Nathaniel Hawthorne makes assertions as to the nature of certain characters in the Scarlet letter, that are not in accordance with the way they are developed. Pearl, it is often told us is flighty but she is described as an ordinary girl. Hester Prynne is described to have undergone violent changes but her personality hasn't changed at all. Dimmesdale is able to keep his self-control in the book but he can't before it. The author tells us some things and shows us others.
The author often claims that Pearl is peculiar, but he rarely shows us anything out of the ordinary. Hawthorne tells us that pearl is off-beat when he says, "…(the) perversity which all children have more or less of, and of which little Pearl had a tenfold portion of…."(103) Pearl isn't the Marilyn Manson of the 1600's she is an ordinary child with an ordinary amount of imagination that surfaces at all the wrong times. In the following scene Pearl tells the minister that god did not make her but she was plucked off a rose bush. She's half right and the other half the author explains for me. "This fantasy was probably suggested by the near proximity of the Governor's red roses; together with her recollection of the prison rose-bush, which she had passed in coming hither."(103) Pearl can't be expected to dispose of her imagination when issues adults think are serious arise. It seems stranger that Pearl caresses the minister's hand than that she thinks she was plucked off a rosebush. Pearl seems a perfectly normal child but the author denounces her as otherwise because Pearl's imagination involves the scarlet letter.
Hester often remarks on how the Scarlet letter has affected her but it doesn't seem to have done so at all. Hester tries to convince the council that she has some thing special to teach Pearl when she says, "This badge has taught me it daily teaches me."(102) If Hester was taught she would see things in a different way and act in a different way but she responds to things in same way throughout the book. The author truthfully describes Hester when he says "Hester with a mind of native courage."(182), Hester has always had courage from the first scaffold scene to bearing others troubles in the end. The scarlet letter doesn't affect her.
By looking at Dimmesdale's character, no one would ever predict his sin, so in effect the characters don't fit their descriptions. The author develops Dimmesdale as a character that doesn't give in to the moment. This is an especially poor choice for a person who has committed adultery. After coming back from the forest Dimmesdale resists the urge to corrupt the people he meets, and he is not in a position where he is ethics minded. "The minister was glad to have reached this shelter without first betraying himself to the world by any of these wicked eccentricities to which he had been continually impelled while passing through the streets"(203). The minister is able to resist several temptations in succession in time of weakness, but he cannot resist Hester in time of strength.
Hawthorne fails to show congruity in what he tells and what he shows. Hester is a symbol of constant strength but we are told that she changes. The most holy minister commits adultery and a typical child with an average amount of curiosity accused of being abnormal. Has one of our sacred American authors broken the sacred English rule, show don't tell?