Chapter 8 Notes from The Scarlet Letter

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The Scarlet Letter Chapter 8

The meeting between these two groups of people becomes tense. The four men see Pearl first, and ask her who she is. "'I am my mother's child,' answered the scarlet vision, 'and my name is Pearl!'" Chapter 8, pg. 101. They call her "Ruby," "Coral," and "Red Rose" instead.

Topic Tracking: Red 3
Topic Tracking: Truth 3
Topic Tracking: Wild 4

Governor Bellingham tells Hester that the magistrates think Pearl would be better served if she were taken from Hester, put in darker, less outrageous clothes, and given daily religious lessons. Hester replies by saying that the Scarlet Letter has taught her many valuable lessons that she can, and will, pass on to her daughter. Governor Bellingham asks Pearl who made her, and where she comes from. Although Pearl has been given lessons in religion and the Bible by her mother, Pearl refuses to answer correctly. "After putting her finger in her mouth, with many ungracious refusals to answer good Mr. Wilson's questions, the child finally announced that she had not been made at all, but had been plucked by her mother off the bush of wild roses that grew by the prison-door." Chapter 8, pg. 103. Roger Chillingworth smiles at this response, and Hester notices at this moment that his facial features have changed - his face looks darker and more misshapen than before.

Governor Bellingham concludes from Pearl's answer that she must be taken from Hester. Hester responds violently to this suggestion, and, in her fury, turns suddenly to the Reverend Dimmesdale, who was her pastor. "'Speak thou for me!' cried she. 'Thou wast my pastor, and hadst charge of my soul, and knowest me better than these men can. I will not lose the child! Speak for me! Thou knowest, - for thou hast sympathies which these men lack! - thou knowest what is in my heart, and what are a mother's rights, and how much the stronger they are, when that mother has but her child and the scarlet letter! Look thou to it! I will not lose the child! Look to it!'" Chapter 8, pg. 104.

Dimmesdale responds with a solid argument for Hester to keep Pearl, saying that Pearl is as much a curse - a constant reminder - as she is a blessing. Pearl responds to this argument by approaching Dimmesdale, taking his hand, and pressing it against her cheek in an uncharacteristically gentle way.

Topic Tracking: Truth 4

As she leaves Governor Bellingham's house, Hester is stopped by Mistress Hibbins, Bellingham's sister, who, a few years later, is executed as a witch. Mistress Hibbins invites Hester to join the "Black Man" in the forest that night, but Hester declines, saying that, with Pearl, she cannot do any such thing, even if she might want to.

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