“God gave me the child!” cried she. “He gave her in requital of all things else, which ye had taken from me. She is my happiness! – she is my torture, none the less! Pearl keeps me here in life! Pearl punishes me too! See ye not, she is the scarlet letter, only capable of being loved, and so endowed with a million-fold the power of retribution for my sin? Ye shall not take her! I will die first!”
In this beautiful, but confusing quotation from the book, Hester speaks of her love for her child. Motherly love is one of the (if not the) strongest thing(s) in the world. Even though Pearl is a sort of reminder for Hester of her sin, similar to the scarlet letter she wears, she says that Pearl is the only thing that keeps her going. “She is my happiness!” Hester exclaims. But she does not only say that Pearl is like the scarlet letter, but says “she is the scarlet letter, only capable of being loved.” How bizarre this sounds, yet how perfect its sense makes! Pearl is a reminder, but Hester loves her so greatly, that it does not matter anymore. Also, when Hester says that Pearl is “endowed with.. the power of retribution,” it is possible she is referring to a belief she has that if she raises Pearl well, she may be forgiven for her sin. This is one of the many ways that she is actively tying to achieve forgiveness, which I think is a sign of repentance in Hester. Her community should have also been able to see that Hester was repentant and forgiven her. Hester is trying to make the best of her bad situation.
It’s a good lesson for everyone. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.