Feminism in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter Essay
551 Words3 Pages
Written in 1850, The Scarlet Letter stood as a very progressive book. With new ideas about women, main characters’ stories intertwined, and many different themes, The Scarlet Letter remains today as a extremely popular novel about 17th century Boston, Massachusetts. Not only was the 19th century a time for the abolition of slavery movement but it was also the beginning of the first wave of feminism. Women such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucretia Mott catalyzed the women’s rights movement. These prominent women believed that a woman’s role was no longer in the house and that women should be afforded the same opportunity as men. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s sympathy for women is evident in a feminist reading of his novel…show more content…
Wilson’s question, a question testing Pearl’s religious knowledge and belief in god, exemplified her courage. An outspoken character, Pearl was beyond her age in knowledge as well as many other aspects. The fact that Hawthorne created this girl as an unyielding character illustrates his support for the feminist cause. Yet another time Pearl’s aptitude surfaced was the warning to her mother. “Come away, mother! Come away, or yonder old Black Man will catch you! He hath got hold of the minister already.” (Hawthorne 123) This realization Pearl possessed between good and bad coupled with her intellect allows for her empowerment. Moreover, Pearl’s role as a strong, prominent character showed 19th century Americans an alternative side young girls could possess. While Puritan women are weak and dependent upon their husbands, Hester Prynne is empowered and self-reliant. A character designed by Hawthorne to show 19th century women that women’s work could be valuable, Hester supports herself and her daughter by needlework. “For, as the novel unfolds, the letter, intended by the Authorities to signify harsh but just condemnation, is made by Hester to signify something entirely different—able, admirable.” (Bell 109) All aspects considered, the ability of Hester, a woman who committed sin and was publicly punished for this crime, to manipulate this punishment into a virtue
Essay about The Feminist Scarlet Letter
1810 Words8 Pages
The Scarlet Letter can easily be seen as an early feminist piece of work. Nathaniel Hawthorne created a story that exemplifies Hester as a strong female character living with her choices, whether they were good or bad, and also as the protagonist. He also presents the daughter of Hester, Pearl, as an intelligent female, especially for her age. He goes on to prove man as imperfect through both the characters of Dimmesdale and of Chillingworth. With the situation that all the characters face, Hawthorne establishes the female as the triumphant one, accomplishing something that, during Nathaniel Hawthorne’s time, authors did not attempt.
In the beginning of the book, Hawthorne paints…show more content…
At first Hester, agrees to Chillingworth’s terms to keep his real identity a secret. This in return hurt Dimmesdale, her secret lover. She does not stand up to Chillingworth out of fear of the chain effect of damage it would cause. Hester says, “I will keep thy secret, as I have his”, which in essence shows her weakness towards a male. Yet, at the end of the book, she recognizes that she must “do what might be in her power for the rescue of the victim on whom [Chillingworth] had so evidently set his gripe”. She comes to the conclusion that hiding Chillingworth’s secret does not help Dimmesdale like she hopes, but in fact, hurts him further. The fact that she realizes this, though, displays her to be an devoted and loyal person. These qualities display many things a female, main character, in those times, did not have much opportunity to play, especially in the role of which Hester plays it.
Hester with society also proves to be a strongly feministic aspect of The Scarlet Letter. Hester, as a female sinner, throughout the book, proves not to be a burden on society. Although she is an outcast, many find it hard to not admire the way she holds herself, especially due to the situation she is in. The admiration grows as the story continues. At first, the main admiration for Hester is her skill with the needle. Many of the townspeople regard Hester’s work as the latest trend. “Her