American Literature’s first feminist character
A trend was started by the novel, The Scarlet Letter. Nathaniel Hawthorne took a path with the character Hester Prynne that took many by surprise. Hester Prynne from the acclaimed novel, The Scarlet Letter, is one of American Literature’s first and influential feminist characters that shows superiority while being fearless and having an influence on modern literature and culture.
In the novel, The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne is accused of adultery and is forced to wear a scarlet letter A on her chest. While Hester owned the sin, the father was not as strong as Hester to face the sin. With this shame, she was forced to live in isolation with her child. As Hawthorne states in chapter 18, …show more content…
While Hester is a feminist, not only does she share the ideals but shows superiority to the town while being fearless. " It may seem marvelous, that this woman should still call that place her home, where, and where only, she must needs be the type of shame.” (chapter 5, paragraph 2) Hester does not let the shame and remorse of the sin keep her away from the town like most would do. Hawthorne even states that Dimmesdale is weaker than Hester by punishing himself and holding his heart while Hester embraces the sin and is strong while carrying the letter on her chest. She leads a self-righteous life, although she could keep what she earns, she gives most away. Even the townsfolk say Hester is "so kind to the poor, so helpful to the sick, so comfortable to the afflicted."(chapter 13, paragraph 5) Hester can be seen over the townspeople helping them although they shamed her. Hawthorne presents that Hester’s “tendency of her fate and fortunes had been to set her free.” (chapter 18, paragraph 2) With this Hester has a “radiant and tender smile, that seemed gushing from the very heart of womanhood. (chapter 18, paragraph 12) These quotes from Hawthorne show that Hester’s kindness helps her overcome her sin on her own. With Hester’s contribution to the town, “Her handiwork became what would now be termed the fashion.” (chapter 5, paragraph 6) In his research, Sacvan Bercovitch remarks that “Hester Prynne ‘builds upon the tradition of the biblical Esther -
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An early example of this is how she handles her service to others. Even while being harassed by the general public, Hester Prynne continues to make these sacrifices which are only rewarded with hatred and insults. Hester foregoes her own pleasures, except for the lavish “decoration of her infant,” and bestows the rest of her wealth “on wretches less miserable than herself” (Hawthorne 75). She even continues to aid the poor despite the fact that they “not unfrequently insulted the hand that fed them” (Hawthorne 75). Despite the fact that it was in Hester’s best interests not to aid those around her, she continued to do so. This evidences her sheer strength of character as the heroine of the novel. Hester’s loyalty is also magnified by her selfless nature, as her willingness to sacrifice lends itself well to remaining loyal to others. Hester also selflessly bears the burden of the entire community’s sin. Hester “perceives the ‘hidden sin in other hearts’ around her” and because her sin has been uncovered, “she alone bears the penalty for deviancy” (Taylor). A prime example of this is once again her refusal to reveal Dimmesdale as her child’s father. In resisting their efforts to uncover him, Hester states to the clergy: “I might endure his agony, as well as mine!” (Hawthorne 63). Here, her loyalty is greatly supplemented by her willingness to suffer in place
Nathaniel Hawthorne&#8217;s The Scarlet Letter, a dark tale of sin and redemption,centers around the small Puritan community of Boston during the 17th century. In the midst of this small community is Hester Prynne. She is a woman that has defied the Puritans, taken the consequences and in the end conformed with the Puritans. It did,
To begin with, Hester’s sin drove the story, but after the community established her as a sinner, she overcame her sins but she still struggled through other characters. Instead of depicting Hester’s inner turmoil directly to Hester, Hawthorne portrays her tumult through other characters in her life such as Dimmesdale, Chillingworth, and the community. Dimmesdale proclaimed to Hester, “If thou feelest it to be for thy soul’s peace, and that thy earthly punishment will thereby be made more effectual to salvation, I charge thee to speak out the name of thy fellow-sinner and
This ridicule has a trickle down effect on Hester as she too is banished from her own community for committing adultery. The comparison between Hester and Hawthorne defines the external struggle for the reader to fully understand the effect of opinions from society on them Although reluctant to allow Hester to leave prison, the members of the town suggest that her punishment be to wear a scarlet red letter A on her bosom, thereby allowing all to know of her crime. The scarlet letter “ was red-hot with infernal fire, ” (Hawthorne 81) and defined the state she was currently in, that being eternal hell. Though she was forced to marry an older man at a young age, her rebellion to have an affair is not seen as an internal struggle that she overcame; rather, it is merely seen as a woman who sinned, a woman who shall therefore endure the punishment for the sin, rather than a woman who was never given a say in what she wanted with her life. Time and again, Hester Prynne is seen defying society by allowing herself to stand out from societal norm just as the roses “with its delicate gems, which might be imagined to offer their fragrance and fragile beauty to the prisoner“ (Hawthorne) did. Instead, she returns to the community and is observed aiding those in need, all with seven year old Pearl by her side.
