Gender Roles In Scarlet Letter

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Throughout the mid-1800’s, the time period that Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote The Scarlet Letter, the Puritan society in the New England colony abided by strict codes of conduct, many of them strongly influenced by perceptions of gender roles. Here, men were perceived as authoritative figures, while women were highly condemned due to constant accusations of crimes such as witchcraft and adultery. Set in Boston during the late seventeenth century, Hawthorne’s romantic novel depicts the story of Hester Prynne, a convicted adulterer; her husband Arthur Dimmesdale, a well respected religious figure in society; and Pearl, a child born from Hester and Dimmesdale’s adultery who gradually develops throughout the novel. Through the implementation of a foil …show more content…
In his final farewell to the community, Dimmesdale shouts to the people to “look again at Hester’s scarlet letter… it is but the shadow he bears in his own breast… is no more than the type that has scarred his inmost heart… die this death of triumphant ignominy before the people” (242-243). Here, the reader has a taste of Dimmesdale’s faith in his own fate. With the scarlet letter, adultery causes Dimmesdale to be secretly condemned by Puritan law, which is seen deep in his heart. He believes that the scarlet letter inflicts on him a punishment worse than Hester’s due to his increased condemnation. Dimmesdale’s interpretation of his condemnation gives an example of the role the Puritan religion has on his fate, beliefs, and lifestyle. Being that Dimmesdale’s condemnation causes him to believe that the scarlet letter was painfully inflicted upon him due to adultery and that God decided he should die publicly, readers believe that his fate was predetermined by his religion. Moreover, in the conclusion section of the novel, Hawthorne describes that as a result of her adultery, Hester cannot find her “little Pearl,” for “none knew-nor ever learned, with the fulness of perfect certainty-whether the elf child had gone thus untimely to a maiden grave; or whether her wild, rich nature had been softened and subdued” (248). Hester felt extremely frustrated with losing Pearl, for she was a living embodiment of Hester’s sin. Pearl served as remembrance for Hester’s adultery, and losing Pearl meant losing an opportunity for such remembrance and reflection. Therefore, by losing Pearl, it can be implied that Hester possibly was further punished through Pearl’s disappearance, keeping her more lonely than previously

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