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CHAPTER 7: The Governor's Hall
Hester Prynne's visit to the Governor's house is presented here. Hester is going there with the dual purpose of delivering a pair of gloves she has sewed for him and imploring him to stall the transfer of Pearl to a guardian. Hester has heard that some important townspeople, including Governor Bellingham, are recommending that Pearl be placed under the guardianship of some worthy person who is able to lead the child to salvation. Hester is incredulous that they could be thinking of taking her child, her only treasure, away from her. Out of love and concern for Pearl, Hester is determined to plead her case.
Hester dresses Pearl in a crimson dress adorned with gold thread for the trip to the Governor's house. The child is a visual, living symbol of the scarlet letter of Hester's dress. Hester's red "A" and Pearl's radiance attract attention, and mother and child are both ridiculed along the way. Upon their arrival, Pearl is fascinated by the size and elaborateness of the Governor's house, for she is unaccustomed to seeing anything outside her small thatched cottage. Inside, the child notices the many objects-de-art. She is particularly fascinated with a suit of armor whose polished metal reflects an enlargement of everything, including Hester's scarlet letter and Pearl's impish smile.
Hester is told that the Governor cannot see her, for he is meeting with two ministers and a doctor; but Hester chooses to wait. It is not easy to control Pearl, who wants to have a red rose from the garden and who screams in protest when she is denied. Soon Hester notices the governor emerging from the garden with some gentlemen.
This chapter serves as a quiet pause before the emotional interchange of the next chapter. It also reveals Hester's deep love for her child. When she learns that there is discussion of taking Pearl away from her, Hester is horrified. Even though it will not be easy for her to go into town and approach the Governor about the issue, she is determined to save her child at any cost to herself. The ordeal of Hester walking through the streets with Pearl is presented. When a group of children mock them, Pearl hits back. Her bold pursuit of her tormentors shows her strength. At the same time, Hester's defiance and her acceptance of her punishment is boldly portrayed as she dresses Pearl in a red dress, almost a living scarlet letter and symbol of Hester's sin.
Hawthorne's detailed description of the Governor's house with its many
adornments is very realistic. He tries to picture the house as a model
Puritan dwelling, listing details of its architecture and design.