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The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Women and Femininity Quotes Page 1

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

Children have always a sympathy in the agitations of those connected with them; always, especially, a sense of any trouble or impending revolution, of whatever kind, in domestic circumstances; and therefore Pearl, who was the gem on her mother's unquiet bosom, betrayed, by the very dance of her spirits, the emotions which none could detect in the marble passiveness of Hester's brow (21.4)

In contrast to her ice-queen mom, Pearl is like a Girl Gone Wild without all the unsavory aspects. Is Pearl special, or do all girls in this community have to learn to hide their feelings, just like Hester?

Quote #2

"Heaven hath granted thee an open ignominy, that thereby thou mayest work out an open triumph over the evil within thee, and the sorrow without. Take heed how thou deniest to him—who, perchance, hath not the courage to grasp it for himself—the bitter, but wholesome, cup that is now presented to thy lips!" (3.26)

The problem with being a woman in these pre-birth control days—well, one of the many problems—is that secret adultery can quickly become very public pregnancy. Irony alert: the man saying this to Hester is Dimmesdale, whose ignominy (shame) is not open. By the end of the novel, we find out that it would have been better for him if it had been open. (Although probably not in the Junior kind of way.)

Quote #3

Throughout them all, giving up her individuality, she would become the general symbol at which the preacher and moralist might point, and in which they might vivify and embody their images of woman's frailty and sinful passion. Thus the young and pure would be taught to look at her, with the scarlet letter flaming on her breast,—at her, the child of honorable parents,—at her, the mother of a babe, that would hereafter be a woman, —at her, who had once been innocent, —as the figure, the body, the reality of sin. And over her grave, the infamy that she must carry thither would be her only monument. (5.1)

Hester isn't an individual woman anymore. Now she's just a Fallen Woman, an example to all the other girls who might be battling woman's "frailty and sinful passion." (No word on men's frailty and sinful passion, of course.)

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