In The Scarlet Letter Hester Prynne is more than a literary figure in a classic novel, she is known by some people to be one of the earliest American Hero’s. In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne Hester commits adultery and has a child that she must care for all alone. She is forced to wear a powerful, attention grabbing “Scarlet A” on her chest while she must try to make a living to support her and her child, Pearl. Even though she must face all the harsh judgment and stares she does not allow her sin to stop her from living a successful life. She looks past the Letter as a symbol of sin and turns it into a sign of approval. Hester
Hester Prynne, the main character of the book "The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, commits adultery, is considered a hussy, and has a child as the result of her sin. She cheats on her husband while he is absent from town and receives a harsh punishment for her behavior already. Hester is forced to wear a scarlet letter “A” on her bosom for the rest of her life. It is now on debate on whether or not Pearl should be taken away from her mother’s guidance. This is due to the fact that she is a sinner and might not be a qualified mother for her child.It is true, that no matter what you did in the past, a child is a blessing and parents change due to the love they have for their children. Therefore, Hester
Her being forced to wear the scarlet letter which led her to becoming a women’s advocate reflects the theme that good things come from bad. There was plenty of negative backlash to Hester's mistake, however she gained the ability to help other women struggling just like her. “They said that it meant Able, so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman's strength” (pg 177, Hawthorne). The sin she committed and the experience gained through the aftermath of that sin, gives her insight on what it's like to be a woman who's being discriminated. Raising her daughter on her own and her saving her from harming herself reflects the theme that everyone makes mistakes. After all Hester is human just like everyone else. It is in our nature to make mistakes or even sin. “It is remarkable, that persons who speculate the most boldly often conform with the most perfect quietude to the external regulations of society” (pg 181, Hawthorne). The actions we take to reverse or to compensate for that sin is what makes us who we are as individuals. Her being alienated from society and developing an independent thinking mindset mirrors the theme that one must acknowledge their mistakes to learn from them. Hester’s society made it abundantly clear that what she did was absolutely heinous and that she needs to repent and beg for forgiveness. The isolation she suffered through helped her become an independent thinker and develop thoughts that we would consider ahead of her time. “The world's law was no law for her mind” (pg 180, Hawthorne). Being excluded socially gave her a chance to dwell in her own thoughts and gather perceptions different from that of other puritans. This decision that Hester makes is very important to the story because it mirrors many of the major themes the author tried getting across to its
In spite of that, what makes her the protagonist of the story is how she is able to overcome her punishment that was meant to give her shame. Throughout Chapter 13 of the book, Hawthorne shows how Hester’s confidence has developed in herself and in view of the town, most noticeably when considering the meaning of the scarlet letter, “Such helpfulness was found in her ... that many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said that it meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s strength,” (Hawthorne 107). Instead of subjecting to the shame that was forced upon her, she grew above it, conveying a different aspect of the theme of guilt, which is redemption. This is not to say that Hester did not care about the sin she committed, as she is very much reminded of it every day of her life while living with the child of that sin. In fact, the author addresses this by saying, “In giving her existence a great law had been broken; and the result was a being whose elements were perhaps beautiful and brilliant, but all in disorder,” (Hawthorne 60). Hawthorne is implying how Pearl represents the outcome of a sin and arranged it so that Hester is always living with that sin, therefore, always being reminded of the shame she is supposed to
In the book The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne is convicted of adultery and severely punished. Hester is sentenced to wear the scarlet letter 'A' on her clothes at all times. The letter “A” is a symbol that is meant to identify Hester as a sinner and an adulteress in her community. She is seen as a negative example for others not to follow. Hester is also sentenced to spend an unidentified period of time in jail; furthermore, she must also stand on the scaffold for hours in the middle of the town. Everyone sees Hester in her most vulnerable and embarrassed state. However, she handles it with dignity and grace.
