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The Scarlet Letter

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Emi U

on 12 October 2012

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Transcript of The Scarlet Letter

Gender Roles in The Scarlet Letter By Emily Upchurch, Brianna Casey, and Adrienne Lim A lot of people throw around the idea that gender is a social construct usually during debates about gender identity and sexual orientation. However, we are going to be looking at this idea through a slightly different lens. Gender as a Social Construct Dimmesdale The Feminine Attributes of Men in the Scarlet Letter Pearl Pearl is raised by Hester away from the typical Puritan ideals of femininity, and that leads her to become increasingly wild and strong-willed, the polar opposite of a good Puritan women. Dimmsedale holds the traditionally feminine gender roll, apart from being a Reverend. He is quite, respectful, and demure, much like a Puritan woman is expected to be. In chapter six, "Pearl," they talk quite often about how Pearl is an unusual Puritan child. "She seemed rather, an airy sprite, which, after playing its fantastic sports on the cottage-floor, would flit away with a mocking smile." Pearl is also described with the words "passionate," "malicious," "perverse," and "wild."
Hester by many means defies the social constructs of the 17th century. Unlike many women of her time, she is passionate, daring, and rash, although she moderates her temper for the sake of her daughter. She is also intelligent, a trait that many uneducated women of her time lacked.
However, Hester possesses maternal inclinations that cause her to partly confirm to the 17th century social norms. She cares for and protects her daughter throughout the novel and gives food and clothing to the poor. In addition, she has a keen eye for detail and a taste for beauty, two traditionally feminine traits. Hester Because Pearl is raised away from typical Puritan beliefs about the role of a women, she develops her own identity and personality. Dimmesdale In the chapter titled "The Recognition," Dimmsedale is presented as sensitive and emotional, both are very stereotypically feminine traits. "She possessed an art that sufficed...to supply food for her thriving infant and herself. It was the art-then, as now, almost the only one within a woman's grasp, of needlework." Chapter 5 While Hester is quintessentially a strong and not traditionally female character, she still possesses feminine traits. Her maternal instincts and honest, caring nature show how gender roles can shape the personality of a character. Masculine Roles Chillingworth Hawthorne uses the contrast of Pearl and Hester's unlady-like traits with Dimmesdale's more feminine traits to draw attention to the crumbling social order of Puritan society. Conclusion Criticism of gender roles is obviously one of the best criticisms to read the Scarlet Letter with because that's what the whole book is about. Every action of every character can be closely tied to some sort of either confirming gender roles or defying them. The characters who play into their defined gender roles are "[M]any people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said that it meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman's strength." Chapter 13 Males and Females in Society The novel reflects how gender roles can lead to unequal treatment of men and women. Hester is severely punished for her crime, while the man with whom she had an affair remains anonymous. Her sin causes her to become an outcast and forces her to bear the mark of her wrongdoing for the rest of her life. Dimmesdale, however, continues to function as a normal part of society, at least on the surface, and is easily accepted back into the community. In addition, Pearl is treated differently by the residents of the town, due solely to the nature of her birth. Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. Pleasantville, NY: Reader's Digest Association, 1984. Print. Works Cited "Changing Gender Ideologies in New England from 1600s to 1800s." Yahoo! Contributor Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Oct. 2012. <http://voices.yahoo.com/changing-gender-ideologies-england-1600s-195537.html?cat=37>. Most men of his time were expected to take charge by governing their society and homes and he confirms this social norm by deliberately seeking the destruction of Dimmsdale in order to take back control of his family. He is also well educated and respected, which is something women like Hester are denied. In a way Chillingworth felt threatened by the other man in Hester’s life and an overwhelming desire of revenge consumed his soul. Chillingworth’s lust for vengeance correlates with male aggression and territorial nature. "I shall seek this man, as I have sought truth in books; as I have sought gold in alchemy. there is a sympathy that will make me conscious of him. I shall see him tremble. I shall feel myself shudder, suddenly unawares. Sooner or later, he must needs by mine!" pg. 64 (Ch. 4 The Interview)

"There was a fascination for the minister in the company of the man of science, in whom he recognized an intellectual cultivation of no moderate depth or scope; together with a range and freedom of ideas that he would have vainly looked for among the members of his own profession." pg. 102 (Ch. 9 The Leech)
First quote emphasizes his aggression and territorial nature since he states that he is going to seek this man out and no matter what, will discover his true identity.

Second quote describes Dimmsdale's fascination with Chillingworth's intelligence. Educated men are more highly respected in society.
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