In The Scarlet Letter ,how do the magistrates respond to Pearl and why?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 8 of Nathaniel Hawthorne'sThe Scarlet Letteris set at the Governor's Hall, where Hester had been summoned in part to deliver a pair of gloves to the Governor, and also to be told about their doubts regarding the safety of Pearl in the hands of Hester.

After a heated argument between Hester and the magistrates came Pearl's turn to manifest herself. This happened when the Governor, as well as the minister Mr. Wilson, seem quite taken by Pearl's crimson wardrobe, which is quite elaborate and almost flamboyant. As the minister asks Pearl questions on whether she goes to catechism, and on whether she is a good or a naughty child, he is taken aback by Pearl's demeanor. Contrary to other children, Pearl shows no sign of intimidation nor shyness in front of all these elders of the community. With an assertion that is uncommon in children of Pearl's age, she answers

I am mother's child...and my name is Pearl

Aside from the bold look of her clothing, her behavior also shows a boldness of character that none of the men were prepared to face. A particular moment happens when Pearl is asked who made her, and where she came from. These were probing questions to show that Hester does not teach Pearl about God and to show that Hester is a bad woman.

Pearl's enigmatic refusal to answer their question fueled these thoughts even further. First, Pearl said that she was a red flower that was picked by Hester. Then, she asserted that she was "not made" by anybody, and this is what ultimately leads the Governor to declare that Pearl's situation is "awful" stating that,

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, its present depravity, and future destiny! Methinks, gentlemen, we need inquire no further

As a result, Hester intervenes in her daughter's defense, as well as her own, even requiring the intervention of Dimmesdale, himself.

jacobsr | Student

To the magistrates Pearl is the scarlet letter come to life. She is dressed in scarlet, and she is not afraid of them. She answers their questions without hesitation. This shows an intelligence and boldness they frown upon in women. They are the leaders of the community-no one is to stand up to them. The magistrates feel Pearl is a demon child. She is a result of her mother's sin. They want to take Pearl away from Hester. These men of the church soon feel she could be an example of the wages of sin to others in the village.

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The Scarlet Letter

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