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Fryer On Hawthorne Essay

939 words - 4 pages

In Judith Fryer’s essay, The Faces of Eve” Women in the 19th Century Novel, she puts forth her positions on The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The reader can gather that she believed that the book was written as a feminist novel as Hawthorne created the ambiguous female character, Hester Prynne. Fryer raises valid points about the novel by explaining how Hester came about because of Hawthorne’s personal conflicts in his society as he was alienated from a masculine society. She also stated how Hester was the most self- reliant character in the novel, making her stand out from the rest of society. Finally, Hawthorne described the male characters in the novel as being much weaker than Hester.
Hawthorne’s own insecurities led to the development of the character, Hester Prynne. Fryer believed that because Hawthorne was an artist, society did not seem to accept him as a man. In her critique, she addressed how Hawthorne felt alienated from the masculine world as she states, “But as an alienated artist, he felt estranged from that community which defined ‘masculinity’ in terms of the success in the commercial world.” (Fryer 72) In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne was able to personify himself through Hester Prynne. Hester committed a crime of adultery and as a result, the rest of the community treated her as an outcast. Traditionally, adultery was a worse crime for a woman than a man and living in a Puritan society. Hester was forced to stand on the scaffold in the center of town to be publicly denounced and wear a scarlet letter “A” on her chest as evidence of her sin. Hester was permanently an outsider to her Puritan society. While Hester took the blame for her sin, her lover, Dimmesdale, did not get punished at all, since men were not attached to the sin of adultery in any physical way. Similarly, as Hawthorne chose a profession that is known to be more feminine, he felt like an outsider from the world because he did not attain a masculine job. Like Hester, he was considered unequal and treated as an outsider of his society. His choice in career essentially brought about the development of Hester Prynne as he is able to reflect his own insecurities in her. Therefore, the similarity between his own life and the character of Hester Prynne exposed the inequality of men and women in Puritan society to the reader.
Fryer also comments on Hester’s strength and courage in the novel as she states, “Hester’s self- reliance sets her apart from every other character in the book” (Fryer 29). Hester was forced to become a self- reliant character, as she became a social outcast of her Puritan society. She gained independence, which contradicted the traditional view of women. Also, Hester became more of a masculine character throughout the novel. The the...

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