Honors American Trends in Literature
February 22, 2010
Does Hester Prynne’s Role in Puritan Society affect her feminism?
Throughout the Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne depicts Hester as a dynamic character who is constantly struggling with her identity within the Puritan Society. Ever since her conviction of adultery and her punishment as the Scarlet Letter, the Puritan Society has tried labeling and identifying her with their terms and laws. Hester has also identified herself with these terms, and she has compromised with the Puritan system of life. However, Hester sacrifices her own interpretation of her identity for theirs; thus, she loses her quintessential representation of her own feminism. Hester Prynne loses that which makes her unique and special, as she represents less individuality, womanhood, and complexity--reducing her to a symbol. Because of her role in Puritan Society, she gradually loses her identification as a woman and is recognized as a mere product of a corrupt system through her assimilation into the society’s cultural norms and ideologies.
Hawthorne firstly establishes Hester as the bold epitomical embodiment of pure womanhood in stark contrast to the Puritan Society’s coarse, robust, and almost ugly group of townswomen who mock her because of the Scarlet Letter. Hawthorne depicts this scene to represent differences between Hester’s portrayal and the Puritan’s society’s views on womanliness. It can be observed that the Society believes that feminism is an “unnecessity” and will not compromise its doctrines to make it a part of its culture, but Hester sees to it to embrace her boldness and freedom as a gift rather than ignoring it completely. Moreover, this further implies the initial separation of Hester Prynne from Puritan Societal ideals and norms when she “clutched the child so fiercely to her breast, that it sent forth a cry; she turned her eyes downward at the scarlet letter, and...