Study Guide

The Scarlet Letter Chapter 6

By Nathaniel Hawthorne

Chapter 6


  • Hester names her daughter Pearl, a reference to Jesus' proverb describing heaven as a "pearl of great price"; when a merchant came upon a pearl, he sold all he had to buy it.
  • Just like Hester gave up her "treasure"—her reputation as a chaste woman—for her daughter.
  • Hester is pretty worried that Pearl will be marked by sin in some way, but her daughter seems fine.
  • Actually, more than fine: she's pretty and charming and basically would be the most popular girl at school if she weren't an outcast like her mom.
  • And one other thing: Pearl is passionate. She will not obey rules.
  • You can imagine that passionate Pearl doesn't always respond kindly to Puritan children's insults.
  • Because she's grown up as an outcast, even her imaginary friends are adversaries. That's intense.
  • The first object Pearl notices as she grows up is Hester's "A."
  • Whenever Pearl looks at the letter, Hester imagines her features assuming devilish qualities.
  • One particularly memorable summer's day, Pearl invents the fun game of throwing flowers at the scarlet letter.
  • Hester feels like each flower is wounding her, so she cries out and asks Pearl what she is.
  • Hester's "little Pearl," of course.
  • For some reason, that answer doesn't satisfy mom, so she keeps asking who (or what) she is, and what sent her.
  • Finally, Pearl says, "You guess!" Hester replies, "Thy Heavenly Father sent thee!" but she hesitates.
  • Pearl catches the hesitation.
  • Oh, and did we mention that some of the townspeople insist that Pearl is the offspring of demons?

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