Gender Roles In Adrienne Rich's The Scarlet Letter

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Feminist Adrienne Rich argues in her essay, “When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision,” that there are drastic differences between the established gender roles in society. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, Hester, an adulteress and martyr, suffers from the strict grasp of Puritanism and patriarchy. Throughout the novel, Hester is a luxury to men, especially the revered minister and secret sinner, Dimmesdale, as well as her husband, Chillingworth. However, the rest of this male-dominated, Puritan society, or the world as she perceives it, is not a luxury for Hester, but a necessity. Thus, the relationship between Hester and the men in her society demonstrates and proves Rich’s argument regarding the distinctions between gender roles. In Rich’s essay, she states that “…historically men and women have played very different parts in each others’ lives” (Rich). Rich claims that women…show more content…
With the continuous, generous contributions towards the poor, the rich, and the rest of the townspeople along with her sewing skills, the town’s view of Hester changes. However, even with this change, the town continues to use Hester while still disparaging her and ignoring her efforts to reintegrate into society. In fact, even after the reveal of the secret sinner’s identity and the establishment of a promising future for her daughter, Hester is abused in that “people brought all their sorrows and perplexities, and besought her counsel” (Hawthorne, 180) at no cost, due to the expectations forced upon her. In summary, through the interactions between Hester and the patriarchal society as well as the men, it is evident that there are notable differences between gender roles where woman is nothing more than a luxury. Even though centuries separate the Puritan age from the present, the imbalance of gender roles and male dominance remains in our society
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