Feminism Revisited in The Scarlet LetterWhen Hawthorne compared Hester Prynne to the feminist movement of his own time, I think he might have done so as an admonition. I think he sympathized with...

Feminism Revisited in The Scarlet LetterWhen Hawthorne compared Hester Prynne to the feminist movement of his own time, I think he might have done so as an admonition. I think he sympathized with women's rights, but I also think he was concerned that radical feminism might lead to social disruption and discord--much in the same way Hester's rebellion triggered disruption in her life and the lives of others. Consider that Hawthorne had a similar attitude toward slavery. Hawthorne was actively against abolitionism because he felt that it was too socially disruptive. He admitted slavery was an evil institution, but he thought it better to let slavery fade away on its own rather than for politicians to take more aggressive action. I realize this view of TSL is provocative, but I think it makes more sense given what we know about Hawthorne's very conservative views on nineteenth-century human rights issues.

Asked on by quentin1

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Friar Laurence warns Romeo in Shakespeare's play, "These violent delights have violent ends." In concurrence with Hawthorne, Hester's contemplations of the position of women projects that it will take much time before she gains her independence.  It is reasonable that it should be so because radical ideas are not quickly accepted in societies, and they often cause more harm than good when they are quickly and forcibly enacted, just as the Puritan community immediately builds the prison on their settlement.

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think there is only some amount of sympathy with Hester.  She is a complex character, and it is a complex book. Yes, she was a victim of her time.  However, she also made her own choices.

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