Essay - How is Hester Prynne A Transcendentalist

A 5 page research paper describing the Scarlet Letter from a feminist viewpoint. The writer discusses how the Scarlet Letter reflects the stereotype of women as either good or evil, and how its reflected in the main character of Hester Prynne. Bibliography lists 6 sources.

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This 2 page essay discusses the private and public nature of suffering in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, focusing on the 3 major characters, Hester Prynne, Roger Chillingworth and Arthur Dimmesdale. Only the book is cited.


Hester Prynne, Feminist Heroine

- Hester Prynne and Dimmesdale essays examine the main characters of the Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne.

In the space of a few years, she became America's female intellectual prophet, challenging the whole "masculine"-"feminine" dichotomy on which the official gender culture was based. The life of Margaret Fuller was the kind of life that Hester Prynne dreamed of living. Given her situation, however, she deemed the revolution of society, and the revolution of woman's place in that society "a hopeless task before her." [13].


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Herzog's essay dealt with the idea that Hester is both wild and passionate, as well as, caring, conservative, and alien.
Towards Hester Prynne, by David Reynolds, expressed Hester as a heroine composed of many different stereotypes of females from the time period Hawthorne was writing.

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Hester Prynne shows this defiant characteristic when Governor Bellingham tells her that it would be in Pearl's best interests if she were to be taken away from her mother, "clad soberly" and "disciplined strictly". She protests passionately, declaring: "Ye shall not take her! I will die first!" [21]. Up until this point, Hester has accepted the punishment chosen for her, but to take Pearl away would be crossing the line, and Hester stands up for herself and her belief that Pearl would be better off with her mother, and indeed, that she, Hester would be better off with Pearl ("Had they taken her from me, I would willingly have gone with thee into the forest, and signed my name in the Black Man's book." [22]

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I believe that Hester Prynne is as much a woman of mid-nineteenth century American culture as she is of seventeenth-century Puritan New England. If she had not been repressed by the stringent society in which she lived, then the world could truly have been her oyster. Of course, the question of what she could have accomplished had she lived in a different era is an impossible one, but there are signs throughout the novel that Hester's ideas for social reform are far ahead of her own time. We empathise with the tragedy of her situation, but at the same time, it would be possible to say that Hester is the prophetess she aspired to be, and it is she who is speaking words of her unworthiness, not Hawthorne. The motif that suffering converted into insight can indeed ennoble and make one wiser is recurrent in Hawthorne's works. Despite their different backgrounds, Hester Prynne and Margaret Fuller seem to have had similar characters. Both suffered alienation during their lifetimes, and both realised injustices in society as a result of this isolation. The main difference between them was that Margaret Fuller had the opportunity to express her ideas, i.e. she had a voice in her society, whereas Hester, a woman stained by sin, had no chance of becoming a prophetess in the eyes of her village.