Essay on Gender Roles Of The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne

Essay on Gender Roles Of The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne

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The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne uses gender roles as a recurring theme in the novel. Gender roles, whether they agree with or defy societies’ norms of the Puritan era, are found within each character in The Scarlet Letter. In particular, defiant gender roles are prominent within Hester Prynne who refuses to be taken down by society, and also within Arthur Dimmesdale who cowardly struggles with morality within himself. Conflict also appears in this novel to highlight the author’s point of view of gender and its place in society. Societal pressures and influences to conform to expected gender roles determine peoples’ ability to achieve true happiness.
Hester Prynne approaches the typical gender roles of a woman in an extremely defiant way. Though it is a struggle for the most part, she lives to please herself and her child, Pearl, as her main priority is to be happy. Women in the Puritan society’s voices are of lesser value than males. They believe that they should have a say in the laws that are made, especially when it concerns other females. This is proven when a group of women in town speak about Hester Prynne’s fate, when they say, “We women, being of mature age… should have the handling of such malefactresses as this Hester Prynne.” (Hawthorne, 49). Though these women feel strongly about their position, they dare not defy the gender roles that have been set because they understand that their request to be heard will never be considered. For this, they remain unhappy in silence. Hester, on the other hand, through all of her shame, has accepted her fate of the scarlet letter on her chest, and carries on. She is a strong woman, which is how she works against typical gender roles. However isolated, Hester’s shame fails ...


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...onform to expected gender roles determine peoples ability to achieve true happiness. For example, Hester defies the gender expectations and is happy, meanwhile Dimmesdale defies them and is miserable. Gender roles are especially an area of interest in society during the Puritan era, as well as now. Double standards are always closely linked to the topic of gender roles. In The Scarlet Letter especially, double standards between men and women are seen. If a woman is defiant, she is often applauded for rebelling against the system in which men have always held the most power. If a man attempts to do the same, he is shamed and looked down upon, as we saw in Dimmesdale’s character, though not many people can see his shame. Happiness is defined in men and women based on their perception of gender roles, and their ability to make decisions based on what will benefit them.

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