Feminism In The Scarlet Letter

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As Nathaniel Hawthorne began to pen The Scarlet Letter, the gender roles of America started to change in ways that had never been seen in its history. Just two years before the publication of Hawthorne’s novel, women from all walks of life had gathered in Seneca Falls, New York to discuss their rights. This conference served as the foundation of the feminist movement and was the culmination of years of small steps for women in their quest for further rights. This fight for additional rights started with Anne Hutchinson, a woman who rebelled against the Puritan Church. Coincidentally, this was the time period Hawthorne chooses as his setting for the revolutionary novel. The social changes of the mid-nineteenth century, specifically the beginning…show more content…
The manner in which Hester chooses to raise Pearl is rife with the teachings that Republican Motherhood would later exemplify. Hester educated her daughter through her own life experience of the scarlet letter, mostly because formal education was still in a primitive state during the Puritan era. One of the lessons Hester taught her child was accepting your humanity. In the beginning of the novel, Hester is being weighed down by her guilt and shame as she is forced upon the scaffold. She is isolated from the rest of the town both in actuality and symbolically, as the scarlet letter is adhered to her bosom. Nevertheless, she does not allow this emblem of shame to rule over her life forever, as she eventually uses her punishment to help others in their time of sorrow. Hester’s uncommon ability to help others is shown in the following quote: “...Hester’s nature showed itself warm and rich; a wellspring of human tenderness, unfailing to every real demand, and inexhaustible by the largest. Her breast, with its badge of shame, was but a softer pillow for the head that needed one” (Hawthorne 158). This quote depicts one of the nontraditional lessons Hester was able to pass on to her daughter as a result of her punishment, the ability to use her own pain to help others. Another lesson Hester tries to teach Pearl is in regards to…show more content…
This is first shown in Hawthorne’s description of Hester on the scaffold: “Hester Prynne, meanwhile, kept her place upon the pedestal of shame, with glazed eyes, and an air of weary indifference. She had born, that morning, all that nature could endure...her spirit could only shelter itself beneath a tony crust of insensibility...” Along with this further quote on the same page, “In this state, the voice of the preacher thundered morosely, but unavailingly, upon her ears” (Hawthorne 67). These two quotations work in tanem to introduce the characterization of Hester as a strong young woman. As Puritan society tries to break her, Hester does not allow herself to react. This characterization of Hester as a strong woman, though initiated through the aforementioned quotations, is one that is shown in many other occasions throughout the novel. Another quote that demonstrates Hester’s fortitude during her ownership of the scarlet letter is shown in the following narration: “Individuals in private life, meanwhile, had quite forgiven Hester Prynne for her frailty; nay, more, they had begun to look upon the scarlet letter as the token, not for that one sin, but of her many good deeds since” (Hawthorne 159). This quote works to show how Hester has changed the narrative on the scarlet letter. Instead of being weighed down by her sin, in

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