Chapter 7 Summary and Analysis

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Hester visits the mansion of Governor Bellingham. She brings him a pair of gloves he ordered. She takes this opportunity to speak to him about Pearl. There are rumors that some people in town have conspired to take Pearl away from her, and Hester wants to make sure this won’t happen. She finds it strange that Governor Bellingham would involve himself in this matter or that anyone would try to undermine her rights as a mother.

When Hester and Pearl arrive, a group of Puritan children laugh and throw mud at them. Enraged, Pearl charges at them, scattering the group. She and her mother are then free to enter the mansion, which is a testament to the Governor’s great wealth. Inside, Hester speaks to one of the Governor’s indentured servants, who tells her that the Governor is too busy to see her. Nevertheless, Hester enters, intent on speaking with the Governor.

Hester and Pearl wait in a large room lined with many portraits. There’s also a giant suit of armor, which is shiny enough to reflect and distort like a funhouse mirror. Hester’s scarlet letter is blown up to exaggerated proportions in this reflection. After a while, Pearl and Hester see the Governor and several ministers walking through the garden to house.


Hawthorne continues to make heavy use of alliteration. One good example of this is the “fantasies and flourishes of gold thread” with which Hester embroiders Pearl’s clothes.


Aladdin. A character from a popular Middle Eastern folk tale. Hawthorne compares the Governor’s mansion to Aladdin’s palace, further emphasizing the Governor’s wealth.
Francis Bacon (1561–1626). Bacon was a prominent scientist, philosopher, barrister, and Renaissance man with many talents. In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, he was heavily involved in the founding of the colonies. His career as a public servant ended when he was charged with twenty-three counts of corruption. He’s alluded to in this chapter to indicate that the Governor was himself a prominent lawyer.
Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1577) by Raphael Holinshed (1529–1580). While waiting for the Governor, Hester comes across a heavy tome, which might be an old copy of Holinshed’s Chronicles. Holinshed’s book provides a comprehensive history of England, Scotland, and Ireland. It’s referred to as “substantial literature” by Hawthorne.
Edward Coke (1552–1634). An English barrister and one of Francis Bacon’s rivals. He successfully prosecuted the perpetrators of the Gunpowder Plot (an assassination attempt on the life of King James I of England). As Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, he introduced reforms that frustrated and undermined the monarchy. Like Bacon, he’s alluded to simply to emphasize the Governor’s training as a lawyer.
John Finch (1584–1660). An English barrister active in the judgment of William Prynne, an English lawyer and writer whose writings led to his imprisonment in the Tower of London. His trials were later overturned, and John Finch’s involvement made him very unpopular.
William Noye (1577–1634). Noye was a lawyer who was appointed attorney general in 1631. One of his many unpopular acts as attorney general was to initiate proceedings against William Prynne, the lawyer and author after whom Hawthorne may have named his main character.
Pequot War (1636–1638). This two-year conflict between the Pequot tribe and the members of the Massachusetts Bay Colony resulted in the deaths of some seven hundred members of the Pequot tribe. Governor Bellingham, a lawyer and a soldier, fought in this war. His coat of armor still stands in the room where Hester and Pearl wait for him.


Hawthorne personifies illness when he writes that Pearl resembled “an infant pestilence.” By doing so, Hawthorne emphasizes the bad behavior of the Puritan children of Boston, who run from Pearl as if she’s going to punish them for their sins.


Governor Bellingham’s Suit of Armor. This suit of armor symbolizes the Governor’s time as a soldier. Following the Pequot War, in which the Governor fought valiantly, this suit of armor was put on display in his home, where it reminded visitors of the Governor’s strength, power, and position.


Optics. Once again, the theme of optics or vision appears in relation to Hester. When she stands in front of the suit of armor, the scarlet letter on her breast is magnified, throwing her sin out of proportion in much the same way that it has been in town.

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