- easy cap ...sl08.html#g01
- An easy cap or other item of clothing is
comfortable, fits well, soft, informal, worn around the
- fashion of
King James's reign ...sl08.html#g01
- King James I of England reigned
It was he who sponsored the Authorized Version
English translation now usually known as the King James Bible.
- John the
Baptist in a charger ...sl08.html#g01
John was a preacher who came before Jesus.
Herod granted Salome's wish to have John beheaded and the
head presented on a plate, or charger. Specifically, John
had said unto Herod, "It is not lawful for thee to have
thy brother's wife"--i.e., accused him of adultery.
One wonders also whether Hawthorne by this allusion to John
intended to parallel Hester and
Salome, who did a strip tease. No doubt in Puritan times
the Bible was seen as happening in daily life, not long ago,
and daily occurences seemed to have a parallel in the Bible,
and vice versa. This image of a head on a plate was fairly
common in Victorian art. Here it comes to the eye simply
because the elaborate ruff Bellingham wore went all the way
around and completely hid his neck. It does not seem to go
with the easy cap, unless it sets it off more as an
affectation. Perhaps Hawthorne got the idea from looking
at paintings of these Puritans that they wore those clothes
in everyday life.
grapes...compelled to flourish ...sl08.html#g01
- The Puritan immigrants tried to bring over their
English agricultural knowledge, but the harsh New
England winters made that difficult. Hawthorne, of
course, knew that grapes grew wild in Boston--he had
seen plenty of them at Brook Farm, for example--but
these were not wine grape varieties.
- In other words, he was nicer and better liked than
the other Puritan ministers. (However, he switched
sides after first backing Hutchinson.) Hawthorne paints Wilson
as an old man, although he was in historical fact only
in his fifties at this time, so the white beard might be
- health had severely
- In other words, Chillingsworth has settled in with
Dimmesdale and the pastor has become weaker. Hawthorne
explicitly states that the reason is "his too
unreserved self-sacrifice to the labors and duties of
the pastoral relation," but this is merely the
reason that Dimmesdale and others accept, while we
are already being given the tipoff from the author
that Chillingsworth is already working to weaken
Dimmesdale--even though at this point Chillingsworth
has only suspicions, not proof, of Dimmesdale being
the father. Only a very alert reader would get
such a clue from this statement--however, it is
necessary for the author to plant the clues in the
text so that later on we are prepared for their
revelation. If we look too closely at it, we see that
Dimmesdale must have weakened because of his own guilt,
before Chillingsworth came to his aid as a doctor,
otherwise Chillingsworth would not have had the chance
to work on him.
- the scarlet little
- Pearl was dressed in red; we already know she had
brown hair. Presumably her mother dressed her up to
visit the governor, but he is rather impressed at how
strange her costume is--ordinary children aged three
would not have dressed this way.
- Bellingham was a lawyer and member of the gentry,
not a Puritan minister, so he might have attended
court balls and other such entertainments. A court
masque or play would not have amused many Puritans.
Here again we see the tension between the British
aristocrat and the purest Puritans. The Lord of
Misrule acted his part in revels around times such
as Christmas, a perpetuation more of pagan customs
than of Christian ones--the Puritans did not even
celebrate Christmas (Thanksgiving was not an official
holiday in New England until President Lincoln, later
than this story.) For the best representation of
this contrast, see The
May-Pole of Merry Mount. However, in this particular
instance Bellingham and Wilson are allied.
- the sun has been
- Wilson is saying that before he came to America
he saw in his home country England the sun shining
through stained glass windows, making images such
as this. Some English Puritans went around smashing such
windows and other images as idolatry, a point that
is not followed up here. The smashing was authorized
by the Long Parliament in 1643, a couple of years
before the time of this chapter.
- In other words, Pearl has no father.
