The Scarlet Letter - Symbolism

The Scarlet Letter is a book of much symbolism. One of the
most complex and misunderstood symbols in the book is Pearl, the
daughter of Hester Prynne. Pearl, throughout the story, develops into
a dynamic symbol - one that is always changing. In the following
essay, I will explore some of the symbolism which Pearl came to
represent throughout the novel.

In The Scarlet Letter, Hester, for her sins, received a
scarlet letter, "A" which she had to wear upon her chest. This was
the Puritan way of treating her as a criminal, for the crime of
adultery. The Puritan treatment continued, because as Hester would
walk through the streets, she would be looked down upon as if she were
some sort of demon from Hell, that committed a terrible crime. This
would give her much mental anguish and grief. On the other hand,

Godís treatment of Hester for her sin was quite different than just a
physical token: he gave Hester the punishment of a very unique child
which she named Pearl. This punishment handed down from God was a
constant mental and physical reminder to Hester of what she had done
wrong, and she could not escape it. In this aspect, Pearl symbolized

Godís way of punishing Hester for adultery.

The way Hesterís life was ruined for so long was the ultimate
price that Hester paid for Pearl. With Pearl, Hesterís life was one
almost never filled with joy, but instead a constant nagging. Pearl
would harass her mother over the scarlet "A" which she wore. Pearl
would also make her own "A" to wear, and sometimes she played games
with her motherís, trying to hit it with rocks. When Hester would go
into the town with Pearl, the other children would make fun of her,
and Pearl would yell and throw dirt at them. So, in this case, Pearl
symbolized the decimation of Hesterís life and mental state.

Although Hester had so much trouble with Pearl, she still felt
that Pearl was her treasure. Pearl was really the only thing that

Hester had in life, and if Pearl wasnít in Hesterís life, Hester would
almost surely have committed suicide. Once and a while, Pearl would
bring joy to Hesterís life, and that helped her to keep on living.

Pearl really symbolized a rose to her mother, at some times she could
be bright and vibrant, and really love her mother, but at other times,
she could be wilting. It was at these times when she was "wilting"
that brought Hester the most grief.

One final way in which Pearl symbolized something in the novel
was with her association with the scarlet letter. Pearl really was
the scarlet letter, because if Pearl had never been born, Hester would
have never been found guilty of adultery, and thus never would have
had to wear that burden upon her chest. Without that burden, Hester
would have led a much better life then the one she had throughout the

In closing, Pearl was a source of many different kinds of
symbolism. From being a rose, to representing the scarlet letter "A",
she was a kind of burden, yet love for Hester. And as a final note,

Pearl was more then her motherís only treasure; she was her motherís
only source of survival.