How Does Hester Prynne Symbolize The Scarlet Letter

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Nathaniel Hawthorne published The Scarlet Letter in 1850 in a time much later than the Puritan setting. The main character, Hester Prynne, commits an act of adultery, subsequently has a child, and is forced to wear the scarlet “A” as punishment. The child produced from Hester’s sin is called Pearl. Pearl is her mother’s greatest treasure, as well as the greatest price Hester has ever paid (Hawthorne 499). In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne uses Pearl to symbolize the Scarlet Letter; her fiend-like actions, her attachment to the letter, and her curiosity of its meaning may all explain why she is the perfect incarnation of the letter. The Scarlet Letter itself is literally a symbol of Hester Prynne’s adulterous sin, but it also represents the…show more content…
The text says “the child’s attire…was distinguished by a fanciful…a fantastic ingenuity” which describes how Hester dressed Pearl though it wasn’t allowed within the Puritan community (Hawthorne 535). Hester equated Pearl with the letter; this can be seen because of how she beautifies the letter and the child with lavish embroidery. Not only is Pearl decorated as the Scarlet Letter, she is also said to be the daily reminder of her mother’s transgressions. Hester says in the governor’s house when her custody of Pearl is on the line that “He [God] gave her, in requital of all things else, which ye had taken from me. She is my happiness!—she is my torture, none the less! Pearl keeps me here in life! Pearl punishes me too! See ye not, she is the Scarlet Letter, only capable of being loved, and so endowed with a million-fold the power of retribution for my sin” (Hawthorne 512). Hester says that Pearl is her entire life, but that she is also the reminder and punishment of her sins just as the Scarlet Letter is also the reminder and punishment. Emily Budick, a writer for the Journal of American studies, writes that in a way Pearl’s existence is not separable from the letter. She states “Throw away the letter signifying the adulterous union by which Pearl was conceived and you throw away Pearl as well”
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