Depictions of gender roles in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter

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In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne is virtually banished from the Puritan society because of her crime. She was guilty for adultery with the town’s minister, Arthur Dimmesdale. However, the reader is kept in the dark that Dimmesdale is the child’s father until latter part of the novel. Although Hawthorne’s novel accurately depicts the consequences that Hester and Dimmesdale suffer from their sin, the novel does not accomplish the task of reflecting upon the 17th century Puritan gender roles in Hester and Dimmesdale. For one, the mental and physical states of Hester and Dimmesdale are switched. Hester takes on the more courageous role throughout the novel whereas Dimmesdale takes on the more sensitive role. In …show more content…
The primary roles of women involved domestic chores such as knitting, gathering herbs, and cooking. In addition, many mothers were also responsible for teaching their children reading, writing, and prayers. The Puritan society was built around religion and the gender roles of men and women were in accordance to the gender roles traditionally accepted at the time period. In The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale suffer accurately for their sins when compared to the ideals set by 17th century Puritan society. Upon discovery, Hester is punished and sent to prison where she has to suffer from humiliation. Later, when she is freed, she moves to the outskirts of Boston where she lives in a small cottage with her child, Pearl. She is still required wear the scarlet A on her chest symbolizing her crime of adultery. Despite being freed from prison, she is unable to forget her sin as it follows her in the form of Pearl and the letter A. Additionally, she is publicly humiliated and scorned by all classes of society. One specific incident is when a group of children throw rocks and dirt at Hester and Pearl as they walk in the market place (Hawthorne 90). In essence, Hester is tortured to a greater extent for the same sin than Dimmesdale is tortured. This is accurate according the feminine gender role lens of Puritan society. On the other hand, Dimmesdale also suffers

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