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Sarah Kuo

English III AP

Is Hawthorne Right?

Chapters 5-10
a. Women derive a pleasure, incomprehensible to the other sex, from the
delicate toil of the needle. To Hester Prynne it might have been a mode of
expressing, and therefore soothing, the passion of her life. Like all other joys,
she rejected it as sin. This morbid meddling of conscience with an immaterial
matter betokened, it is to be feared, no genuine and steadfast penitence, but
something doubtful, something that may be deeply wrong, beneath
(Hawthorne 77).
b. This quote takes place during the beginning of Hesters relative freedom. She
has left prison, taken Pearl with her, and gone to a secluded cottage where
she lives and works. As a way of providing for herself and Pearl, Hester does
all sorts of needlework. The narrator claims that this work is a task strangely
pleasurable to all women including Hester. The act of committing adultery
was also performed by Hester in search of happiness and resulted in her
exile from the town. Hester believes even her own needlework to be a sin
because it brings her happiness. Because of her one sin, Hester believes that
all tasks which bring her pleasure, as the initial transgression did, must be
Hawthorne is wrong in his quote regarding needlework and its relation
to women and sin. Although his views may have been popular at the time,
they are antiquated and do not apply to the modern setting of today. This is
because he generalizes all women as enjoying needlework and claims that
anything that calms or brings joy to oneself must be a sin.
When Hawthorne claims that women as a whole derive a
pleasurefrom the delicate toil of the needle, he is assuming that all women
enjoy performing time-consuming, domestic tasks (77). In the modern world,
this is no longer the case. Many women today enjoy tasks that were once
solely acceptable for men to perform. Today, women are able to get a quality
education and become lawyers, physicians, and pastors, jobs that used to be
only held by men. In contrast many women today do not even learn how to
sow and many who do find it to be a tedious process that is not worth their
time. Hawthorne was unable to see that women had value beyond doing
household chores or other womanly tasks.
Additionally at the end of the quote, Hawthorne states that Hester
believed her needlework to be sinful because it calmed her and brought her
happiness. Through this quote, Hawthorne indicates that he believes that all
things that bring people joy must have something evil or wrong at their very
core. This concept was extremely popular with the Puritans because they
rejected extravagance and encouraged self-sacrifice and piousness. However,
what is wrong or right is no longer defined as something so black and white.

Many things that bring people joy today are rooted in good intent and have
good effects on society without having an ulterior motive.
In conclusion, Hawthornes views may have been accurate for his time
period and the Puritan setting that he lived in but today his opinions on
women and needlework and the relationship between sin and joy are not
relevant. The quote he wrote does not represent women in the reality of
Chapters 11-18
a. Let men tremble to win the hand of woman, unless they win along with it
the utmost passion of her heart! Else it may be their miserable fortune, as it
was Roger Chillingworths, when some mightier touch than their own may
have awakened all her sensibilities, to be reproached even for the calm
content, the marble image of happiness which they will have imposed upon
her as warm reality (Hawthorne 159).
b. This quote takes place at the end of Hesters confrontation with
Chillingworth. The physician has returned to his root collecting and Hester
looks to him with hatred before going to look for Pearl. She decides that she
does not care whether or not it is a sin, but she hates the man who was, and
still technically is, her husband. She laments over all the time she wasted
with him, a man she did not love truly but still married. The quote follows her
thoughts of hatred as a caution to any man who marries a woman without
also winning her affections as Chillingworth did. Hawthorne indicates that it
was because of this lack of passion that Hester strayed from her husband and
committed adultery in the first place.
Hawthorne is correct in a metaphorical way as he states that men
should be wary of marrying a woman without also winning the utmost
passion of her heart or else the woman will eventually greatly disappointed
in the happy life she has lead that was devoid of true love (159). This
statement is accurate because many women become disappointed with
marriages devoid of passion and will reproach their husband for it. Still,
there are many women even today that enter marriages for reasons other
than love and affection or are simply content with having an average
marriage in which interactions are consistently amiable though they may be
lacking in passion.
In the modern world, women have a great deal of freedom in whom
they marry. As a result, not all marriages have the same motives. The main
motive for marriage today remains the same as it once was: to find love and
companionship in another person. In this case when women marry and find
that the passion they thought they had with their spouse has faded or never
existed at all, they are disappointed and this may result in an unhappy
marriage full of resentment that the happiness created in their relationship
was merely an illusion of love.
However, some women are content to marry someone they do not
love and enter marriages fully aware that the person they marry is not
someone they feel great passion towards. These types of marriages may be
for financial security, or status. Women who marry for these reasons go into

marriage knowing they will not experience great passion but are satisfied
with the benefit that they reap.
Therefore, Hawthorne is only correct in a metaphorical sense because
there are some cases in which his quote would be correct but not all cases of
marriage that lack passion result in a womans reproach (159).
Chapters 20-24
a. Be true! Be true! Be true! Show freely to the world, if not your worst, yet
some trait whereby the worst may be inferred! (Hawthorne 231).
b. This quote occurs at the very end of the book after the narrator explains the
speculations surrounding Dimmesdale and his death. Hawthorne states this
phrase as an overarching theme that can be learned from the ministers
experience with harboring his secret for such a long time. The quote claims
that one must show the worst side of oneself in order to be true and avoid
the massive detrimental guilt that Dimmesdale was forced to face.
Hawthorne is only correct in a metaphorical way in stating that the
only way to be true to yourself is to present the worst side of yourself in
some way to others. There are many other ways to represent ones own
identity and in some cases it is more harmful to share our bad qualities then
it is to hide them.
It is possible to absolve oneself from guilt when one shares their
worst side or qualities with everyone, because one no longer has to feel as if
they are hiding themselves. The fear of being discovered for who you really
are is no longer a problem. However, there are consequences when people
can see who you really are. As a result it is more beneficial to be true to
yourself by emphasizing your good qualities and thus making the bad
qualities you possess less prominent and relevant.
Consequently, Hawthorne is not correct in reality but in theory
showing everyone your bad qualities in some way is a liberating and effective
way to be true to yourself. But, your bad qualities are only one part of
yourself and accentuating those qualities can present a true version of
yourself to the world in a way that is less harmful to your reputation and