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Gender Stereotypes In The Scarlet Letter

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The stereotypes applied to nineteenth century women were not just stereotypes, they were realities. Women were expected to stay home and do all the cooking and cleaning for their family. They were entirely dependent on their male counterparts for all their tasks outside the domestic sphere. They were generally considered unintellectual and uneducated. Women were generally suppressed in early society. Nineteenth century Romantic writer Nathaniel Hawthorne saw these stereotypical gender roles beginning to shift. He uses his novel, The Scarlet Letter, to portray his idea of changing gender roles. The female protagonist of the novel, Hester Prynne, possesses many traits and engages in many activities that would conflict with the gender stereotypes…show more content…
Although she is looked down upon by the society in the beginning of the novel, she is transformed into a symbol of strength, something typically reserved for men, towards the end of the novel. “The letter was the symbol of her calling. Such helpfulness was found in her,—so much power to do, and power to sympathize,—that many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said that it meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s strength” (Hawthorne 146). Through her suffering, Hester had become an inspiring symbol of strength for the community. Women were typically unable to be a symbol of strength because they were largely oppressed. Yamin Wang furthers this by saying, “By the novel’s end, Hester has become a proto-feminist mother figure to the women of the community. Meng (2003) describes that the shame attached to her scarlet letter is long gone. Women recognize that her punishment stemmed in part from the town father’s sexism, and they come to Hester seeking shelter from the sexist forces under which they themselves suffer” (Wang 897). Wang is saying that other women in the society look up to Hester and realize that she was punished by the sexist males of the society. They confide in her for the strength they need to stand up to the male leaders. This shows a big change in gender roles because previously women were too fearful to stand up to
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