Hester's Heroinism in The Scarlet Letter.
Thinking of books read in most schools across the nation, most of the heroes in the stories are male. Sure, within the last couple of decades women heroes are starting to show up more but the history of writing contains male heroes. The "damsel in distress" who is saved by her "knight in shining armor" seems to have been a theme in most stories. Nathaniel Hawthorne strayed from this redundant theme in his story The Scarlet Letter. There are many different opinions as to what the main story, motive, or point of The Scarlet Letter is. Some believe it is about sin and adultery. Some contest it is about love. Others state Hawthorne was commenting on the laws of the Puritan communities. All of these may be correct. Hawthorne himself may not be able to tell a person the exact point of his story, but that is the beauty of it. The reader can decide for him or herself. I have read The Scarlet Letter a few times and every time I am left feeling empowered by the character of Hester Prynne. She is the hero, or heroine, of this story in more than just a single way.
Before diving into why Hester is a heroine, some discussion is needed on feminism. Hawthorne wrote in a biography of Anne Hutchinson that "Woman's intellect should never give the tone to that of man; and even her morality is not exactly the material for masculine virtue" (qtd. in Murfin, 275). People believed Hawthorne to be against feminism, but then he goes and creates "a powerful woman character, a character that feminist critics cannot help admiring" (Murfin, 275). So was Hawthorne a chauvinist? In reality it is hard to tell; some will claim he is and others will claim he is not. Leland Person, who is a male feminist, talks about how Hawthorne was demonstrating males" constant need to want to have control over women and master them.