The Scarlet Letter

Rereading The Scarlet Letter as a Proto-Feminist Text College

The Scarlet Letter, perhaps the most notable work of prodigious American author Nathaniel Hawthorne, was first published in 1850 and has since been subject to a plethora of literary criticisms, including those from psychoanalytic, new historical, and reader-response perspectives. In each of their articles, scholars Jamie Barlowe, Jesse F. Battan, and Suzan Last aptly choose to analyze the text through a feminist lens. While they each approach the subject in varying ways, these scholars all allow the reader to intuit that, despite being written by a male during an era when men were considered to be highly superior to women, The Scarlet Letter is indeed a proto-feminist text.

In “Hawthorne's Feminine Voices: Reading ‘The Scarlet Letter’ as a Woman,” Last argues that though “the narrative contains many passages that characterize the narrator as a champion of patriarchal values,” Hawthorne’s use of distinctly feminine narrative techniques has “the effect of creating a narrative of radical sympathy for women suffering under patriarchal oppression” (Last 349). Last goes on to list the vast differences between feminine and masculine methods of discourse, stating that female narratives are often written from “many perspectives” rather...

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