The Scarlet Letter


Chapter 7 to Chapter 12

Chapter Seven

The significant activity in chapter seven is that Hester is threatened with the loss of her child. Pearl’s free nature has caused some people to believe that Hester is raising her improperly, prompting them to seek that Pearl be removed from her mother’s care. Hester remains free to leave Boston, and could easily remove Pearl and herself from the threat that they will be separated. However, Hester decides that she will confront the problem rather than run from it. Governor Bellingham had ordered gloves from Hester, and thus she plans to use the opportunity of delivering the gloves to plead to keep Pearl with her.

Hester’s behavior in pleading for Pearl helps point out the seemingly irreconcilable facets of her nature. She is going to humble herself before Bellingham and plead for the right to a child of hers, even though she is the one who has remained in Boston and, therefore, willingly subjected herself to Bellingham’s rule. On the other hand, she dresses Pearl in a manner that can only be considered defiant. Puritan norms held that flashy clothing was inappropriate, yet Hester dresses Pearl in a scarlet dress with golden embroidery. She simultaneously embraces Puritan norms while rejecting them. Hawthorne uses this chapter to criticize the Puritans who want to remove a child from a mother who is caring for her because of their perceptions about the mother’s moral behavior.

The trip to the governor’s home helps highlight some of the concerns about Pearl’s behavior. She is very different from the other children in the town, and Hester’s choice to dress her in a way that elicits thoughts of Hester’s scarlet letter only helps highlight those differences. Furthermore, Pearl seems content to be different. When town children taunt her during the trip to the governor’s house, Pearl responds not with shame, but with anger. However, Hawthorne does not characterize her behavior as solely negative. He actually refers to her as an angel of judgment. Moreover, the color red...

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