Pearl: A Modern Woman
“Guilt or innocence becomes irrelevant… as we flounder in a morass or artificial rules poorly conceived and often impossible [to apply].”
-Warren E. Burger
In the 17th century, many stringent moral guidelines governed the tenants of Puritan society. In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne depicts this society and how they deal with sin. Hester Prynne, an outsider to this society, comes to the New World ahead of her husband. In this two-year separation, Hester has a forbidden affair with the town minister, Arthur Dimmesdale. The product of this liaison is the innocent little Pearl, Hester’s daughter. When the Puritans realize Hester is pregnant with a child whose father is not her husband, they shun her to the outskirts of town, where Pearl is raised. Pearl’s father, Dimmesdale, never acknowledges Pearl in fear of losing his high status in society. Thus, she has to grow up without an earthly father. Despite the tragic circumstances surrounding the exclusion of Pearl from Salem society, she is victorious in the embodiment of her mother’s moral code, which transforms her into a modern woman.
Undoubtedly, the exclusion of Pearl from society is tragic because she is only a child. Yet, she is looked at with disgust since she came “out of the rank luxuriance of a guilty passion”(ch13). Born into a Puritan prison of “artificial rules”, she fails to socialize with the other Puritan children whose parents have instructed them not to talk to her. Emoting her misanthropy towards them, she would throw “stones at them as they played”, and then laugh with enjoyment. Her sociopathic antics, the Puritans claimed, were signs of the Devil. However, in reality the way that Pearl acts is simply how all other children do. When Hester and Pearl are waiting for Dimmesdale in the forest, Pearl dances around in the light, when she notices that the light seems to be shunning her mother. Then suddenly she realizes “the light will not flee from [her] -- for [she...