The characters of Hester, Dimmesdale, Chillingworth, and the very society that the characters lived in, were steeped in hypocrisy. Hawthorne was not subtle in his portrayal of the terrible sin of hypocrisy; he made sure it was easy to see the sin at work.
This minor revision of literary history might have two kinds of consequences. The first would be interpretive. Instructed by her other writing-"The Great Lawsuit," say-how easy it might be to see: My point in conducting this experiment in counterfactual literary history is to express with some drama the paradox I want to explore today: I propose the following route for our ruminations-and I should say in advance that my goal is less to propose one definitive answer to my question than to explore some of the analytic perspectives or possibilities that might illuminate this apparent paradox.
I think the answer is, emphatically, yes. Nathaniel Hawthorne as Feminist. In these encounters, male characters-their underlying anxiousness and aggression disguised as ambition or obsession-refuse the invitation to full, complex, and humane life offered by their female counterparts.
These acts of neurotic refusal punish-and even kill off-the women and yield to the male characters the utterly empty lives they seem all along to seek. Baym argues that this pattern of cowardly or sadistic male refusal of the richer possibilities of life represented by women continues, in fuller and more complex form, in the novels.
What had perhaps seemed a set of psychological flaws in the stories emerges as a fully social phenomenon in the novels, a kind of cultural symptom. As he creates female characters who are not simply containers for positive values but exemplars of a full and subversive alternative life-Zenobia, Miriam, pre-eminently Hester-Hawthorne, via his implicit repudiation of male flight from such women, indicts the thinness and rigidity of a society that seems at once to induce and endorse such poisonous evasiveness.
That is, one might, as a man, be profoundly critical of a prevailing or emerging form of male identity without questioning supposedly "natural" female roles.
Indeed, in these stories, female characters seem to exemplify values linked to women in middle-class domestic ideology. Still, Baym is certainly right to argue that the thwarting of talented female lives is crucially at issue as Hawthorne invents Hester, Zenobia, and Miriam.
Here is a second possible shift in emphasis. While I would completely agree that sexuality is powerfully evoked and at issue in these texts-who could deny it?
For me, Hawthorne uses his admirable or formidable female characters to represent an adequately complex and comparatively free relation to life. But I think the key issue for Hawthorne, and the heroic possibility at once evoked and mourned or yearned for through the bleak careers of his heroic women, is that of a more freely chosen, more adequately imagined, more powerfully ethical life.
Such a life, one notices, is precisely what Dimmesdale-a victim, one might propose, of his deep affiliation to the power system whose norms he has violated-cannot compass. Such a life, we might also observe, is the goal of the narrator of "The Custom House," who, in seeking to become a "citizen of somewhere else" allies himself to Hester across the boundaries of gender.
I want now to work through some of the possibilities the strongest recent criticism has offered to us, and which we might offer to our students.
I think these critical responses can be organized into three "strategies. This is, to me, an appealing view-and one that can, I believe, be maintained and argued for and enjoyed with a clear critical conscience.
But it does have a weakness, one that I alluded to at the start of this talk when I referred to the "paradox" of Hawthorne-as-Feminist. The Hawthornes and the Making of the Middle-Class Family; of his repudiation of Louisa Lander, a young American sculptor in Rome who had been close to him and his family, at the first whiff of scandalous rumor, even as the character of Miriam may have been gestating in his imagination.
No one of these facts of life is conclusive-but the accumulation of them seems formidable, even to someone like me, strongly disposed to admire Hawthorne and to distrust biographical arguments and aware that we all perhaps write more cogently than we live. But these readers see not a committed, feminist Hawthorne but an ambivalent, even a tormented man, drawn powerfully to contain the subversive possibilities unleashed by his own troubled sympathies.
And the literary value of his work inheres not in its remarkable analytic power over his contradictory and self-thwarting culture but in the way it reveals his-and our-embeddedness in it. In contrast to the celebration exemplified by Baym, or the containment argued by Herbert, we might call this interpretive move "substitution.
Speaking of Richardson and Clarissa, but extending her point to a larger set of male novelists, Jehlen writes:Nathaniel Hawthorne’s historical novel The Scarlet Letter explores guilt, revenge, and redemption in colonial America.
Hawthorne blends supernatural elements with psychological insight in his story of one woman’s public punishment for adultery. The stranger tells him that Hester refuses to reveal her fellow sinner.
As punishment, she has been sentenced to three hours on the scaffold and a lifetime of wearing the scarlet letter on her chest. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter, the characters’ hypocrisy represents the pervasiveness of hypocrisy in all people.
Hypocrisy is evident in all of The Scarlet Letter’s main characters: Hester, Dimmesdale, Chillingworth, the town of Boston, and Pearl. () "The Scarlet Letter", a classic romantic novel of suspense and intrigue, takes on the themes of pride, sin and vengeance with a burning passion that made it the controversial novel of its time.
Hester's Alienation from Society Depicted in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter; Hester's Alienation from Society Depicted in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. Words 5 Pages. Show More. Hypocrisy in Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter Hypocrisy, often seen as one of the vilest manifestations of the human ego, is also one of the most inevitable and.
Puritan Hypocrisy Exposed in The Scarlet Letter Throughout The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne repeatedly portrays the Puritanical views of sin and evil. The Puritans are constantly displayed as believing that evil comes from an unyielding bond being formed between love and hate.