Definition Of Feminism In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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The modern-day definition of feminism is largely regarded as the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of equality of the sexes. A widely debated topic amongst scholars is whether Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is an example of proto-feminist literature. The first wave feminist movement wasn’t put into action until the late 19th century, a few years after The Scarlet Letter was written and published, prompting questions regarding if Hester Prynne was one of the first feminists and a pioneer for the foundation of the early feminist movement. The Scarlet Letter is unintentionally a feminist novel because of the way Hester rejects the Puritan’s cruel condemnation of her and her child, and because of the fact that Nathaniel Hawthorne’s …show more content…
Women were categorized as the “weaker vessel in both body and mind,” and that “her husband ought not expect too much from her.” It was believed that Eve’s role in original sin illustrates a woman’s innate moral fragility. Furthermore, women were assumed to be much more vulnerable to temptation and possessed qualities that could easily turn sinful. Women were expected to submit to every whim of their husband, and if she was a good spouse, she had fulfilled her God-given duty. When a woman was discontent and had extramarital affairs, it was the worst thing a woman could do to her husband. The husband would be humiliated, and the woman would be punished severely. In The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne’s punishment for adultery was to be publicly ridiculed with a tangible representation of her sin, leaving her isolated from her own community. She was no longer an ordinary citizen; she was a public spectacle. “[The Letter] had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity, and enclosing her in a sphere by herself.” (Hawthorne …show more content…
Where did Hawthorne get his ideas of feminism? Was Hawthorne influenced, or did Hester’s spirit bring out the feminist undertones of the novel? It’s unclear whether The Scarlet Letter is a feminist novel, because Hawthorne never discussed his inspirations for Hester’s character, so no one knows if she was intentionally a feminist. While her character shows the very essence of feminism, the idea of feminism itself was scarcely discussed in the late 1800’s, let alone supported. In contrast, Hawthorne is frequently believed to not be a feminist, because of his misogynistic critiques of female authors, describing them as a “damned mob of scribbling women.” Many people today presume that Hawthorne felt his literary position was ultimately threatened by female authors. However, a majority of people still believe The Scarlet Letter is a feminist novel, because Hawthorne’s concepts of female liberation were ahead of his time by many years.
Hawthorne paints Hester Prynne as a free woman, who is no longer confined to sexist Puritan society, which was a theme that was ahead of its time at the time the novel was published. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, is unintentionally a feminist novel because it displayed feminist themes, however it was written before feminism was truly embraced and talked

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