Women, due to their free spirits, can possess more human qualities than men, which seduces men into jealousy of the beauty of “feminine” nature. Men, particularly in the colonial era, tend to dominate women in terms of power, whether the scope of the power resides in the household or in elected office. The colonial era, in the sense of gender indifference and distinct social roles, parallels the social animosity of the Hawthorne’s era, the 1830s. As home-based labor and self-sufficiency decreased and community labor increased, men obtained more economic opportunities in their labor, which resulted in the further degradation of women into objects (Martin 513-514). Roger “Chillingworth” Prynne took his economic opportunity as a researcher and neglected Hester in the colony as if Hester resembled a prize that he could return to. After a long period of time without her husband, unlike other women, Hester chooses to defy her society’s customs and pursues happiness. Hester chooses to find her happiness in an affair with Dimmesdale and ultimately ends up with condemnation, isolation, and an infant girl. An individual could describe Hester’s motive of sexual pleasure to find happiness as childish, but Hawthorne describes Hester’s free spirit as childlike. Hawthorne describes Hester in the forest as “another child [the first being Pearl]… with likewise its ray of golden light” (133). The association of Hester’s character with a “child” reveals to the reader that Hawthorne compares the adult Hester to a free-spirited child that seeks enjoyment and doesn’t succumb to the natural human oppression brought about by human-defined laws. The Puritans detest Hester and choose to condemn her because she thre...
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...into thy life… that will leave thee powerless even to repent” (Hawthorne 127-128). Hester’s spiritual development over higher, older, more revered authorities like Dimmesdale proves that instantaneous mistakes do not permanently hinder a person from righteous actions. She advises Dimmesdale to deviate from his old and “false life” and live a life free of fear or shame from the past. Hester’s testimony with her scarlet letter proves that her implicit belief in repentance and redemption to lowly people like her allows her to continue life beyond her shortcomings. If she allowed herself to face condemnation and believe the dehumanizing treatment from the Puritan society, her character would not only fail to defy nature, but she also probably would end up in a mental turmoil similar to Dimmesdale’s continuous distress up to his final moment of confession and repentance.
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