Women in Nathaniel Hawthorne literature Essay

Hawthorne / society / women / ignorant / love

Essay Topic:

The analysis of the characters of women in Nathaniel Hawthorne works.

Essay Questions:

Why does Nathaniel Hawthorne dedicate so much of his work to revealing the character of a woman? What is the main trait of character that Hawthrone’s women have? What is the most common sufferings Hawthrone’s women experience?

Thesis Statement:

Hawthorne clears the difference between women and men but through making this comparison he puts them on the same level and therefore considers a women to a decent “counterweight” to a man.


Women in Nathaniel Hawthorne literature Essay

Introduction: Nathaniel Hawthorne is one of the most outstanding writers that the world has ever seen. His magnificent works are the reflections of the “puritan” society he was living it and all the defects of that society that were veiled so much. His works have faced a lot of criticism due to their dualism and “sharp nudity”. The images that were put in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s works were real-life images, inspired by real people which makes them very realistic and sometimes even frightening. He seems to posses the intention to show the changes that have occurred in people around him from the very puritan times. Hawthorne emphasizes the fact that people were taught to hold everything negative they seemed to have inside themselves and perform “an ideal citizen” for the world around them. What Nathaniel Hawthorne writes fits the contemporary society, too. Maybe this is the reason it is so important to understand his description and attitude towards women. His books posses a large number of different women characters. Nevertheless, the all of them carry the message of the cost of “being different for a woman”. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s woman is strong and weak, charming and rueful, vivid and quiet but there is one thing that unites them all– they “throw a calling” to the society around them. They are shown as rebels, they are shown as a great power of the humanity. Hawthorne clears the difference between women and men but through making this comparison he puts them on the same level and therefore considers a women to a decent “counterweight” to a man. The lives of these women give us not a very pleasant portrait of a puritan society.

2. Characters of Hawthorne’s women. None of the doors of the society Hawthorne’s women live in leads to heaven. Everything and everybody in the world around them is closed and ungracious. His women are prominent; they possess enormous inner power to overcome difficulties. Being so different, but having so much more inside then the people around them, Hawthorne’s women are depicted not just like women. They also possess the courageousness that sometimes even a man cannot reveal. Hawthorne in his short stories shows the pride of the society around, the sins that the society is sinking into and the individual life tragedies of his women that seem to oppose this society. One of the most important things is that a woman in Hawthorne’s short stories is opposed to a man; is treated like being equal to a man. The attitude of the 19th century society towards women and their behavior seems to be similar to ignorant. Hawthorne shows women as human being able to love, to trust and to sacrifice themselves, which he seems to value more than men’s desire to achieve fame, converting the society into a “vanity fair”. For instance, the image of Hester Prynne in “Scarlet letter” is one of the brightest examples of how Hawthorne values women and how much he want to show that it is them who posses the qualities of “decent” human beings. Hester accepts public her punishment and the scarlet letter, resists it and even more then that - she stands all the humiliations without revealing the name of her daughter’s father. It is possible to say that Hawthorne shows her as a hero and at the same time men are depicted with certain negativism, making Hawthorne’s works “ feministic”.

