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A critique of themes on feminism in The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter written by Nathaniel Hawthorne is set in 1600’s Puritan Boston. It tells the story of Hester Prynne, a lady who suffers public ignominy, forced to wear a red scarlet letter for her sin of adultery. The Scarlet Letter provides a appear at the stringent laws and ideology of a heavily patriarchal Puritan society. The Scarlet Letter has the connotation of being a protofeminist novel, but, although it does address the danger of a purely patriarchal society it does not meet the feminist standards of the twenty-first century simply because of Hawthorne’s prejudice against intellectual girls.

In the novel Hawthorne hints that the notion of ladies as intellectual equals could not survive in practice even though taking duty away from guys. In chapter thirteen Hester comes to “discern it might be, such a hopeless process prior to her” to make equality for women in her society (114). Hester sees no sensible way to alter the ideology surrounding gender roles. She believes men’s whole belief method would have to be torn down prior to there could be equality, and even then women would have to alter themselves to be able to take up a “fair and suitable position” in society (114). Later in the passage, Hawthorne takes responsibility away from the men by citing their genetic inclination to dominate society. This suggests that it is not men’s fault that they repress women due to the fact it is some thing organic and challenging wired into their genetics. By this logic it also seems that girls have a equivalent “long hereditary habit” of getting meek and submissive (114). This passage begs the question why the natural nature of humans must be tampered with. An additional place Hawthorne discredits women as intellectuals, happens at the conclusion of the novel when he observes that Hester is incapable of becoming the “prophetess” of a new age of women’s equality since the burden of her sin was insurmountable (180). Hester believes “The angel and apostle of the coming revelation have to be a lady, certainly, but lofty, pure, and beautiful and sensible, furthermore, not through dusky grief, but the ethereal medium of joy” (180).The notion that Hester is not “pure” adequate to be the apostle implies that her sin of adultery is as wicked as she is created to think which contradicts the concept that Hester is merely caught in the ideological framework of Puritan Boston and not really sinful outdoors of its strict standards. This portrait negates the radical concepts Hester has about gender equality and her doctrine of cost-free adore.

Hawthorne views the intellect as a masculine attribute and believes ladies have to give up their femininity to have the intellect of a man. As the novel unfolds, and Hester has far more time to think about gender roles in society and contemplate her personal philosophy of really like, she begins to lose her feminine beauty. Hawthorne accredits this loss to that idea that “some attribute had departed from her, the permanence of which had been vital to keep her a woman” (112). The author argues that ladies have no inherent intellect and to achieve any they have to shed one thing of their selves and turn out to be androgynous figures simply because their status as females is incompatible with intellect. Hester regains her beauty when she throws off her scarlet letter, suggesting that Hester’s sin and the guilt she bears simply because of it, symbolized by the scarlet letter, and her new intellectualism are bound together. She cannot retain one although discarding the other. This moment also implies that the only way she can turn into a accurate intellectual is by way of her severe public and private discomfort, which make her intellectualism seem like an unfortunate accident or an unhealthy coping mechanism rather than some thing that could occur in daily life with normal females. In the exact same passage Hawthorne establishes the depths to which Hester’s radical considering has brought her when she contemplates no matter whether “it have been not far better to send Pearl at after to heaven, and go herself.” (114) The darkness of even entertaining the believed of murdering her kid and committing suicide seems to imply that ladies are also emotional and fragile to be weighed down with all the thoughts of an intellect. Hawthorne suggests that ladies are incapable of fully mastering their intellectual thoughts, and their thoughts become the master of them and lead them astray. Intellectual believed, to a lady becomes a sort of curse.

Hawthorne tempers his negative view of females intellectuals by portraying the male intellects, Roger Chillingworth and Arthur Dimmsdale, as hubristic. The two intellectual males of the novel, Chillingworth and Dimmsdale, are each plagued with incredible hubris and a degree of narcissism. Chillingworth feels he is within his rights to privately torcher Dimsdale for the crime he committed when he slept with Hester. Similarly, Dimsdale refuses to reveal his identity simply because he believes “thenceforward, no very good can be accomplished by [me]” (91) He rationalizes leaving Hester to her private misery by believing the men and women of his clergy want him as well much. This portrayal of intellect as a corrupting attribute alleviates the wound of Hawthorne believing females not becoming capable of intellect. Hawthorne also suggests that intellect is incompatible with womanhood. Although this could be perceived as arguing that women aren’t powerful enough to have intellectual thoughts, it could also be arguing that the humble nature of ladies is unsuited to the feeling of superiority that intellect creates in guys. This adjust in viewpoint portrays women far more favorably due to the fact it suggests that they are above the arrogance of intellect, rather they appear to have an innate wisdom or womanly intuition that guides their morals. Because Hawthorne views intellect as a adverse attribute, it requires some of the sting out of his refusal to accept females as intellectuals. Therefore, whilst The Scarlet Letter is not feminist, it is not sexist either.

Regardless of its reputation as a proto-feminist book, Hawthorne’s prejudice against women of intellect is as well fantastic to let any attainable feminist themes to attain their prospective. Hawthorne did not think women could really turn out to be intellectuals on par with males and viewed intellect as a masculine attribute that only particular women could attain and only by losing some part of their femininity. Although this novel addresses the corruption located in a strictly patriarchal society, it fails to supply a viable alternative and disregards ladies as capable intellectuals to the point of condescension. In spite of its widespread recognition as one particular of the greatest American novels, The Scarlet Letter will only ever be relevant to women’s rights as a counterargument.

Operates Cited

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. New York: Dover Publications,1994. Print.
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