The Scarlet Letter can easily be audited as early feministic piece of literature. Nathaniel Hawthorne created a story that exemplifies Hester as a strong female character living with her choices, whether they were ethical or unethical (Hawthorne, 52). Hester Prynne is a feminist who refuses to accept the subordinate role of women because she has financial, emotional, and intellectual independence. Hester Prynne is comparable to a modern feminist because of her admirable actions and brave choices (suffragist).
Hester reveals she is a resilient woman when she is prosecuted by the male authority and laws set down by the male population of her society. I feel her refusal to show shame or guilt at a victimless crime of passion, is an assertion of her independence in this society where women’s main purpose was of procreation (Burnett). Her independence from the supporting power of a man and her own personal drive shows the power of human emotion that surpasses any historical idea of “womanhood” (suffragist). Hester shows that she’s a passionate woman and does not let the male authority impact her and her daughter Pearl life.
Hester is comparable to a modern feminist because she feels passion for what she believes in, she does not abide to how women should act during her time, and she acts by the laws she has set up for herself. Hester Prynne shows that she is financially independent when she supports her daughter and herself by her skills (Reiss). She is coerced into being financially independent when Arthur Dimmesdale and Roger Chillilngsworth would not help support Hester and her child Pearl financially (Hawthorne, 47).
She then discovers one of her talents and that supports her family by becoming seamstress (Hawthorne). I feel this shows that she does not need a man to support her and depend on; she is a strong woman figure that could do all this on her own. Hester also shows that she is independent another way, emotionally. Hester Prynee is emotionally independent, because she is not dependent on a man figure for emotional support for her problems. She shows independence in handling her own problems and emotions that stem out of these factors (Burnett).
Being emotionally independent is a good quality to possess as it shows a strong-willed and independent woman who can handle herself in tough situations and Hester does show this as a quality (suffragist). For example, she has to cope going through society as a sinner and wearing the letter alone, she can not relate to anyone and does not have anyone to “lean on” for support . As shown in this qoute “But Hester Prynne, with a mind of native courage and activity, and for so long a period not merely estranged, but outlawed, from society, had habituated herself to such latitude of speculation as was altogether foreign to the clergyman.
She had wandered, without rule or guidance, in a moral wilderness. . . . The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers,—stern and wild ones,—and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss (Hawthorne, 183). She is going through all of this alone. Another example is when she is standing on the scaffold. She has to stay strong for her daughter, while the public ridicules her for her actions (Hawthorne). But she also shows characteristics for being intellectually independent.
As shown in this quote “She stood apart from moral interests, yet close beside them, like a ghost that revisits the familiar fireside and can no longer make itself seen or felt, no more smile with the household joy, nor mourn with the kindred sorrow; or, should it succeed in manifesting its forbidden sympathy, awakening only terror and horrible repugnance. ” (Hawthorne, 88) Intellectual independence is the most important form of independence. Intellectual dependence happens when Hester starts thinking for herself (suffragist). Hester does filtering ideas of her own, and she definitely does not accept other peoples’ advice blindly.
Intellectual independence means she is willing to experiment, explore and leave no stone unturned in the search for understanding (Clavaron). I feel Hester does avoid ideas that do not fit neatly into her world view. She will think through ideas herself instead of blindly accepting predigested facts from other people. For example, she never listened to Roger Chillingsworths’ suggestions, such telling the identity of her lover so that she could be judged and seen differently, then her lover would then be exposed and ridiculed. As shown in his quote “Wherefore dost thou desire it? ” inquired Hester, shrinking, she hardley knew why, from this secret bond. “Why not announce thyself openly, and cast me off at once”…. “I will keep thy secret, as I have his. ”(Hawthorne, 68-69) Like all forms of independence, intellectual independence is personal. As Hawthorne says in this quote “She had wandered, without rule or guidance, into a moral wilderness. Her intellect and heart had their home, as it were, in desert places, where she roamed as freely as the wild Indian in his woods.
The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers – stern and wild ones – and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss” (Hawthorne, 186). This shows that Hester Prynne is independent through financial, emotional, and even through intellectual independence. By being this independent she is seen as a modern day feminist when she deliberately chooses to rebel against the Puritan society in her relationship with Dimmesdale and her protection of him (Hawthorne, 68).
She is a feminist who refuses to accept the subordinate role of women and has financial, emotional, and finally intellectual independence
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