Suffering from the Tolls of Sin in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Suffering from the Tolls of Sin in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter, many of the characters suffer from the tolls of sin, but none as horribly as Hester's daughter Pearl. She alone suffers from sin that is not hers, but rather that of her mother's. From the day she is conceived, Pearl is portrayed as an offspring of vice. She is introduced into the discerning, pitiless domain of the Puritan religion from inside a jail; a place untouched by light, as is the depth of her mother's sin. The austere Puritan ways punish Hester through banishment from the community and the church, simultaneously punishing Pearl in the process. This isolation leads to an unspoken detachment and
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She is described as "the scarlet letter in another form; the scarlet letter endowed with life" (93)! Due to Hester's guilty view of her daughter, she is unable see the gracious innocence in her child.

Hester's views toward Pearl change from merely questioning Pearl's existence to perceiving Pearl as a demon sent to make her suffer. Hawthorne notes that at times Hester is feeling as if an "unutterable pain" (89) creates her penance. Hester even tries to deny that this "imp" is her child, "Thou art not my child! Thou art no Pearl of mine" (90)! It is small wonder that Pearl, who has been raised around sin, becomes little more than a reflection of her environment. Pearl is perceived to then be the walking, living scarlet letter. She is a constant reminder to Hester and the community of the "evil" that Hester has committed. Hester's own sin leads her to believe that Pearl is an instrument of the devil, when in reality she is merely a curious child who cherishes her free nature and wants to be loved by her mother. She is not evil but is portrayed as such because of her mother's actions.
Because of her own profound sin, Hester is always peering into Pearl's burnt ochre eyes to try to discover some evil inside her daughter. "Day after day, she looked fearfully into the child's ever expanding nature, ever dreading to detect some dark and wild peculiarity, that should correspond with the guiltiness to which she owed her being" (82). Pearl is

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