Notes to Ch 19, The Child at the Brook-Side
The Scarlet Letter

whom we left in dear old England ...sl19.html#g03
Fairies, wood-dryads, elfs, gods in brooks and trees, and so on were part of pagan, pre-Christian English religion and mythology. Hawthorne continues to use both Puritan England and pagan England as types for attempting to understand New England; both contributed much to its development and his thinking. For more on this contrast, see "The May-pole of Merry Mount."
In her was visible the tie that united them. ...sl19.html#g04
The couple are bound not only by the scarlet letter, a symbol with an obvious and a hidden meaning, but also by the child, who here is also made into an emblem, a hidden symbol of their secret adultery. The adultery itself, of course, was not secret, but the identity of the father was, and Dimmesdale is wondering here how much Pearl resembles him. We know already that Chillingworth has noted that Dimmesdale had an amount of passion, perhaps hereditary, and we wonder if Pearl has got her wildness from him rather than from, or in addition to, Hester. Pearl brings in the element of love that Dimmesdale lacks. But Pearl, being a living person as well as a symbol, has something to say about the interpretation of her by others. Dimmesdale for her is the wicked stepfather and she first must test her mother to see if she can regain control over her. We do not know the origin of her shrieks, but it does not seem to be from Pentecost. Dimmesdale, having no experience in child-tending, is all too ready to attribute her behavior to demons. But Pearl casts a harsh light on their plans to escape together. Hester has to retreat and try to handle this another day.

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Eldred, Eric. Notes to Ch. 19, The Scarlet Letter. 1999. 23 Sep. 1999.


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