Hester Prynne’s ability to sustain her stability and strength of spirit is the express result of her public guilt and penance. She was Arthur Dimmesdale’s partner in adultery, but she is used by Hawthorne as a complete foil to his situation. Unlike Dimmesdale, Hester is both strong and honest. Walking out of prison at the beginning of the novel, she decides that she must “sustain and carry” her burden forward “by the ordinary resources of her nature, or sink with it. She could no longer borrow from the future to help her through the present grief” (54). Hester openly acknowledges her sin to the public, and always wears her scarlet letter A. In the forest scene, she explains to Dimmesdale that she has been truthful in all things except in revealing his part in her pregnancy. “A lie is never good, even though death threaten on the other side” (133). Even Dimmesdale himself realizes that Hester’s situation is much healthier than his own when he states, “It must needs be better for the sufferer to be free to show his pain, as this poor woman Hester is, than to cover it all up in his heart” (92-93). This life of public shame and repentance, although bitter, lonely, and difficult, helps Hester retain her true identity while Dimmesdale seems to be losing his.
While Puritan women are weak and dependent upon their husbands, Hester Prynne is empowered and self-reliant. A character designed by Hawthorne to show 19th century women that women’s work could be valuable, Hester supports herself and her daughter by needlework. “For, as the novel unfolds, the letter, intended by the Authorities to signify harsh but just condemnation, is made by Hester to signify something entirely different—able, admirable.” (Bell 109) All aspects considered, the ability of Hester, a woman who committed sin and was publicly punished for this crime, to manipulate this punishment into a virtue
The effect of the female rights movement helped writers change the culture through their books and works. While Hawthorne began writing The Scarlet Letter, "America was in the midst of a growing feminist movement..." (NPR Article). Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of The Scarlet Letter, was influenced by the movement and creates "one of the very first female important protagonists" by the name of Hester Prynne. Described as beautiful, brave, independent, etc., Hester Prynne proves that literary works were being transfigured, and this was very uncommon in the 19th century. Hawthorne definitely abetted in the revolution of women's roles in literature. The belief of Patriarchy developed and became embedded itself into Puritan society. This ideology defines the gender roles as 'rigid' , and this prevents people from stepping out of the norm to construct their own path. Prynne fell under both categories when it came to the patriarchy, because she displays traits and attributes that were composed of of the two parts of society. In the book, the ideology of patriarchy ''would establish the whole relation between man and woman on a surer ground of mutual happiness.''(Hawthorne
Throughout history, women have played a significant role in the evolution of society. Through trials and tribulations, many modern concepts, such as stem cell isolation and dishwashers, are a result of women. In the mid 17th century Roman novel, The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne reveals his staggering feminism through the life of Hester Prynne. Furthermore, the expectations that society upholds to each gender creates the opportunity for a woman to use her natural characteristics to cause a subtle, yet powerful impact in society which the children of the future, such as Pearl, can benefit from in future endeavours.
Gender discrimination has been embedded into society since the beginning of time. Women have faced several instances of discrimination and anguish throughout their daily lives, “Both the victimization and the anger experienced by women are real, and have a real source, everywhere in the environment, built into society, language, the structures of thought,” (Rich). Starting in the mid 19th century, women began to stand up for their role in society and experienced a global enlightenment. The idea of feminism began with many rebellious and relentless women to gain equal rights in society, economy, and politics as men. In the novel The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hester Prynne, the main character of the story, embraces these feminist qualities. Hester, a sinner in the Puritan society, is discriminated and struggles with the consequences of her actions. Hester shows her independence, courageousness, and identity throughout the novel, making her a prime example of a feminist in literature.
Many literary critics argue that Hester Prynne was one of literature’s foremost feminists. This assertion is more than valid as shown by the many instances where Hester does things that could be considered as classical feminism. The caveat being the word classical as the term feminism itself seems to have shifted in meaning during this time. One of the first instances of classical feminism that we can see in the book occurs when Hester takes the punishment provided for her sin in a sense of almost pride. This owning up to her actions and her sexual deviance was one of the hallmark shifts that occurred later in the future during the Women’s Sexual Revolution in the 1900’s. This not only goes to show Hester was promoting some of the beliefs of feminism, that women should have control over their bodies, but also goes to show that she was taking stances that were far ahead of her time. A quote, in chapter one, that captures the essence of her guilt when concerning this so called scarlet letter is when one of the onlookers states, “...but did ever a woman, before this brazen hussy, contrive such a way of showing it.” This leads the reader to believe that the mark of her sin was worn with a sense of prideful acknowledgement. Further proof of Hester’s rightful place as one of American literature’s first feminists can be found in the way she stands up for her right to keep Pearl. Her statement in chapter eight, “God gave me the child! … He gave her in requital of all things else,