Scarlett Letter Essay

Submitted By stephanne1214
Words: 1519
Pages: 7

Feminist of Her Time The time period that The Scarlett Letter was based off of was the mid 17th century. During this time period in England the religion was based out of the Church of England. This religion had stemmed off of the Roman Catholic Church which had been developed some 200 years earlier. However, many of the Catholic Church practices were not followed through on in the Church of England. Some of these practices included the emphasis on works and the veneration of the saints. This story begins with a group called the Puritans which was a stem from the Church of England. The Puritans had come to the New World and based their religion off of Calvinism. These Protestant Christians believed in predestination which meant that before a person was even born God had chosen their fate. Nathaniel Hawthorne begins his story in the town of Boston, Massachusetts. A religious community of Puritans has formed where they have a peaceful place to separate sin out of their daily lives. Hester Prynne, Hawthorne's main character, was developed as a feminist in this story. She was one of the first literary feminists that was able to gain fame in the judgemental time period of the The Scarlett Letter. Hawthorne sets Hester up as a very independent woman from the very beginning when the reader finds her taking accountability for her actions. She is described as a very vibrant character who is secure in the decisions she had made. "Those who had before known her, and had expected to behold her dimmed and obscured by a disastrous cloud, were astonished, and even startled, to perceive how her beauty shone out, and made a halo of the misfortune and ignominy in which she was enveloped" (Hawthorne, 53). This is one of the very first examples of how the townspeople view Hester when she first steps out holding her new born child. This passage shows Hester to be a strong young woman that does not stand in front of her fellow townspeople as a person filled with shame but rather a person who will admit to what she has done and do it in a very dignified way. A few pages later Hawthorne clearly exemplifies Hester as an independent woman when she refuses to admit to who the father of her child is. Hester not only is willing to accept her punishment but holds her strong character by accepting the punishment on her own as if it were an act done completely by herself. Hester could be compared to any modern feminist by her brave decisions and her admirable actions. She shows to be a very tempered woman when she is forced to abide the laws made by the male authority of that society. As shown in the first chapter Hester refuses to let her shame or guilt show through in a society that had developed a woman's role as a role solely for procreation. Even though she has gone through such traumatic events, she refuses to let them affect the life of her daughter. "Of an impulsive and passionate nature, she had fortified herself to encounter the stings and venomous stabs of public contumely, wreaking itself in every variety of insult. She longed rather to behold all those rigid countenances contorted with scornful merriment, and herself the object" (Hawthorne, 56). Hester Prynne is not defined by the opinion of the people around her but by her opinion of herself. This is another example of how Hester may be viewed as a feminist due to her passion to follow her own rules and live her life the way she chooses to. She refuses to conform to society and simply be a pretty face to look at. Following Hester's independence at the stand, she could also easily be compared to a modern feminist by her act of rebellion. She had been forced to wear the letter "A" on her chest which stood for her sin of adultery. This sin is meant to be looked at as a dark and dreary sin which Hester should never forget. Hester decides to embroider her "A" with a scarlett red color with gold thread. "On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate…