The Scarlet Letter, By Nathaniel Hawthorne Essay

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In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne is one of the first feminists in literature. She has committed adultery and is sentenced to wearing a scarlet ‘A,’ signifying her sin, as her punishment. This ‘A’ brings her shame and judgment from the community, allowing everyone to know of her illegitimate relations. However, as a feminist figure, she accepts this punishment as one from herself. She understands what she has done, and by accepting it, she becomes a strong willed, free woman. In The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne is a strong, independent, self-sufficient, and caring woman in the seventeenth century, making her a pioneer as one of literature’s first feminists. Hester displays independence not seen in other Puritan women. She has the freedom and ability to be in control of her own life. She was “free to return to her birthplace, or to any other European land” in contrast to the women of the time who were confined to their husband’s will (Hawthorne 76). Hester had the ability to make the decision to leave; however, “her sin, her ignominy, were the roots which she had struck into the soil” and with that she chose to stay in Boston (Hawthorne 76). Hester’s ability to make decisions for herself was a first in literature. Even in novels with acclaimed feminist characters such as Henrick Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler or Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, the women are not portrayed as independent as Hester is, they remain inferior to men. In both Hedda Gabler and…

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