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Ashton Zaidi

Mr. Bowler

English 10 Honors

19 March 2019

The Scarlet Letter Feminist Analysis Essay

The Scarlet Letter is a book written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, in which it takes place

during Puritan Era United States, during the colonial times. A young woman by the name Hester

Prynne, had found herself guilty of adultery, and was punished by having a scarlet colored “A”

embroidered into her bosom, as they call it in the book which is really just her chest. The book

goes through years of her life and the struggles of being the only person in the town with this

marking and how it plays out in various social situations. Hawthorne portrays women as very

strong willed, but weak and powerless compared to the men.

Women in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter are portrayed as very strong-willed, and very

forward thinking and strong, but compared to men they are shown as weak. They spread rumors

about one another, and didn’t have many responsibilities other than take care of the children and

the house, which gives them time to gossip about the townspeople. Hawthorne, showing their

role in society, writes “They were her country women, and the beef and ale of their native land,

with a moral diet not a whit more refined, entered largely into their composition,” (Hawthorne

44). This shows that the women weren’t as “lady-like” during the Puritan era, that they could

take care of themselves and yet they stay home with their children and raise them. With the

woman staying at home, it gave them time to fester and gossip about punishments the

wrongdoers should get, seen with,” That women… take peculiar interest in penal infliction,”

(Hawthorne 44). They sought out the maximum punishment and had to be held back and
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controlled by men because they didn’t have a say in matters such as this for they weren’t given

much responsibility.

They women in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, while strong among one another, had

their strengths and weaknesses, especially compared to the men of their society. On page 44 of

The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorn explains,” Wives and maidens of old English birth and breeding…

every successive mother has transmitted to her child a fainter bloom.” This statement, shows

their strengths, which was bearing children and passing on their characteristics to their children,

raising their children. Being able to drop everything to help their child, regardless of what they

were or are doing. Staying at home and taking care of the house was another strength and this

demonstrates that this was most of which they did, shown by “I must tarry at home, and keep

watch over my little Pearl,”(Hawthorne 93). Their sole job and dedication is their children and it

shows, which is definitely their strength. They are willing to put aside whatever they have and

whatever they are doing to help take care of their children. Weaknesses on the other hand, is well

defined in passages such as,” A women never overcomes these problems by any exercise or

thought… If her heart chance to come uppermost, they vanished,”(Hawthorne 129). This shows

that the women of the society had little rights, and that they couldn’t express their desires to

overthrow the hierarchy or their desires to fight back and learn about the things that could help

them in this battle. The women were fighting an uphill battle for themselves as well women all

around them in their society.

In The Scarlet Letter, as seen prior, the women are the ones who are kept in check and

powerless throughout the story, and the people who have or hold most of the power in the society

are the men. Especially the magistrates, or judges is another name they are called. When the

magistrates are explained who they are in society, its explained by, “The magistrates are God-
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fearing gentlemen, but merciful over much,” (Hawthorne 49). In the book, the magistrates, who

are also men, are the judges who ruled over moral disputes, as well as crimes. They gave

punishments and everyone fears them, having to follow their rules. This supports that there was a

strong patriarchy and that women didn’t have much say in what happened for many things.

Hester, being a woman, doesn’t have the advantage of being a man, but she knows one of the

magistrates very well which helps give her an advantage because through him she can influence

what happens in society. Morally speaking, the women of the book have the moral power,

primarily Hester. One of the women towards the book criticizes her saying,” Let her cover the

mark as one will,” (Hawthorne 43). Hester, after this and throughout the course of 7 years in the

novel, hasn’t covered it and has worn it proudly for all that time. She has accepted her

punishment without arguing, or arguing it down and fighting the system, but she wears it bravely

because she owes it to herself to finish what she has started. Showing that among her own

company, that she is strong, and even in the presence of men and fellow women, that she won’t

break and she stays strong throughout the book.

In conclusion, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne creates an interesting dynamic

between men and women, showing the tension there is, and what could be. He shows the

weaknesses of women, as well as their strengths and how they respond to various situations

thrown at them, especially a woman of a bad position. To many, political power may be seen as

more important, but in actuality, its moral power. Being able to hold yourself to a standard and

have a good moral compass is crucial to being able to form relationships with important people

and gain their trust as well as respect. Authors may make an unfair situation for one woman

compared to the rest as well as the men and show how strong they can be and how strong they

actually are when given a hard situation to live through. Showing that through all of the
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stereotypes of women being weak, and dependent on men, that they go through their own

hardships and do things that many men could never do themselves.