The Scarlet Letter

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The Scarlet Letter Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
John Wilson, Chillingworth and Dimmesdale arrive at the Governor's residence. The men tease Pearl, calling her a demon-child because of her scarlet clothing, but stop when they realize that she's Hester's daughter and that Hester must be present.
The Puritans are hypocrites: they enjoy playing with Pearl until they realize she's Hester's child.
Themes
Sin Theme Icon
Puritanism Theme Icon
The Occult Theme Icon
The Governor asks Hester how she can justify keeping Pearl. Hester says she'll teach Pearl what she's learned from wearing the scarlet letter. The Governor says that the letter is her badge of shame.
Bellingham sees the letter as the symbol of sin the Puritans mean it to be, not the symbol of individuality Hester has made it.
Themes
Sin Theme Icon
Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
Puritanism Theme Icon
Mr. Wilson asks Pearl who made her. Pearl says that she was plucked from the rose bush just outside the prison door.
Wilson wants Pearl to answer God, but instead she answers Nature.
Themes
Puritanism Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
The Governor, alarmed by this response, suggests that they conduct a closer investigation into Hester's fitness as a mother. Hester says she will die before giving up Pearl.
If a three-year old doesn't say God made her, the rigid Puritans think her soul is in danger.
Themes
Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
Puritanism Theme Icon
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Hester begs Dimmesdale to defend her. Dimmesdale argues that Pearl was sent by God to serve as Hester's one true punishment and to guard her from sinning again. He points out that Hester even dresses Pearl in red, likening her to the scarlet letter.
Dimmesdale "defense" of Hester paints her as a sinner deserving punishment.
Themes
Sin Theme Icon
Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
Puritanism Theme Icon
Chillingworth notes that Dimmesdale spoke with an unusual amount of passion and conviction.
Chillingworth suspects Dimmesdale.
Themes
Sin Theme Icon
Puritanism Theme Icon
Pearl approaches Dimmesdale and grasps his hand. She then runs down the hall. Mr. Wilson remarks that, like a witch, her feet barely touch the ground.
Pearl shows a connection to Dimmesdale. Wilson links her to the occult.
Themes
Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
The Occult Theme Icon
Dimmesdale's speech convinces the Governor not to take Pearl from Hester. On their way out of the Governor's residence, Hester and Pearl see Mistress Hibbins. She invites Hester to a witches' gathering in the woods with the Black Man, but Hester declines, saying she must care for Pearl.
After the Puritan leaders almost take Pearl away for being a "demon-child," it turns out that Bellingham's sister is a witch. The occult exists at the core of Puritan culture, but can only be exposed in the woods.
Themes
Individuality and Conformity Theme Icon
Puritanism Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
The Occult Theme Icon