In Chapter 8 of "The Scarlet Letter," what does the color red symbolize to Governor Bellingham?

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enotechris eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 8, as throughout the novel, the color red (or scarlet) is mentioned many times, stands for different things, and to the Governor Bellingham, symbolizes Old England, Satan, and Prostitution. He has "never seen the like" of anyone dressed like Pearl ("scarlet little figure") since his days as courtier in England, has already implied that such colorful finery doesn't belong in New England, that it reminded him of children of the Lord of Misrule, a subtle reference to the Devil, with Pearl being one of his minions ("The little baggage hath witchcraft about her") He further states that the "child's mother must needs be a scarlet woman, and worthy of her type in Babylon!" "Scarlet Woman" meaning whore, "type in Babylon" referencing the Whore of Babylon described in the Apocalypse section of the Bible.

When Hester pleads her case and points to her "red token," the governor states that it is her "badge of shame," not something she should use to argue her keeping Pearl. Finally, Pearl claims she was "plucked by her mother of a bush of wild roses," rather than being created by God, even though she knew the "correct" answer. She underscores her role as child of the Lord of Misrule by perversely answering and referencing the red roses. Hester further underscores this concept when she states that Pearl "is the scarlet letter," meaning not only does Pearl and the letter remind her of her sin, but Pearl's existence is the result of that sin.

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The Scarlet Letter

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