Feminism And The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne

1196 words - 5 pages

Throughout history western culture has operated under the idea that women were inferior creatures and lesser beings. Women have been called “a foe to friendship, an inescapable punishment, a necessary evil, and the gateway to the Devil.” Feminism has been around for hundreds years because of the way women have been treated and from that, came the feminist approach. The feminist approach aims to understand gender difference, gender inequality and focus on gender politics and sexuality. When looking through the eyes of a feminist, readers must resist the andocentric point of view and think about the female’s point of view, whether male or female. In 1850 one of the most popular, classic feminist books was published; this book is called The Scarlet Letter. Applying the feminist approach to The Scarlet Letter is ideal because it is written by a man by the name of Nathaniel Hawthorne and is about a woman that commits adultery and lives a very harsh life. As a feminist reader interpreting this book could be taken in a few directions which allows this approach to be appropriate. A feminist reader could look at why Hawthorne made the main character, Hester the way she is, why he had the other characters treat Hester in a particular way, how Hawthorne portrayed the women in this book, or even how and why Hester and the other women acted the way they did. By using the feminist approach Hawthorne portrays that women are the bad guys in situations, but are also a lot stronger than many may think.
The Scarlet Letter is written and told by Hawthorne, so readers do not hear what Hester is actually feeling. As Hawthorne writes about the sin of Hester he does not even briefly allow the reader to really see into Hester’s heart, always only telling the reader how she may feel as she endures another situation. In the beginning, Hester has to walk across to the scaffold to stand before the town with her scarlet letter and child. This scene would be a prime spot for Hawthorne to let the reader know exactly how Hester is feeling, but instead he writes, “it might reckoned a journey of some length; for, haughty as her demeanor was, she perchance underwent an agony from every footstep of those that thronged to see her, as if her heart had been flung in the street for them all to spurn and trample upon” (p53). In this quote he shares that Hester is in agony, but in Hester’s mind there has to be a thousand of thoughts running through her mind and if the book was told by Hester there would have been details about what she thought of the situation, how the town was acting form her perspective, and maybe even more on what the situation was. The whole book and the themes would have been different if The Scarlet Letter was told from Hester’s point of view. If Hester was telling the story it would have to have been in first person instead of third. The plot would have been only about her experiences and how she felt emotionally. Hester was a character that was...

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