Hester’s ungathered hair : Hawthorne and 19th century women’s fiction

Part of : Γράμμα : περιοδικό θεωρίας και κριτικής ; Vol.1, No.1, 1993, pages 41-61

Hester Prynne’s defiant adultery, the outrageously artistic and sensuous embroidery of her scarlet letter A, and the scandal of her daughter's illegitimacy dramatize tensions between authority and female autonomy in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. The book focuses on issues such as female art, female creativity and female sexuality and presents them as transgressions of proper gender conduct, given the socially sanctioned definitions of what constituted natural womanhood in Victorian America. Hester’s artistic individuality and illicit sexuality pose a challenge; therefore her “ lawlessness” has to be reappropriated byconvention and her radical potential neutralized. Hence the domestication of Hester’s passion and the eventual reduction of her multiple roles (as artist, lover, mother) to one alone (mother).
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