Feminism in the Scarlet Letter
11 March 2008
Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne and Feminism
“In Heaven’s own time, a new truth would be revealed, in order to establish the whole relation between man and woman on a surer ground of mutual happiness” (ch.24).The definition of feminism would be women are inherently equal to men and deserve equal rights and opportunities. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s, The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne is the key example for feminism in the novel. In Puritan times, women were thought of as lesser than men. Women’s purposes were to raise children and give them good morals and values. Women did not have jobs; they wore the plainest clothes, and sat quietly by their husbands’ sides. Passion and happiness were considered to be a sin in the Puritan faith. Hester Prynne has to overcome many obstacles in the novel, emotionally, socially, and psychologically. Living in a Puritan Society, where they had strict rules that everyone had to abide by, the society showed that men overruled women, and women were subjects to men. Hester’s place within Puritan society changes within the novel, where she defies male authority.
In the novel The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the key character is Hester Prynne who has to wear the Letter “A”, on her bodice of every garment. “Behold, verily, there is the woman of the scarlet letter. Come therefore, and let us fling mud at her” (Hawthorne, ch2). The scarlet letter is a visible sign of her sin, so that everyone is able to see and judge Hester. She is not able to go anywhere without people running away from her, because they do not want to catch her evil spirits. The scarlet letter has made Hester an outsider of her own community.
Socially Hester Prynne’s place in the Puritan community and her attitude towards Puritan authority changes throughout the novel. “The predominating quality of Puritan life was hard, good sense, a good sense which could value the realities of life while it rejected the
Cited: Barlowe, Jamie. The Scarlet Mob of Scribblers: Rereading Hester Prynne. Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University, 2000. Doubleday, Neal F. “Hawthorne’s Hester and Feminism.” Jstor. 11 March 2008.