The Scarlet Letter

Identity and Suppression in in The Scarlet Letter and the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass 12th Grade

Despite differences in genre and content, both The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Douglass himself present a dehumanization of the seemingly weak protagonist. This occurs through stripping each character of their true identity and reducing them to a label such as ‘object’ or ‘slave’; neither Hester nor Douglass are seen as people, but instead are viewed through what they have done. There is, therefore, a huge emphasis on identity in both novels, as the protagonists struggle to maintain their own sense of identity whilst society forces a new one upon them. Despite their struggles, each protagonist is able to construct their identity away from society’s judgments. For Douglass, this freedom is through constructing a new literary identity; in recording his experiences, he manages to break away from this label of ‘slave’, an identity that suggests illiteracy. Hester also constructs her identity based on whom she chooses to love, Dimmesdale, instead of submitting to the shame of her label as ‘adulterer’. Therefore, there is a constant struggle throughout both these novels between a self-constructed identity and the identity given to each character by...

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