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The Scarlet Letter and Feminism

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Vanessa Romo

on 4 December 2014

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Transcript of The Scarlet Letter and Feminism

Hawthorne's Portrayal of Hester
Roles of Woman during Romantic Era
Circumstances of Women During Romantic Era
Puritan or Romantic
In chapter 13, Hester is painted in a positive light with regard to her gender
Hawthorne's Stance on Feminism
Because he made Hester very strong, it is evident that Hawthorne wished for more feminine leadership and equality.
Hawthorne's View of Hester's Womanhood
The Scarlet Letter and Feminism
Hawthorne begins to use more respectful and admiring diction when he describes Hester.
After stating that Hester's scarlet "A" began to mean "Able," Hawthorne proclaimed, "so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman's strength" (111).
He emphasizes his fondness of her fortitude as a woman because in the Puritan era and most of the Romantic Era, woman held subordinate positions compared to men.
He further paints Hester in a positive light by claiming that "she might have gone down to us in history, hand in hand with Ann Hutchinson, as the foundress of a religious sect" (113).
Ann Hutchinson was a radical Puritan leader in the 1600's.
Hawthorne makes a reference to Anne Hutchinson at the beginning of the story when he talks about the red rose "had sprung up under the footsteps of the sainted Anne Hutchinson, as she entered the prison door" (34).
By calling her "sainted" Hawthorne demonstrates his admiration for the character of Ann Hutchinson.
Thus, by comparing Hester to Ann Hutchinson, he indirectly praises her and positively depicts Hester in regard to her gender.
He shows his reverence for her ability to hold her head high and assert the strength of her beliefs and the resilience of her personality as a woman in a male dominated society.
Part 3...
Puritan or Romantic Continued
Puritan or Romantic Continued
Hawthorne holds a very reverent attitude toward Hester and her womanhood.
A reflection of Hawthorne’s reverent attitude toward Hester Prynne is evident when he depicts her “instinctively exercising a magnetic power over a spirit so shattered and subdued,” suggesting that she holds a strong mentality within herself (135).
He implies that Hester should be lauded and honored to have exerted a force found only in the most tenacious of beings.
This exemplifies his proud, respectful attitude toward Hester because he praises her for her leadership and fortitude.
The roles of women during this era progressively changed.
At the beginning of this era or the early 1800s, women were typically painted as the gentle and caring; their only purpose was to raise children.
They were expected to be submissive and weren't allowed to have an education.
They were expected to serve men.
Towards the early 19th century, women started working in factories because of the birth of the Industrial Revolution.
Women were also becoming more educated in order to work.
Women began to fight for equal pay.
Although women were starting to become valued for their ability to work rather than being able to raise a family, they still had restrictions.
In marriage, the women had to give up all their money to their husband, and also had to give up their freedom.
Hester 's character is supposed to depict the Romantic Era woman because she is being recognized by the towns people for qualities other than the ability to be a caretaker.
This started to change the town peoples' perception of her, which is evident when Hawthorne writes, "such helpfulness was found in her -so much power to do, and power to sympathize"(111).
The people are staring to see that Hester has other abilities as a woman besides being a mother.
They realize she can do much more, such as her work with embroidery, the ability to sympathize with people, and the ability to provide for her daughter without a father.
This depicts the Romantic Era women because, like Romantic Era women, Hester was being paid for her work.
Hester's role in society was changing, instead of a child bearer, she became valued for her ability to work.
Hester is depicted as a Romantic woman rather than a Puritan woman because Puritan women were expected to be passive and not allowed to have an opinion on religious matters.
However, in chapter 17, Hester is very dominant towards Dimmesdale as she commands him, "thou shalt forgive me!... Let God punish! Thou shalt forgive"(133).
Hester is being very demanding and she is breaking away from the traditional gender role of that society.
Instead of being gentle and asking for forgiveness like women are expected to do, she is being assertive and demanding it.
She breaks the tradition of women following the orders of men, and instead her man follows her orders and looks to her for decisions.
Hester does not take on the traditional role of a woman during the Puritan Era.
She is stronger and more assertive than other woman.
When speaking with Dimmesdale about Chillingworth, he begs her to "be thou strong for me...Advise me what to do" (135).
Instead of the man in the relationship making the decisions, the woman, Hester, is expected to decide for the both of them.
Then, she continuously proposes ideas for the family to run away.
The fact that she is the one making these decisions shows Hawthorne's intentional portrayal of her strong, independent womanhood.
He supports and admires her fortitude and ability to think for herself.
He disapproved of the sternness and inflexibility of New England Puritanism, especially the restrictions it placed upon women.
However, he did not necessarily want to overthrow a patriarchal system that gave men the power in this society.
He still establishes some stereotypes of specific female domestic roles, such as carer, the nurturer, etc., as Hester tends to the sick and the needy.
Thus, though he condemns the confining Puritan society, Hawthorne does not wish to fully give up the dominance of men in society.
by Vanessa R. and Aida R.
Hester Prynne: Sinner, Victim, Object, Winner
According to the article, because Hester is strong, independent woman who breaks away from conventions,
The Scarlet Letter
is a feminist novel.
We agree with this premise because in Puritan society women are subordinate to men, but Hester challenges this patriarchal system with her demanding attitude and independent labor.
Hawthorne states that Hester asked for much— "farther than to breathe the common air, and earn daily bread for little Pearl and herself by the faithful labor of her hands,—she was quick to acknowledge her sisterhood with the race of man, whenever benefits were to be conferred" (110).
Hester breaks away from conventions by working for her and Pearl's food instead of solely doing domestic duties.
Works Cited
Reynolds, Shannon. "Ideas About Gender Equality in the Romantic Era." EHow. Demand Media, 08 Apr. 2011. Web. 04 Dec. 2014.
Deering, Mary. "Women in Puritan Society: Roles & Rights." Education Portal. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2014.
Seabrook, Andrea. "Hester Prynne: Sinner, Victim, Object, Winner." NPR. NPR, 2 Mar. 2008. Web. 04 Dec. 2014.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. New York: Dover Publications, 1994. Print.
She is stronger than most women during that time and establishes her own authority against others, exemplifying the advancement of women's roles in society.
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