The Scarlet Letter: Hester Prynne and Feminism

Topics: The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hester Prynne Pages: 4 (1187 words) Published: February 13, 2013
Jeffrey You
Mrs. S. Lopez
English III AP- 7th
13 February 2013
The Magnificent Hester Prynne

Female inferiority is prevalent in Puritan society. However, in The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hester Prynne exemplifies the ethics, independence, and beauty that defy typical feminine standards in the 17th century. Thus, Hester becomes a feminist champion in the novel through her exceptional characteristics and her support for Arthur Dimmesdale.

To begin, Hester Prynne’s good looks, talent, and untainted principles separate her from ordinary Puritans and elevates her status in the narrative. First and foremost, her beauty separates her from the classic Puritan woman. She has “dark and abundant hair” that is “so glossy that it [throws] off the sunshine with a gleam” and “a face” that is “beautiful from regularity of feature” and “a Scarlet Letter” that is “fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her bosom” (Hawthorne 7). In Puritan society, women are taught to be submissive and to be obedient to all of her community’s ideals. Women in Puritan households withold their beauty and cover as much of themselves as possible, including their hair. Moreover, they often dress in drab colors of brown, black, and grey. Believing that ostentatious looks and dress can lead to sin and temptation, the New Englanders avoid these tendencies. But Hester’s tremendous beauty and sumptuously ornamented letter in this setting distances her from those values. These fundamental differences give her clarity from the rest of the community’s women, who live life in total compliance. Prynne’s decision to not obscure her beauty allows her to retain her identity, unlike other women who submit themselves to the constrictive boundaries of society. Moreover, she is described as “Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s strength” (Hawthorne 113). Able is to possess adequate ability or...

Cited: Saxton, Martha. “Bearing The Burden? Puritan Wives.” History Today44.10 (1994): 28. History Reference Center. Web. 12 Feb. 2013.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. Austin: Holt, Rinehart, and Wilson, 1999. Print.
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