Dr. Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century

Dr. Jiena Sun.

American Literature.15 October 2016  Pearl—The Voice of Hester’s Silent Love   Hawthorne’s The Scarlet letter, one of her appealing masterpieces, is a mysterious and complicated novel about human relationships that accompany adult life in Boston. A minute description of the main characters such as Hester, Dimmesdale and Chillingworth serves the themes of the novel and arouses great interest among the masses. Similarly, little Pearl born out of “the luxuriance of a guilty passion” also has symbolic meaning on the study of other main characters, especially on Hester, and is of great value to the comprehensive interpretation of the story’s plot. The heroine Hester in Hawthorne’s story The Scarlet Letter takes silence as a power to defend herself against the external world. Pearl, regarded as a living scarlet letter, to a great extent, makes her own voice and becomes an agent of her mother’s silent love..It is provided in Sandra M.

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Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination, women in traditional fictions are created subject to male characters without autonomy and thereby they are almost silent and being silenced in patriarchal society (14). However, as argued in Leland S. Person, Jr’s 1989 publication Hester’s Revenge: The Power of Silence in The Scarlet Letter, Hester takes a strategic silence working its vengeful effect (466). In other words, Hester’s life seems to be of feminine submission, but such silence actually is just apparent; under the guise of her silence, she could exercise her pursuit of individual freedom. There is no doubt that Hester has a love for Dimmesdale although her silence of two secrets respectively to Dimmesdale and Chillingworth unintentionally leads to the fates of them. On the contrary, continuously questioning the meaning of the scarlet letter on Hester’s breast and Dimmesdale’s strange gesture, Pearl dFoesn’t choose to be silent as her mother does but instead she acts to show her mother’s inner love.

  Pearl, representing sin to the Puritan community, is a physical proof of human sinfulness and moral frailty but also a reminder of Dimmesdale’s love as well as Hester’s. Chenghe Yao points out in A Pre-symbolic Struggle: Pearl’s Subject-construction in The Scarlet Letter that the establishment of an infant child’s internal world has a great influence on him or her and such an early psychological experience is closely related to his or her mother. (1244) Thereby, Pearl’s perverse behaviors and attitudes toward Dimmesdale on behalf of her mother are rather acceptable. From the analysis of Pearl’s changing attitudes toward the minister, readers can see Hester’s love for him. When Dimmesdale stands upon the scaffold to confess at midnight due to his great inner sin, he encounters Hester and Pearl. Seeing Dimmesdale’s suffering she has compelled on for seven years, Hester is in mixed feelings and hence she determines to encounter Chillingworth afterwards.

It is noticed here that when Pearl inquires the minister “Wilt thou stand here with mother and me, to-morrow noontide?”(98) and gets an answer of “Nay; not so, my little Pearl”(98). Pearl’s voice of questioning her father is equivalently the voice of Hester. Pearl, as a child, expresses her feeling directly, hoping that the minister could acknowledge his relationship with them in public, which also implies Hester’s desire for his lover’s recognition. Subseqkuently, Dimmesdale finally confesses his part in Hester’s adultery near the end of the novel.

Compared with the Pearl’s attitudes to the minister before, this time, things are different. As he stands before the community at the scaffold, Pearl “kissed his lips”, showing her acceptance of Dimmesdale because he has publicly admitted that he is Hester’s lover and Pearl’s father. Here, Pearl forgives the minister and her kiss also becomes a vivid portrayal of Hester’s inner love and forgiveness to Dimmesdale.

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