Readers of The Scarlet Letter perceive Pearl as she who personifies her mother’s sinful extramarital affair. After all, Hester adorns her in the same manner as the infamous letter. Yet, near the end of the book Hawthorne revealed, through Reverend Dimmesdale’s final moments, another reason behind his characterization of Pearl:
“Pearl kissed his lips. A spell was broken. The great scene of grief, in which the wild infant bore a part, had developed all her sympathies; and as her tears fell upon her father's cheek, they were the pledge that she would grow up amid human joy and sorrow, nor forever do battle with the world, but be a woman in it. Towards her mother, too, Pearl's errand as a messenger of anguish was all fulfilled.” (Hawthorne 281)
That is to say, that preternatural fire Pearl has embodied since birth, fueled by shame and secrecy, has finally burned out owing to its lack of fresh fuel. This paragraph is essential to casting light upon Pearl’s other function within the novel. In the following paragraphs, some of Pearl’s interactions with her parents will be reassessed to demonstrate the girl also functions as judgment for their Puritanical, inflexible secrecy concerning the other half of her origins.
To expand upon the subject of human inflexibility, several years after Hester staunchly declares that her daughter “shall never know an earthly [father],” Hester and Pearl are outdoors messing about with wildflowers when Hester suddenly asks “what” her daughter is (Hawthorne 72; 104). Not only is Pearl’s mother naming her an object, but she is also in a sense claiming no knowledge or part in the creation of her daughter. She repeats her question and receives the answer that of course Pearl is her child, but follows again with an outright denial. “‘Thou art not my child! Thou art no Pearl of mine!’” (Hawthorne 104). Hester prompts Pearl, “‘Tell me, then, what thou art, and who sent thee hither,’” to which Pearl replies, “‘Tell me, mother…Do thou tell me!’” (Hawthorne 104). Pearl is telling her mother she knows exactly who is involved in bring her into the world and it is up to her to make it known. She denies a Heavenly Father and says to her tortured mother, “It is thou that must tell me!” (Hawthorne 105). Pearl spends much of her young life entreating her mother in the same indirect manner to just be honest, finally.
Considering Pearl’s relationship with her father before his final admission, there is much denial and avoidance on Dimmesdale’s part that causes Pearl to lash out at him in kind. For instance, when the self-abasing man beseeches Hester and Pearl to stand with him upon the scaffold, he lamentingly tells them, “Ye have both been here before, but I was not with you. Come up hither once again, and we will stand all three together!” (Hawthorne 167). The minister desperately wants to atone for his craven abandonment of those who would be family, but he is too afraid of the public backlash after preaching the virtues...