How do the magistrates react to Pearl in "The Scarlet Letter"? Why?Cheapter 8 of "The Scarlet Letter"

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In contrast to the requisite austerity of the Puritans, Governor Bellingham is dressed in a robe with a collar much like that of the time of King James in England as he traverses his luxuriant gardens, "showing off his estate."  As the Governor advance one or two steps, he encounters little Pearl.  With surprise, he remarks that he has not see such a child since he left England at Christmas time.

'...we called them children of the Lord of Misrule.  But hwo got such a guest into my hall?'

Old Mr. Wilson asks,

'What little bird of scarlet plumage may this be?'

Rev. Wilson says that Pearl resembles the birds of stained glass windows that cast their color upon the floor.  He asks Pearl, "Art thou a Chirstian child?"  He asks her if she knows her catechism and who made her, for she seems to be from another world, not the Puritan grey one in which Reverend Wilson lives. (The Puritans objected to the stained glass windows which are reminiscent of the Catholic Church.)

When Hester comes forward as her mother, the magistrates chastise her,

Nay, we might have judged that such a child's mother must needs be a scarlet woman, and a worthy type of her of Babylon!

But, they remark, this is a good time to ask questions regarding Hester and Pearl.  When the Governor asks Pearl who has made her, he is appalled at her response.

'This is awful!' cried the Governor, slowly recovering from the astonishment....'Here is a child of three years old, and she cannot tell who made her!  without question, she is equally in the dark as to her soul....

Then, when little Pearl, who has taken the hand of Dimmesdale after he speaks on her behalf, scampers off, the Reverend Wilson raises the question of whether her tiptoes touched the ground:  The little baggage hath witchcraft in her, I profess."  Like the children in Chapter 6 who do not like Pearl because they "had go a vague idea of something outlandish, unearthly... and revile them with their tongues, the Governor and the Reverend Wilson scorn Pearl in their hearts.

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