Scarlet Letter Analysis

2041 words - 8 pages

“Women belong in the kitchen.” “All women should be barefoot and pregnant.” “Women are strictly homemakers.” These are a few of the commonly used phrases regarding the female role in society that date back to the mid-seventeenth century. However, ardent supporters of gender equality have surfaced in almost every culture where this ideology is practiced. Nathaniel Hawthorne explores this inveterate societal conflict through his story The Scarlet Letter. The main character, Hester Prynne, is punished for committing adultery by being forced to wear a scarlet letter upon her bosom; Hawthorne created a story sympathetic to the female cause and demonstrated, through Hester, qualities of early feminism that later establish themselves during his lifetime. In this novel, the character of Hester Prynne represents an early feminist hero in that she not only challenges society’s view of women during the mid-1800’s but she also takes on the male role in multiple aspects throughout the story.
Although the tangibility of gender equality has progressed throughout time, the definition of feminism and the reasons behind it have long stayed the same. Throughout history, women have been deemed inferior to men and denied simple rights such as education and a political voice. In some cultures, women are presumed evil and the source of misery. In Greek mythology, for example, it was Pandora, a female, who opened the forbidden box and released plagues and devastation among mankind. Likewise, during the Puritan era, when the novel is based, women were belittled and severely oppressed. Generations of Biblical teachings engrained in them that their only duties were to give birth to children, silently attend worship services, and submit to their husband’s commands. However, the advocacy of women’s rights regarding political, economic, and social parity still existed within society. These feminists aimed to defend their silenced voices. One motive for the dissent of inequality could have resulted from the strict government regulation of conformity. Everyone was trained to evade individualistic thinking, which in turn, led to the questioning of leaders. “It was an age in which the human intellect had taken a more active and a wider range than for many centuries before,” (149). This quote illustrates the possibility of a change in people’s mind regarding the injustice towards women. Hester represents the story’s population that thinks freely. She is not content with fulfilling the pre-determined destiny of a silent wife under Christ, and demonstrates it by challenging that role and attempting to reorganize the archaic system in which she lives. The women of the town are outraged by her actions, demonstrating that they are afraid that if women start acting out of passion, the entire structure they depend on would dilapidate. Hester made it clear that it is possible to survive outside of prejudice, which is still exemplified today. She displays that the idea of feminism and...

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