- hue ...sl08.html#g07
- Pearl's color or hue here might come from
her red cheeks as well as her dress. Wilson even uses
the term "rose," which we can relate to the
rose-bush (love), the scarlet letter, the red apple in the
Garden of Eden, the flaming cheeks of shame, the
product of an immoral or "scarlet" woman.
Of course, many people thought that a person's name
had great significance, and so most people were named
after Biblical characters. Needless to say, Puritans
frowned on makeup or rouge on cheeks, that being a
sign of immorality to them.
- her of
Revelation 17:3-5. Note that the reference does not
say, "Whore of Babylon," though that is what
many have termed this beast, who dressed in purple and
scarlet, gold and pearls, and had a cup filled with fornication.
What Bellingham says here, "her of Babylon,"
is either a Freudian slip or a clever device by which
Hawthorne puts those words in our brain without actually
writing them. Many Christian religious reformers have used the
term "Whore of Babylon" to refer to church
practices or personalities they did not approve of--the
accusation of fornication is easy enough for anyone to
make, and this particular beast was supposed to be the
mother of all harlots, just as someone in church power
might be considered to be, if one did not believe in him.
The Puritans had used the term against the Catholic Church,
but a governor would certainly not utter the phrase in the
presence of a woman. See above for
"the scarlet woman".
- of authority and
- Notice that the governor addresses Pearl and Hester
in the second person--Pearl because she is a child, Hester
perhaps because she is a woman, or perhaps because of her
being a parishioner of this church. What gives Bellingham
and the others the authority to act in this matter? He
is not governor in law, only an assistant at this point.
It seems that the decision is not a legal one for the
government, like the pig, but rather one for the informal
leadership, the elder men, to discuss and achieve a
consensus on. At this point they are only investigating.
Since there is no contrary decision, we do not know what
might have happened if they had tried to take Pearl away
- discharge our
- It would make these authorities feel guilty if someone
had informed them of a child not being brought up in the
Puritan religion, and they did nothing.
- the stain which that
letter indicates ...sl08.html#g12
- Here we re-enter a discussion of the meaning of the
scarlet letter. Bellingham raises the point as to whether
or not it is like a bill of attainder, a mark by God as
on Cain's forehead that is inherited by Hester's
child, and causes Pearl to be sinful, as well as having
original sin that is not wiped clean by grace when entering
- this badge hath taught
- Hester bravely struggles with the authorities so she
can keep Pearl. She points out that she is wearing the
scarlet letter knowing full well that it is a sign of her
sin, and that thereby she implicitly repents. Her act
ought to show that she has learned something and can
teach her child with humility. The point that
she did not name the father of the child is ignored at this
time. She states that the letter teaches her many things,
presumably to do good works in repentance, but what she
means is not explained at length here. The question is
whether or not her sin will prevent her child from
accepting the grace of God and thus saving its soul.
Hester's soul's fate is not addressed here--she
notes that she cannot expect to profit from God's
- the pearl of great
Matthew 13:45-6. The story is of
a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls, who, when he had found one
pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought
it. So is the kingdom of heaven like that. Wilson is saying
that when Pearl has learned her religious instruction properly
and is accepted as a member of the Puritan church, she may
be eligible for God's grace to save her immortal soul
and win for it the kingdom of heaven. She would wear this
grace like a pearl in her bosom, as it would be more valuable
to her than any worldly goods. This indirectly refers to the scarlet
letter's place on Hester's bosom.
- who made thee?
- The inquiry to discover if Hester is a fit mother will
turn on whether or not Pearl can answer some stock questions.
The questions are from the Puritan catechism, a series of
questions and answers meant to be memorized by children.
The proper answer of course to this question is, "God,"
or some reference to the Heavenly Father. Since Pearl at age
three already knows she has no father, this proves to be
a little tough for her to answer properly. This question of
course reflects the question Hester was asked on the
scaffold and refused to answer.
