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.