A Feminist Critic’s Viewpoint: Hester Prynne and Nora Helmer
In the 19th century, society was patriarchal, dominated by men, and women were deprived of all their rights. Women are considered dependent on men in all cultural areas of life, including the following factors: (a) family; b) religious; c) political; d) economic; e) social; f) legal; and (g) artistic. Since then, feminist criticism has developed and become one of the most dynamic and influential theories. It mostly emphasizes on female self-awareness, female dignity and female contribution to society.
The comparison between the main characters of two different literary works is the central focus of this article to analyze them thoroughly and systematically based on feminist criticism. The controversial women from the novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and the play A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen will show how they play their roles in society.
“I believe that I am first and foremost a human being, just as much as you are.” This is a simple but powerful line from Nora Helmer’s conversation in A Doll’s House with the person who causes her daily dose of sadness. She is the best representation of the woman who lives in a world where her husband suppresses her and defines her only as a doll, an accessory and a toy in his life.
The same experience is evident in the protagonist of the classic novel entitled The Scarlet Letter. Hester Prynne’s sacrificial love for the sake of a priest named Dimmesdale became one of the reasons for her punishment. Being an adulteress makes her a symbol of sin in the Puritan community in which she lives. Her struggle with the Puritan patriarchs forces her to be a strong and independent woman.
Of all the sacrifices these women have gone through, Hester and Nora show that they are rather passionate women and do not allow male power to ruin their lives. What’s more, they show their passion for what they believe in, they don’t adhere to the way women should act during their time, and they act according to the principles they set for themselves.
The Scarlet Letter and A Doll’s House were very interesting to analyze as an amazing work of literature of all time. It was interesting to look at it from the point of view of feminist criticism, because both literary texts were written and developed in a time very different from our own.
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