England Primer ...sl08.html#g17
- A primer is a first book, to teach the letters of the
alphabet, and the New England Primer was an
early one, although it is not known to have been printed by
this date. The Westminister Catechism book was
printed in 1648 and was widely used by Puritans. Hawthorne
does not go so far as to say that Hester used these particular
books to teach Pearl her catechism, only that Pearl had
learned as much as that by age three.
- plucked by her mother
off the bush ...sl08.html#g17
- God only knows where children get such stories from, but
a parent knows they show up at critical times such as this.
Although fantastic, and a clever way to reintroduce our favorite
flower symbol, there seems to be little reason to suspect that
a demon is at work here. Perhaps it is just that a three-year-old
girl finds it hard to repeat memorized phrases before a group
of old men.
- what a change had come
over his features ...sl08.html#g19
- Why had Chillingworth changed? We get no time to reflect
on this, as Hester returns to the issue at hand. We are left
with the impression that it is more than a physical change
of dark color and slanting shoulders, but also a moral
change. Is it not early in the story to introduce this? Or
is it another clue that later on we will half-remember so
we are not surprised at the plot development?
- she is the scarlet
letter, only capable of being loved ...sl08.html#g22
- In holding on to Pearl, Hester has to explain her
significance in a way that the men would understand. She uses
the scarlet letter as a symbol, and makes Pearl a parallel,
so that each is a torment as well as her only chance of
salvation. Hester's tone is wild and peculiar, showing
her underlying passion and emotion in contrast to the cold
men, but also throwing in some overtones of opposition to
the severe, saintly ministers of good (without love).
Soon Pearl will express the same passion and love to
Dimmesdale, only because he has spoken nicely to her mother,
and presumably not because she knows consciously that he
is her real father. Note that Pearl is distinguished from
cold Hester and the cold men in that she is living and
capable of being loved both temporally by earthly
father figures and eternally by the Heavenly Father.
Thus she is more than an emblem, a token, a symbol,
- to work in many
ways upon her heart ...sl08.html#g28
- Dimmesdale, filled with perhaps some love, now intervenes
to reinforce Hester's argument, that Hester is meant
by God to take care of Pearl and to be constantly reminded
thereby of her sin and the necessity to repent and do good.
Dimmesdale continues a little far in this vein, even saying
that Hester's good works caring for Pearl's soul
might cause forgiveness of her sins and access to heaven.
But at least he does introduce the theme of love, where
the other men could not.
- witchcraft in
- It seems odd that Reverend Wilson would note that
Pearl's behavior was like that of a witch--presumably
he was a favorite with children and had insight into their
behavior. But somebody has to say it at this point in the
story if our romance is to carry on.
- go with us
- The plot gets thick here. In the first place, the author
plainly states that this story of Hibbins was only
"averred," and refuses to vouch himself for its
accuracy. Then we are told that Hibbins was later executed as
a witch, but described at this point only as having an
"ill-omened" face, which is less than complete,
but instead too abstract. It is hardly clear how her face could
cast a shadow over the new house, for example. But in any
case, it closes the chapter dramatically with the reference
to witchcraft, the devil in the form of the Black Man, and
some vague threats that the devil will try again to seize
Pearl's soul. Hawthorne uses that threat as a means
to reinforce the artistic conclusion, that Hester now has
a concrete reason to take care of Pearl and to keep sin
Summary. From here until the end of the book
we expect you to write your own summaries, following the models
of preceding chapters. E-mail to EricEldred@usa.net
your summary (after reading the chapter carefully). You will get
in return e-mail similar summaries made by others, which you may
then compare with your own to see if you have understood the
chapter. Use "Ch. 8 SL Summary" as the Subject:
Suggested MLA citations to this web page,
HTML code and text.
Use as in ?Help? page citation guide.
Eldred, Eric. <cite>Notes to Ch. 8, The Scarlet
Letter.</cite> <br />
1999. 23 Sep. 1999. <br />
Eldred, Eric. Notes to Ch. 8, The Scarlet
Letter. 1999. 23 Sep. 1999.
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