Feminism and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne Essay

Feminism and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne Essay

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Throughout history western culture has operated under the idea that women were inferior creatures and lesser beings. Women have been called “a foe to friendship, an inescapable punishment, a necessary evil, and the gateway to the Devil.” Feminism has been around for hundreds years because of the way women have been treated and from that, came the feminist approach. The feminist approach aims to understand gender difference, gender inequality and focus on gender politics and sexuality. When looking through the eyes of a feminist, readers must resist the andocentric point of view and think about the female’s point of view, whether male or female. In 1850 one of the most popular, classic feminist books was published; this book is called The Scarlet Letter. Applying the feminist approach to The Scarlet Letter is ideal because it is written by a man by the name of Nathaniel Hawthorne and is about a woman that commits adultery and lives a very harsh life. As a feminist reader interpreting this book could be taken in a few directions which allows this approach to be appropriate. A feminist reader could look at why Hawthorne made the main character, Hester the way she is, why he had the other characters treat Hester in a particular way, how Hawthorne portrayed the women in this book, or even how and why Hester and the other women acted the way they did. By using the feminist approach Hawthorne portrays that women are the bad guys in situations, but are also a lot stronger than many may think.
The Scarlet Letter is written and told by Hawthorne, so readers do not hear what Hester is actually feeling. As Hawthorne writes about the sin of Hester he does not even briefly allow the reader to really see into Hester’s heart, always o...


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...ne portrays women as not being an equal to men. The book does not allow us to know how Hester’s truly feels about everything that happens to her. Also most of the women have awful characteristics that make them sinful, crazy, or evil. Even though this novel portrays women as inferior I do not think that this will hinder the movement for women. This book was written and published in 1850 and even though some novels still portray women the same way, in the present world women are a lot closer to being equals to men then when this book was published. Some of the book’s themes still hold true today and even some of the ways Hawthorne portrays women, but the equality is closer then it was in 1850. The Scarlet Letter is a fantastic classic book to remind readers that feminism was part of society even back then and a great way to apply the feminist approach today.

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