Chapter 19 – The Child at the Brook-side
Pearl joins with Hester and Dimmesdale and Dimmesdale confesses that he has
always been afraid that someone would see his features in his daughter. Hester warns Dimmesdale not to overwhelm Pearl with emotion.
Pearl notices that the scarlet letter has been discarded and that her mother’s hair is falling about her shoulders. Pearl bursts into a fit of passion and it is not clear whether she is upset at her mother’s changed appearance, or whether it is the presence of Dimmesdale.
He is distraught and begs Hester to placate the child.
Hester changes her appearance back, and Pearl mockingly kisses the scarlet letter. Pearl then asks if Dimmesdale will acknowledge her in public. Dimmesdale kisses Pearl on the forehead and she immediately goes to the brook to wash the kiss off. She remains at the brook away from the adults.
The reader’s hope that there is to be a happy ending appears to be short-lived.
Although Pearl loves the freedom of the wilderness, her mother is not to share in this adventure. The fact that her mother is constrained by her shame has given Pearl a sense of stability, a safe haven to return to after her spells of freedom. In fact, it is not the letter A that is the reminder of Hester’s sin, but Pearl herself.