Jeremiah Young Period-2nd 11/6/12 Chapter 8 At the beginning of chapter 8, Hawthorne brings back the main characters from the first scaffold scene; Hester, Pearl, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth; as well as representatives of the Church and the State. Also, that underneath the surface action, Hawthorne offers several strong hints concerning the difficult relationships of his characters. In Hester’s pleading to Dimmesdale for help, in Pearl’s solemnly caressing his hand, and in the minister’s kiss give you solid hints that Dimmesdale is Pearl’s father. Hester calls on her inner strength in her attempt to keep Pearl.
She argues that the scarlet letter is a badge of shame to teach pearl a lesson and help her benefit from Hester’s sin. However, Pearl’s refusal to answer the question causes the decision of the Church and the State to go against her. Now Hester’s only appeal is to Dimmesdale, the man whose reputation she could crush. Pearl once again reveals her wild and passionate nature. In saying that her mother plucked her from the wild roses that grew by the prison door, she goes against both the Church and State. While such an answer seems intelligent for a small child, the reader must remember that Hawthorne uses character symbolism to present meaning.
Pearl’s action brings back Hester’s audacity on the scaffold when she refuses to name the father of her child. The dual nature of Pearl’s existence as both happiness and torture is restated in Hester’s plea, and this point is taken up by Dimmesdale. The minister’s weakened condition and his obvious nervousness suggest how terribly he has been suffering with his latent guilt. Nevertheless, Dimmesdale adds to Hester’s plea when he states that Pearl is a “child of its father’s guilt and its mother’s shame” but still she has come from the “hand of God. ” As such, she should be considered a blessing.
The minister argues that Pearl will keep Hester from the powers of evil. And so she is allowed to keep her daughter. Those powers of evil can be seen in both the strange conversation with Mistress Hibbins and also in the change in Chillingworth. As if to prove that Hester will be kept from evil by Pearl, Hawthorne adds the scene with Mistress Hibbins. While Mr. Wilson says of Pearl, “that little baggage has witchcraft in her,” Hester says she would willingly have gone with the Black Man except for Pearl. These evil powers are also suggested by the fourth main character, Chillingworth.
The change noted by Hester in Chillingworth’s physical appearance, now more ugly and dark and misshapen, is a hint that in Chillingworth’s desire for revenge, evil is winning the battle within him and is reflected in his outward appearance. That Chillingworth is Dimmesdale’s personal physician and supposedly his friend gives him the opportunity to apply psychological pressure on the minister. Chillingworth’s comment on Dimmesdale’s strange earnestness and his statement that he could make a “shrewd guess at the father” suggest that he may already have decided on Dimmesdale’s guilt.