Monthly Archives: November 2015

Natural Imagery in Chapter 16 of The Scarlet Letter


Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is filled with natural imagery that is consistent throughout the book, but is especially evident when exploring Pearl and her characteristics. Her name itself represents something beautiful and valuable, which is particularly evident throughout chapter VI, especially when Hawthorne writes  “She named the infant “Pearl,” as being of great price,” (499). Her name translates her strength and power which develops in her strong characteristic of fearlessness. This is an overwhelming aspect of this book, and is especially significant when looking at the close connection drawn between Pearl and the scarlet A. Many times throughout the book, people think of Pearl and her mother’s sin as one and the same. Although she is extremely wise for her age, Pearl is seemingly unsure of the meaning of the scarlet letter on her mother’s chest. Pearl exclaims “the sunshine does not love you,” (551) when “it runs away and hides itself, because it is afraid of something on your bosom” (551). This illustrates the natural imagery of how the light avoids Hester because of her sin, which is similar to how people regard Pearl. She is avoided because she is looked at as a sin herself, rather than a child born from others’ sin. The connection between Pearl’s fearless attitude and her negative association with sin is further shown when she says “Stand you here, and let me run and catch it” (551), talking about chasing the light. She shows her lack of fear when she says “It will not flee from me; for I wear nothing on my bosom yet,” (551). When Pearl does eventually catch a circle of light, Hawthorne writes how “her mother could have fancied that the child absorbed it into herself” (551) when the light vanished after Hester approaches “the magic circle” (551) of sunlight that envelopes Pearl. The focus of the light on Pearl is significant in comparison to the negative perception which constantly surrounds her because of her mother’s sin. In describing this natural spotlight in this passage of The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne uses natural imagery to highlight Pearl and her fearlessness, despite people’s generally negative perception of her.