Janie and Hester: Dealt Unfair Hands But Played the Game

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Both awe-inspiring and indescribable is life, the defined “state of being” that historians and scholars alike have been trying to put into words ever since written language was first created. And in the words of one such intellectual, Joshua J. Marine, “Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful”. Essentially, he is comparing life to a bowl of soup. Without challenges or hardship into which we can put forth effort and show our potential, it becomes a dull and flavorless broth. But for characters in novels like Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, the difficulties and trials that we all must face can transfigure the mundane liquid mixture of existence into a vibrant and fulfilling gumbo. The protagonists of these works are two strong-willed and highly admirable women, who prevail in the face of overwhelming odds stacked in everyone’s favor but theirs. In their trying periods of isolation brought about by cold and unwelcoming peers, particularly men, they give their lives meaning by simply pushing forward, and living to tell the tale.

Beginning with the very first words of The Scarlet Letter the reader is thrust into a bleak and unforgiving setting. “A thong of bearded men, in sad-colored garments,” that are said to be “intermixed with women,” come off as overpowering and all-encompassing; Hawthorne quickly and clearly establishes who will be holding the power in this story: the males (Hawthorne 45). And he goes even further with his use of imagery, painting an even more vivid picture in the reader’s mind. One imagines a sea of drab grays and browns, further reinforcing the unwelcoming feeling this atmosphere seems to inheren...

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...en using these differences and more to control and manipulate one another since the dawn of time. Facing sexism and mistreatment at the hands of oppressive men is one of the biggest challenges a woman can face in contemporary and traditional societies. All challenges animate life, and we are given purpose when we deem it necessary to overcome said trials. Post-completion, life’s tests let us emerge with maturity and tenacity that we could not find elsewhere. Janie and Hester were dealt unfair hands in life, yet instead of folding and taking the easy way out, they played the game. They played, lost, and played again, and through this incessant perseverance grew exponentially as human beings. Although facing challenges head-on may seem daunting at times, and taking the easy way out can have grand appeal, the rewards at the end of the hard path are infinitely greater.

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