Although Pearl is a complex character, her primary function within the novel is as a symbol. Pearl is a sort of living version of her mother’s scarlet letter. She is the physical consequence of sexual sin and the indicator of a transgression. Yet, even as a reminder of Hester’s “sin,” Pearl is more than a mere punishment to her mother: she is also a blessing. She represents not only “sin” but also the vital spirit and passion that engendered that sin. Thus, Pearl’s existence gives her mother reason to live, bolstering her spirits when she is tempted to give up. It is only after Dimmesdale is revealed to be Pearl’s father that Pearl can become fully “human.” Until then, she functions in a symbolic capacity as the reminder of an unsolved mystery.
We do not know yet what Dimmesdale's Election Sermon consists of, but we might have some ideas. It could reflect his new learning about the importance of confession and responsibility for sin, with or without including his own confession of adultery, or he could use the sermon as a chance for personal redemption. In either case, we sense that Dimmesdale is already doomed, for he has led his congregation astray too long. We see the climax on its way. Dimmesdale, more than Hester, is set up as a martyr who must die in order to teach the town about not only the sin of hypocrisy, but also the sin of denying one's heart to preserve appearances. This is the common problem of restrictive regimes, their forced denial of true feeling in the name of a supposedly greater good. Now it is up to Dimmesdale to reveal that the good for which the Puritans strive can, in the hands of a strict regime, be distorted; a regime that aims for good might inadvertently yield the darkest evil.