In the novel, The Scarlet Letter, author Nathaniel Hawthorne uses vivid figures to express his story. The main character, Hester Prynne, is an adulterous character that ends up having a good-hearted soul. Arthur Dimmesdale is a respected minister but hides a sin that eventually destroys him from the inside. Roger Chillingworth has a distorted soul that represents true evil to the fullest. However, one character has more mystery to her than any other. Pearl, at times thought to be of “demon origin” and perhaps not a “human child”, provides an essential balance to the book but is really not exposed to a full extent (84, 92). She possesses unexplainable mysterious qualities that give this story a mystical twist. As Hester’s “emblem of guilt and torture”, Pearl does remind many of the terrible sin that was committed, but that reminder is necessary to keep many characters in check with their lives.
From the time of her birth, Pearl is abnormal to look upon. The “first object of which Pearl seemed to become aware was the scarlet letter on Hester’s bosom” (88). She is intrigued with the sight of the embroidered letter. As a young child, Pearl seems to detect a secret (to her) meaning of the A on Hester’s bosom even though no one has explained it to her. Additionally, as Pearl grows older, she senses a special connection between her mother and Reverend Dimmesdale, as well as the evil lurking within the figure known as Chillingworth.
As she forms an A using eel-grass, she recognizes that Hester wears the letter “for the same reason that the minister keeps his hand over his heart” (163). Somehow, deep inside, she must know that Dimmesdale is her true father, like a special father-daughter connection. In the dramatic forest scene she also calls Chillingworth the “Black Man”; he is the individual who inflicts so much inner pain on the minister (123). Pearl figures out that “he hath got hold of the minister already” and what evil he had in store of Hester (123).
Pearl arrival in the story is appropriate, as she enters with Hester straight from the beginning, on the scaffold. She is publicly born out of adultery and is a physical representation of the grave sin itself. Hester even refers to her as “the scarlet letter, only capable of being loved, and so endowed with a million-fold the power of retribution of my sin” (104). Pearl is a central part of the tale and provides balance between society and the individual; she is an angel of judgment that accompanies Hester during isolation and permanently connects Hester and Dimmesdale forever. Pearl’s wild and otherworldly features are similar to the brook in the forest; she’s an obstacle in life, but flows through melancholy and keeps all around her stable. Pearl acts as a symbol of hope for Hester to make it through such a tough time dealing with the scarlet letter.
As the book progresses, Pearl is intent on obtaining the true meaning of the scarlet letter and supporting Dimmesdale with his tough situation. During the final scaffold scene when Dimmesdale reveals his mark to the town and lays dying, Pearl finally shows emotion to someone other than her mother with, “her tears [falling] upon her father’s cheek” (233). The narrator then conspicuously reveals Pearl’s purpose in the book, as it is stated that, “Pearl’s errand as a messenger of anguish was all fulfilled” (233). As soon as Dimmesdale passes, Pearl becomes a real person, not a human depictment of the scarlet letter. Time goes by, Pearl starts her own life, and functions as a normal being unlike anything she was as a child.
The character of Pearl leads The Scarlet Letter to be a mysterious, unfinished novel. She is never fully explained, from her apparent abnormal qualities as a child to all the time that passes after Dimmesdale dies when she is becoming a real person, or so to speak. We know that Hester returns to Boston (from England) after a certain period of time, but Pearl is nowhere to be seen. “But where was little Pearl?” (238). However, Pearl’s job has been accomplished; she sustains equilibrium between all the individuals (and society) in the book.
She is Hester’s lone partner during her seclusion, she gets Dimmesdale to finally confess his sin, and she is informed (somehow) of Chillingworth’s evil doings and intentions. At the end, she becomes a strong young woman free from abnormality and derision. She was put into the book to help, and in the end her actions, although odd, paid off for all whom she aided.