3.The “driving force” of Hawthorne’s women. Women in Hawthorne’s stories are very dedicated and able to resist anything. The ability to love and to do anything for the beloved one makes the image of women in Hawthorne’s stories very impressing. Hawthorne’s “Birthmark” portraits Georgiana, the wife of Aylmer, a vainglorious man with a deeper and more sincere attitude towards science then towards his own wife, which seems to have a “visible mark of imperfection” for him [p.2225]. To get his attention Georgiana decided to remove this birthmark from her cheek. Aylmer’s himself, makes the liquid to remove the mark but soon after she drinks it she dies. All she wanted is to get rid of “…a crimson stain upon the snow, which imperfectly defined its shape amid the surrounding rosiness”[p.2226]. Aylmer gets what he wants – no birthmark on Georgiana’s cheek, but there is no Georgiana anymore to adore him and to love. Here, Georgiana is driven by the only desire she has – to make Aylmer notice her and to fulfill his wish. Being so imperfect for Aylmer, she becomes a real perfection for the author. Her loving heart was ready to do anything to be “perfect” for her beloved husband. Her heart, full of love and her character reveals the difference between her and her husband. It reveals the abyss between the values of genders and the supremacy of the values of women. The driving force for Hawthorne’s women is love, dedication and trust; it has nothing to do with the rationalism depicted in the male characters in the stories. Another example of Hawthorne’s perception of women is brightly observed in “Rappaccini’s daughter”. Here, the female’s character name is Beatrice. She is the daughter of Doctor Rappaccini and at the same time she is just an experiment in his practice. He spoils her life by poisoning her with his plants, making her a poisonous human being not able to contact the people around her and therefore being lonely,” poisonous as she is beautiful…” as he defines her [p.2251]. Doctor Rappaccini tries to do the same thing with a young man Giovanni in order to create a “perfect match” for Beatrice. When Giovanni reveals the vile plan of the doctor and get an antidote, he gives it to Beatrice. But, unfortunately it is too late for the young woman… Her father has done such a “great job” in changing her that the antidote does not help but kills her. Here, Beatrice is shown as a victim of her father’s obsession on experiments. Though she herself is not the “perfection” in the author’s understanding he shows her as a being able to be different but being a victim of a “low” person, a person who does not seem to possess “human qualities”. The selfishness of this man is opposed to Beatrice’s helplessness towards his influence. Beatrice trusts everything that her father tells her, believing in him and loving him with every single heart-cell. In this story Hawthorne’s portrays a sensitive and devoted woman that is eager to follow her father and obey his every single word.

Hawthorne’s women suffer a lot and often die. Nevertheless, he reveals a lot of sympathy towards his women. He considers their spiritual worlds to be immense and profound, worth of respect and deep admiration. Society and men in particular pretend to be God and try to change these delicate, gentle, loving and pure human beings. Men in Hawthorne’s works are vainglorious and pride for their “achievements” is the only thing in this world that makes them happy.


4. The author’s definition of a woman. Analyzing Nathaniel Hawthorne’s works it is necessary to say that the image of women in them is distinctively positive. He outlines their strong ability to dedicate themselves and to truly love. The biography of the author has definitely influenced this point of view because a widowed mother raised him along with two sisters two and later on he married a great woman and grew up two wonderful daughters.The examples of the suffering women have to go through to survive gave him the base of believing that women are “spiritually stronger” and posses the most important qualities for a human being – ability to love unconditionally and to do anything in the name of trust and faith for the loved person. Nathaniel Hawthorne deeply respects women and proves it with his every single work. The drama of his works concerning women is that their actions are not meritoriously valued and stay imperceptible for the people around them. The definition of a woman by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a synthesis of all the virtues and extreme endurance for the actions taken against them.

Conclusion: Nathaniel Hawthorne made an outstanding work in depicting the character of a woman in his works. This makes it easy to assume that he was a loving father and husband. His “interpretation” of a woman is very deep and his sympathy to women is easily observed in his every single work. He reveals the real nature of women and tells the reader what is their power. He sees this immense power in the ability to stay true to their feelings, to trust and to love. For the first time a woman is shown as a “force”, as a power that opposes men’s rationalism and perception of the world. The image of a woman in Hawthorne’s works is a calling to the men around. It is a calling to stop evaluating the world in terms of rationalism and start feeling and valuing what they have and all the things that women do in order to make them feel happy.Here, men are shown weak and inflexible, ignorant and impassive. Could be this is only a unilateral point of view, nevertheless it is obvious that Hawthorne’s women are the ones that will sacrifice their lives for the people they love and dedicate every second of their lived to them.


o Lauter, Paul “The health anthology of American literature”/third edition /1997

o Nathaniel Hawthorne “Young Goodman Brown and other short stories”/Dover Publications/1992.


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