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Scarlet Letter Essay

1105 words - 4 pages

Weak and powerless are so me of the words that describe women’s role in Puritan society. Men were the breadwinners and women were confined to the household. Most women lived their lives under the authority of men, but because of her unusual place in society Hester was able to overcome this. In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne switches the typical male and female roles to prove that when given the opportunity, women can be strong and independent members of society. Hawthorne uses Hester’s reaction to her punishment of wearing the letter A, to show women can survive in society without being dependent on men. Additionally, Hawthorne uses Hester’s relationship with Chillingworth and Puritan authorities to represent how women can be dominant. Furthermore, Hawthorne breaks down normal gender characteristics by switching the typical male and female traits of the characters in the novel.
Because Hester was able to take care of herself and Pearl socially and economically as a single mother, Hawthorne proves that women can survive in society without being dependent on men. Hawthorne states “The tendency of her fate and fortunes had been to set her free. The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread” (137). Hester was an outsider in her community and was able to look at society and the world with a unique point of view. Unlike most women during the seventeenth century, Hester was not confined to the household and was not under the authority of a husband. Hester defies the stereotype that women are weak and frail and cannot survive on their own. Because Hester does not have a husband to provide for her and Pearl, she is forced to provide for her family economically. “She possessed an art that sufficed, even in a land that afforded comparatively little scope for its exercise, to supply food for her thriving infant and herself” (56). Additionally, Hester’s work was successful, “There was a frequent and characteristic demand for such labor as Hester Prynne could supply” (56). Hester was the sole provider for her family and was able to provide for herself and Pearl very well, without the help of a husband. Hawthorne uses Hester’s economic success to disprove the seventeenth century idea that without their husbands, women would not be able to survive in society. Instead of putting Hester in her proper place in society, the scarlet letter makes Hester question society. Because Hester faces inequality, she thinks of alternatives to patriarchal society. “Indeed, the same dark question often rose into her mind, with reference to the whole race of womanhood. Was existence worth accepting, even to the happiest among them?” (113). Hester not only questioned her place in society, but she also questioned women’s place in society. Hawthorne uses this example of Hester’s intelligence to show that women can be just as smart as men. Hawthorne uses Hester’s economic success and intelligence to represent how women can be successful...

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