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Hawthorne's Women

             What does Nathaniel Hawthorne think of women's rights? Many critics believe he is attacking feminism. Others think he is defending women. Hawthorne was happily married to Sophia Peabody. "His love for his young wife might prove the stronger of the two" (Hawthorne, 45). He did not spend much of his time with his mother because after his father died, she locked herself in her room and very seldom came out. These two experiences could have had an affect on his view of women. So is Hawthorne attacking or defending mid-nineteenth century feminism?.
             In Hawthorne's short stories he seems to be obsessed with women's beauty. In Hawthorne's "The Minister's Black Veil" he states, "Spruce bachelors looked sidelong at the pretty maidens, and fancied that the Sabbath sunshine made them prettier than on weekdays" (10). Some critics think he is lifting up women and there beauty. However, some believe he is attacking women perfectionism. "In Hawthorne's analysis the idealization of women stems from a vision as them as hideous and unnatural; it is a form of compensation, and an attempt to bring them up to the level of nature" (Fetterley, 167). Hawthorne was married to a very beautiful woman and may be referring to her beauty. .
             Some critics think he is trying to secretly eliminate.
             all females. Fetterley states, "There are compensations, however, for as an adult he has access to a complex set of mechanisms for accomplishing the Great American dream of eliminating women" (164). However, it could be looked at as if he is trying to perfect all females. "What repels Aylmer is Georgiana's sexuality; what is imperfect in her is the fact that she is female; and what perfection means is elimination" (Fetterley, 166). Aylmer seems to be trying to kill his wife but do it in a way so it makes it look like he is trying to help her. "It is a testimony at once to Hawthorne's ambivalence, his seeking to cover with one hand what he uncovers with the other, and to the persuasive sexism of our culture that most readers would describe "The Birthmark" as a story of failure rather than the success story it really is--the demonstration of how to murder your wife and get away with it" (Fetterley, 164).

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