The Scarlet Letter is littered with gender assumptions some of them tame but mostly out of touch. Hawthorne wrote this book in the 19th century about people in the 16th century and we are in the 21st century so there 500 years at play here. Gender roles and gender assumptions are completely different form the Hawthorne’s time and the time when the novel takes place.
The inferences about women in the novel points to the time of the 16th century when the Puritans women were not asked to do much more than bear and raise children. Men were the dominant figures in that time and the women depended on them for everything. Hawthorne evokes the Puritan beliefs in the way he deals with Dimesdale, but ...view middle of the document...
He says one of the choices Hester has is to go into the wilderness “where the wildness of her nature might assimilate itself” she would be around others who have the same nature as she does.
One of the gender portrayals about women/Hester is women’s inability to remain mentally tough. “The unhappy culprit sustained herself as best a woman might”, this is said when Hester is on the platform with the town looking at her. The narrator (Hawthorne) is giving us the scene of which Hester is suffering the embarrassment of her transgressions. Another view of how women’s inability to control themselves mentally Mr. Wilson states “Discerning the impracticable state of the poor culprit's mind” which is another assault on women/Hester ability to control their mental state. He thinks Hester is not in her right mind, in this case, because Hester will not reveal who her lover was.
Because of her situation Hester is forced to be all things for her and pearl, she must provide a life for them. One of the things she does is sew which allows her to make money and put food on the table. Hawthorne takes this and turns it into a gender issue. “Women derive a pleasure, incomprehensible to the other sex, from the delicate toil of the needle.” Is it possible for a man to derive pleasure from sewing?
A very interesting contrast in the story was how Hawthorne describe the main character looks. Hester being the heroine of the story was described as being attractive, “The young woman was tall, with a figure of perfect elegance on a large scale. She had dark and abundant hair, so glossy that it threw off the sunshine with a gleam; and a face which, besides being beautiful from regularity of feature and richness of complexion, had the impressiveness belonging to a marked brow and deep black eyes.” This takes place when Hester is being publically dammed. “She was ladylike, too, after the manner of the feminine gentility of those days; characterized by a certain state and dignity, rather than by the delicate, evanescent, and indescribable grace which is now recognized as its indication.” Hawthorne is saying that Hester was an attractive woman and inferring that it is understandable that a man would be attracted to her. And when describing the way Pearl look Hawthorne wrote glowingly of her, “her vivid and beautiful little face.” Hawthorne is very descriptive when talking about the appearance of tertiary women in the story. Hawthorne talk extensively about the women who persecute Hester before she is brought out for her public appearance. To surmise his point, he talks about how the women in the crowd have soft features as a result of their ancestors softening over the generations. “Every successive mother had transmitted to her child a fainter bloom, a more delicate and briefer beauty, and a slighter physical frame” Hawthorne seems to enjoy writing about the beauty of women.
In contrast to the beauty of the women Hawthorne’s description of...