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How does Nathaniel Hawthorne view Governor Bellingham in The Scarlet Letter?

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georgesanchez21 | Student, Grade 9 | eNoter

Posted November 17, 2012 at 4:20 PM via web

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How does Nathaniel Hawthorne view Governor Bellingham in The Scarlet Letter?

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 18, 2012 at 5:54 PM (Answer #1)

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The characterization of Governor Bellingham in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter is crafted to represent the double standards of the puritan society that has ever-so harshly punished Hester Prynne.

When the reader is told about the tenets of the Puritan faith, it is clear that vows such as chastity, and humility (poverty) are a basic component of its main philosophy. However, in a dramatic contrast, Governor Bellingham seems to bestow upon himself rights and privileges whose extravagances go as far as possible from the doctrine of his proclaimed faith.

Although being a governor indeed entails certain benefits, Bellingham's self-imposed privileges came with an enormous amount of narcissism. For, Governor Bellingham was not only dissonant to the humble grounds of Puritanism; he was also molding himself as an English aristocrat. This is most evident in, both, his lifestyle and his pursuit of earthly pleasures.

In Chapter 7, "The Governor's Hall", we get a glimpse of Governor Bellingham's lifestyle through the focalized eyes of Hester and Pearl, who are shocked at what he sees when she enters his not-so humble abode. Hawthorne tells about Bellingham's home that...

the brilliancy might have befitted Aladdin's palace, rather than the mansion of a grave old Puritan ruler.

Moreover, Gov. Bellingham has created a royal atmosphere in his home complete with servants in livery, a heritage crest, and, on his walls, there are portraits of members of the Bellingham lineage. This sort of decoration is no different than that of a prominent member of society that wants to distance himself as a superior.

He also had a significant amount of shiny, flamboyant, and unnecessary objects that reflect a materialistic mentality which totally parted ways with the Puritain frame of mind.

There was a steel head-piece, a cuirass, a gorget, and greaves, with a pair of gauntlets and a sword hanging beneath; all, and especially the helmet and breastplate, so highly burnished as to glow with white radiance, and scatter an illumination everywhere about upon the floor.

Aside from his materialism, Bellingham's double standards extend even to his consumption of alcohol for, in his office, there is a pewter cup that "had Hester or Pearl peeped into it, they might have seen the frothy remnant of a recent draught of ale."

All this, added to the fact that Bellingham is the brother of none other than the village witch, Mistress Hibbins, certainly places Governor Bellingham in a position where the reader can clearly see two things: first, that he is a man who has the nerve to judge and make rules that he will probably not follow and, second, that the entire village is so blind-sided and sanctimonious that they do not even realize the hypocrisy that takes place right in front of their eyes.

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