scarlet letter ambiguity

Ambiguity and The Scarlet Letter go better together than two people that have

happily married for 75 years. There is no exemption in Hawthorne’s
exquisite symbolism

of one of his main characters, Pearl. The Scarlet Letter A, worn by Hester
Prynne, was a

punishment for the immoral sin of adultery she had committed. Following
Hester\'s act of

adultery, she became pregnant with a baby girl whom she named Pearl. From the

moment that we are introduced to Pearl in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The

Letter, we get the sense that there is something strange and unnatural about
her. Pearl

acts very differently than the other people in Boston in that she seems to be
much more

vibrant than the others. We see this displayed in various different forms
like her dress, her

mood swings, her sometimes mischievous behavior, and her constant liveliness.

Throughout the novel, Pearl is used by Hawthorne to symbolize many different

and the ambiguity come together for one significant meaning.

A critic of Hawthorne states, “when depth and ambiguity are much admired in

writing, Hawthorne has continued to offer enough complexity and mystery to
hold a wide

variety of readers.”(Davidson, 361) Pearl was not accepted by virtually
anyone; her

unavoidable seclusion was due to the sin of her mother. Pearl was always

somehow. Throughout all of this, Pearl is labeled with many symbols that are

in understanding Hawthorne’s novel, and they will be explained in the


For one, Pearl is the living embodiment of the scarlet letter. She is the
result from

Hester’s and Dimmesdale’s sins. Pearl plays one of the most crucial roles
in The Scarlet

Letter. Hawthorne uses Pearl as a dynamic character; she is a constant
reminder to Hester

of her sin. When we were first introduced to Pearl, she was immediately drawn
to the

Scarlet A on Hester’s bosom. “But the first object of which Pearl seemed
to become

aware was the scarlet letter on Hester’s bosom! One day, as her mother
stooped over the

cradle, the infant’s eyes had been caught by the glimmering of the gold
embroidery about

the letter’ and, putting up her little hand, she grasped at it, smiling not
doubtfully, but with

a decided gleam.” (Hawthorne, 88). Beginning when she was conceived, Pearl
served as a

reminder of the Scarlet A on her bosom. Hawthorne shows this symbolism
various times.

In Chapter 7, Pearl and Hester go to the Governor’s house and Pearl’s
attire “inevitably

reminded the beholder of the token which Hester Prynne was doomed to wear
upon her

bosom. It was the scarlet letter in another form; the scarlet letter endowed
with life!”

(Hawthorne, 93). Pearl is dressed in a scarlet dress with gold fringe exactly
resembling the

Scarlet A on Hester’s bosom. Pearl had a natural preference to focus on the
Scarlet Letter,

which is show in Chapter 15. “…Pearl took some eel-grass, and imitated,
as best as she

could, on her own bosom, the decoration with which she was so familiar on her

A letter, the letter A, but freshly green, instead of scarlet!” (Hawthorne,
163). In this

scene, Hester eventually has to deny its significance to Pearl after she
constantly confronts

her mother of its significance. One of the most symbolic scenes in the novel
occurs in the

forest as Pearl and Hester are traveling to meet Dimmesdale. Pearl remarks to
Hester that

“the sunshine does not love you. It runs away and hides itself, because it
is afraid of

something on your bosom.” (Hawthorne, 168). Sunshine, which can symbolize

happiness or the approval of God and nature, rejects Hester because of her
sin and the

“thing on her bosom”. Therefore, this confirms that Pearl constantly
reminds her of her sin

and her punishment. In one of the most dramatic scenes in the novel, Pearl
prevents Hester

from escaping her sin and shame. Pearl “bursts into a fit of passion” and
will not go to her

mother until she puts the Scarlet A back on her bosom and places her hair

underneath her cap. In the one moment that Hester attempts to escape her sin,

refuses to acknowledge her until she returns to the shameful mother that she
has always

known. Pearl is a child without guilt, with all a child’s freshness and
spontaneity, however

to Hester is a persistent remembrance to the Scarlet A, which she must bare
on her bosom.

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. As Pearl’s symbolic meaning of being the embodiment
of the

scarlet letter, this is not the only symbolic meaning that she has.

Pearl is also symbolic in that she symbolized innocence. She did absolutely

nothing to be treated how she was