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The Scarlet Letter Chapter 7 Summary

Instructor: Abigail Walker

Abigail has taught writing and literature at various universities. She has an M.A. In literature from American University and an M.F.A. in English from The University of Iowa.

In Chapter 7 of ''The Scarlet Letter,'' we find that Hester plans to speak with Governor Bellingham about her daughter. Hester has learned that some of Boston's leading citizens want Pearl taken from her mother.

Mother and Daughter

Carrying the gloves decorated with embroidery and fringe that Governor Bellingham has requested, Hester Prynne is walking from her cottage to the Governor's Mansion. Accompanying Hester is her rambunctious daughter, Pearl. Even as a child of only three years old, Pearl possesses a rare beauty - made all the more remarkable today by the deep red velvet and intricate gold stitching of the dress she wears. The textures and colors complement her glowing skin, luminous eyes, and long, shiny dark hair.

As becoming as Pearl's dress is, however, the red velvet and the gold embroidery echo the scarlet 'A' on her mother's bodice. This reminder of Pearl's illegitimacy and her own transgression seems particularly ill-advised today: Hester hopes that while delivering his gloves, she will be able to speak with Governor Bellingham about Pearl's fate. Hester has heard that many of Boston's most prominent citizens want to remove Pearl from Hester's care. Some believe that Hester's soul must be protected from Pearl, who they believe is a demon, while others feel certain that Pearl has a chance at salvation, and requires a more virtuous influence than her mother can provide.

Now, as Hester and Pearl approach the center of town, they encounter a group of Puritan children. Staring at the mother and daughter, one young Puritan says:

'Behold, verily, there is the woman of the scarlet letter; and, of a truth, moreover, there is the likeness of the scarlet letter running along by her side! Come, therefore, and let us fling mud at them!'

Fearlessly, Pearl scowls, moves her hand menacingly, and then runs headlong into the group of taunters, chasing them and shrieking at them as they flee. Once they are gone, Pearl returns to her mother's side, smiling.

The Governor's Mansion

They continue walking until they reach Bellingham's mansion. Bits of shattered glass are mixed in with the stucco on the mansion's façade, making it gleam in the sunlight 'as if diamonds had been flung against it by the double handful.' The stucco also has mysterious symbols etched into it. After gazing at the strange grandeur of the building, Pearl begins to whirl and dance, and demands her mother take all the sunshine off the wall and give it to her to play with. Hester tells Pearl she needs to find her own sunshine.

Together they walk to the entrance, where Hester takes the heavy knocker and pounds it on the door. When an indentured servant appears, Hester tells him she wants to speak with Governor Bellingham. Although the servant explains that the governor is occupied with 'a godly minister or two,' Hester goes inside anyway - something she is able to do because the servant mistakes the fancy 'A' on her bosom for the ornament of an important and wealthy woman.

Once inside, Hester and Pearl wander down a long hallway gazing at all they come across: a niche with a window seat; ornately carved chairs that seem to be from Bellingham's native England; and a row of portraits that apparently are of the governor's ancestors - some appear in breastplates, and others with ruffled collars. Despite their varied dress, each looks unforgiving and severe.

In contrast to the unpleasant ancestral faces in the portraits, a suit of armor that hangs on the wall shines brightly. Pearl is drawn to it and, standing in front of it, finds her mother's refection in the shiny metal. 'Look!' Pearl exclaims.

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