questionsWhen Governor Bellingham recommends taking Pearl from Hester, what argument does she use for continuing to have Pearl in her care?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When the Governor tells Hester that he does feel that it is wise to trust an "immortal soul, such as there is in yonder child, to the guidance of one who hath stumbled and fallen...," Hester, with vehement emotion, protests, contending that God has given her Pearl to raise and to "teach ...what I have learned from this!"  But, the "stern magistrate" who enjoys the richness and comfort of one who is not a Puritan, replies sanctimoniously,

 "Woman, it is thy badge of shame!...It is because of the stain which that letter indicates that we would transfer thy child to other hands."

With calmness, Hester declares resolutely,

Nevertheless,...this badge hath taught me...lessons wherof my child may be the wiser and better, albeit they can profit nothing to myself.

(Here is an example of the conflicting views of "The Scarlet Letter's" author Hawthorne and those of Puritanism.  Hester, as Hawthorne's voice, believes that one can learn from sin and become a better person, while the Puritans saw no redemption for sin; one should only be punished and made an example of the dangers and repercussions of sinning.  There is no redemption:  people are either among the "elect" or damned.)

Continuing her motherly efforts, Hester says she will die before she allows anyone to take Pearl from her.  Then, she impulsively turns to Dimmesdale:  "Speak thou for me!"  Dimmesdale, with eloquence, argues for the mother of Pearl:

There is truth in what she says, the feeling which inspires her!  God gave her the child, and gave her, too, an instinctive knowledge of its nature and requirements,--both seemingly so peculiar,--...And, moreover, is there not a quality of awful sacredness in the relation between this mother and this child?...For Hester Prynne's sake, then, and no less for the poor child's sake, let us leave them as Providence hath seen fit to place them! 

 Dimmesdale reinforces Hester's claim that the child herself is her scarlet letter.  And, with his eloquent speech, he is able to persuade the magistrate to allow Hester to keep her child.

It is interesting to note, also, the irony of Dimmesdale's remark, "Herein is the sinful mother happier than the sinful father."  This, again, is Hawthorne's illustration of the hypocrisy of Puritanism.

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The Scarlet Letter

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