In The Scarlet Letter, why does Hester visit the governor's house?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Chapter VIII, Hester Prynne has been summoned to the Governor's Hall in order to confer with the state and church leaders who feel that Pearl should be taken from her mother in order to be properly raised. Upon arriving at the governor's mansion, Hester comes before the magistrate who is dressed in the elaborate ruff characteristic of King James's reign, a costume incongruous to the evidence that he lives in comfort and luxury. Likewise, the "old clergyman," the Reverend Mr. Wilson,

nurtured at the rich bosom fo the English Church, had a long established and legitimate taste for all good and comfortable things,

despite his public "reproof of such transgressions as that of Hester Prynne."

In her defiance of the condemnation befallen her, Hester dresses Pearl in a crimson dress that reminds the "good old Mr. Wilson" of the stained glass windows in the English churches of the "Papistry." Then, altering his demeanor to one of sternness, the Reverend Wilson informs Hester that they wish to remove the child to "other hands." This statement elicits a passionate response from Hester,

"God gave me the child....He gave her in requital of all things else which ye had taken from me.  She is my happiness! she is my torture, ...Pearl keeps me her in life! Pearl punishes me, too! Ye shall not take her! I will die first!"

Further, Hester appeals to the Reverend Dimmesdale to speak on her behalf, and he does so, contending that Pearl, the innocent child, keeps Hester from Satan since without her child, she may despair and fall prey to evil. Thus convinced by the young minister's plea, Mr. Wilson and the magistrate agreed to allow Hester to keep the incarnation of her sin. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Hester has heard that the Governor is thinking about taking Pearl away from her. She goes in order to argue against this idea. The idea is that Pearl is getting a little out of control and could likely use a little better supervision. There is notice in Pearl that some evil spiritual activity might be at work. Perhaps this is evidence of the father according to the magistrates who discuss these circumstances. The concern of witchcraft is never fully determined. The ultimate decision is to let Pearl stay with Hester. Thus, Hester's pleas and Dimmsdale's support helped ensure that she keep her child.

On a side note, Hester did bring the governor some gloves that she had embroidered for him.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Why did Hester go to Governor Bellingham's mansion?

As previously explained in chapter 5, "Hester at her Needle," the woman was quite versed and extravagant in the art of embroidery. She had sewn and made garments for the most important people of the village. In chapter 7, "The Governor's Hall," Hester goes to the mantion because of two things. First, because she has to bring to the governor a pair of gloves that she had made for him. Second, because she has heard a rumor that the magistrates want to take Pearl from her custody. Therefore, Hester had to confront the magistrates and ask them about this whole thing.

It had reached her ears that there was a design [...] to deprive her of her child. On the supposition that Pearl, as already hinted, was of demon origin, these good people not unreasonably argued that a Christian interest in the mother's soul required them to remove such a stumbling-block from her path.

Puritans believed that any child born in a way that does not go in agreement with the tenets of their faith cannot be a child of God. Since the soul of such child had to be saved, it was imperative to remove the child from their equally ungodly mother. 

Hester also goes there because she knows that Dimmesdale would be there and could speak on her behalf. Hester sees that Dimmesdale is basically standing there witnessing her battle with the Governor and she finally yells to the point of screaming that Dimmesdale speaks for her and sees that it is resolved that Pearl will not leave her. In the end, Dimmesdale does speak on her behalf as her pastor, and convinces the men not to take the girl away. 

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Why does Hester go to the Governor's Hall?

Hester goes to Governor Bellingham's mansion one day

with a pair of gloves which she had fringed and embroidered to his order, and which were to be worn on some great occasion of state.

She has been working as a seamstress, supporting herself and her little daughter, Pearl, with this work. Because of her great skill in producing beautiful items, she is often in demand for all kinds of garments and accessories. In many ways, the narrator suggests that this makes it seem as though the Puritans' vanity often outstripped their abhorrence of sin, as they coveted the Hester's productions regardless of her reputation. However, she is never asked to make anything having to do with a bride, as people seem to think that her adultery makes her an inappropriate person for this kind of work. When Hester goes to the governor's mansion, it is to deliver the pair of gloves which she has made for him and, presumably, collect her payment.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Why does Hester go to the Governor's Hall?

Hester has heard that Governor Bellingham is considering removing Pearl from her care. There have been rumors that Pearl is of demon origin and that she would be better raised by someone more respectable than Hester. Hester hopes to convince the Governor to allow her to keep the child.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on