A Feminist Criticism Perspective: Hester Prynne and Nora Helmer

In the 19th century, the society was patriarchal, dominated by men, and women were deprived of all their rights. Women were considered dependent on men in all cultural domains of life including the following factors: (a) familial; (b) religious; (c) political; (d) economic; (e) social; (f) legal; and (g) artistic. From then on, the feminist criticism was developed and became one of the most dynamic and influential theories. Mostly, it emphasizes women’s self-awareness, women’s dignity and women’s contribution to the society.

A comparison between the main characters of two different literary pieces is the central focus of this article to analyze them deeply and systematically on the basis of feminist criticism. The controversial women of 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 the society.

“I believe that before anything else, I’m a human being, just as much of as you are.” It’s a simple yet powerful line of A Doll’s House’s very own Nora Helmer’s conversation 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 oppresses and defines her only as a doll, an accessory, and a plaything in his life.

The same experience is also evident on the main character of the classical novel titled The Scarlet Letter. Hester Prynne’s sacrificial love for the sake of a clergyman with a name called Dimmesdale became one of the reasons of her punishment. By being an adulterous person leads her to become a symbol for sin in the Puritan community that she lives in. Her struggle with the Puritan patriarchs forces her to be a strong and an independent woman.

Of all the sacrifices these women had experienced, Hester and Nora show that they are more of a passionate woman and do not let the male authority ruin their lives. Moreover, they show their passion for what they believe in, they do not abide to how women should act during their time, and they act by the principles they had set up for themselves.

The Scarlet Letter and A Doll’s House were very interesting to analyze as an amazing piece of literature of all time. It was interesting to look at from a feminist criticism point of view because both literary texts were written and set in at a time much different than ours.

Raskolnikov and the Crime and Punishment Literary Criticism

My Crime and Punishment literary criticism reveals that the story is told purely from the point of view of Raskolnikov. His name, which means “divided,” is appropriate since his key character trait is to alienate himself from society. He also believes that he is part of an elite echelon and that he can do as he pleases. However he is tormented by guilt after he commits murder.

Throughout the novel he toys with the idea about confessing and at the same time remains convinced that what he did was justified. The only force strong enough to keep his mind from slipping into contempt for humanity is Sonja, which is one realization he acknowledges. He admits that he loves her.

The other characters in the book merely are a mirror reflection of who he is; they mirror his own personality and understanding of himself. Deep down he really cares about Dunya, Pulcheria, Razumikhin and Alexandra but because he has a skeptical outlook, he never shows his appreciation when his friends try and help him.

Sonya who is also a transgressor and sacrifices herself for the sake of others where as Raskolnikov’s crimes are committed only for his own selfish reasons, yet he cannot fully see the evil of his actions. His relationship with Svidrigailov is distant and he despises him, but at the same time he needs the strong validation for his own crimes.

Sonya is family orientated and prostituted herself to aid her family. She should not have had to do that but her selfish father kept drinking. Sonja understands why Raskolnikov committed his crimes and is not horrified by this at all. However, Raskolnikov still thinks of Sonja as a fellow transgressor and he is not willing to acknowledge the difference for quite some time. She’s “one of them” for most of the book. She sins for others but he sins for himself.

Raskolnikov and his sister Dunya share many of the same traits but at the same time, she is the exact opposite of her brother. My Crime and Punishment literary criticism shows Raskolnikov to be self-centered and cruel, but Dunya is kind and compassionate. She portrays the strongest female character attributes in the novel, and she is probably the only “good” person in the novel.