Excerpts from chapters from Understanding The Scarlet Letter:
Excerpts from chapters from Understanding The Scarlet Letter: A Student
Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents by Claudia Durst Johnson
(courtesy of Greenwood Press)
In "The Scarlet Letter" (p. 83) Pennell, like Johnson, explores Pearl's
symbolic relationship to and fascination with the letter "A," whether it is scarlet
or a natural green.
"Pearl is often referred to as the living version of the letter, a vital symbol of her mother's and Dimmesdale's sin. Pearl herself is fascinated by the letter, fixating upon it as an infant and questioning her mother about it as soon as she is old enough to talk. She perceives that in some way her own being is attached to the meanings behind the letter, but the nature of this attachment remains for her a mystery. The letter also signifies a visible bond between mother and child, and when Hester removes the letter in the forest, Pearl is distressed to discover it missing. She insists that it be replaced, reasserting her own claim over Hester's loyalty and affection that had so recently been offered to Dimmesdale. When Pearl makes for herself a letter A in imitation of her mother, she fashions it out of seaweed, signifying her own tie to the natural world, for green is the color of hope and of life" (83).