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 518
Hawthorne’s narrator diverges from the narrative in order to devote this entire chapter to discussing Pearl, Hester’s child, so named because she came at a “great price” and was Hester’s “treasure.” The girl has no physical defects, but Hester fears that there’s a “dark and wild peculiarity” about her and starts to think of her not as a human child but as an “elf” (meaning a supernatural creature). Though she loves Pearl deeply, Hester has difficulty controlling and teaching this elf child and doesn’t have the mettle to rebuke the child. As such, Pearl grows up a willful but enchanting child.
Quickly enough, Pearl reaches the age where it’s customary for children to begin playing with other children. Pearl, however, is just as much of an outcast as her mother and is consigned to grow up in imposed loneliness. Luckily, Pearl’s character makes this easier than one would expect. She doesn’t seem to mind playing alone and doesn’t like the other kids. In fact, she hates them and lashes out at them whenever they gather round to make fun of her.
Hester worries that her daughter isn’t human because of her animosity toward the other children. At times, she looks at Pearl and thinks of her as an elf creature rather than as her human daughter. In a particularly striking moment, Hester asks, “Child, what are thou?” when Pearl throws wildflowers at Hester’s scarlet letter. Hester fears that the devil sent Pearl to her. When she asks if the Heavenly Father sent Pearl, the girl says, “Do thou tell me!” Hester can’t come to a conclusion. Pearl’s origins remain a mystery.