Puritan Society and the Role of the Female Gender in the 17th Century. By the example of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlett Letter”

Term Paper, 2019

12 Pages, Grade: 2,3


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. The 17th Century
2.1 HistoricalBackground
2.2 CulturalBackground

3. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
3.1 Punishment
3.2 Themes
3.3 TheFemaleGender

4. Today’s Women

5. Conclusion

6. Works Cited

1. Introduction

Today, topics like gender equality and feminism are so important and up-to-date that one cannot be uninformed. Everyone has an opinion and no one is afraid to speak openly about it anymore. They are free to say, write and think what they believe is right. They are able to vote and go to work. They can use any social media platform and tweet or post their views and experiences and get some attention.

This was not the case a few centuries back. Women were oppressed and not able to speak their minds. Women had to fight for their rights to be acknowledged, which has enabled us to be in the position that we are in now.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a literary work that has academic value and is often classified as required reading in classes. It was published 1850 and tells the story of a woman in Puritan times who has to face the consequences of committing adultery. The novel represents the Puritan society and the way women were treated in that time. It gives attention on the ideology and gives many details in which today’s readers can imagine the struggle of obedience to the system.

This research paper deals on the historical and cultural background of the 17th Century and will be focused on the literary work “The ScarletLetter”.

2. The 17th Century

The novel “The Scarlet Letter" is set in the 1650s. Before I can analyse the novel for its gender relations it is important to first look at the understandings of gender in Puritanism. What does this ideology mean? How did it originate? How did it effect the society? In the following these questions will be answered in two sub-chapters.

2.1 Historical Background

The period from ca. 1620 to 1800 is called ‘Colonial Period’. It is marked by a great tide of emigration from Europe to North America. People from different European countries had dif­ferent reasons but the same motivation. The most important reasons were the escape of political oppression, seeking freedom to practice their religion, the adventure and hope for novelty ( Jones 1992, 6ff).

As a result of all the emigration happening, many colonies were founded. The first English colony in the New World was founded 1607 in Jamestown, Virginia. The settlers were in search for gold but instead found tobacco, which gave Virginia the name of being the ‘tobacco colony’. Settlers profited from this find but did not want to work the fields, which originated the Amer­ican slave trade. The first slaves to work on the plantations were imported in 1619 (Bradford, 2012).

In 1620 Pilgrims, who wanted to escape religious oppression in England, arrived on the Mayflower and founded the Plymouth Colony. Pilgrims were members of the English Sepa­ratist Church. William Bradford, a leader of the Separatists and later governor of Plymouth, kept a journal, which was later published under the title “ Of Plymouth Plantation”, where he described his experiences of their emigrations. They sought religious freedom, so they first settled to Holland, where their religion was tolerated. But they wanted more. They wanted to secure their English language and heritage and also seek more economic opportunities, which lead them to New England (Bradford, 2012).

In 1630 Puritans established the Massachusetts Bay Colony (Mauk & Oakland 2009: 51ff). They believed that they could create a ‘city on a hill’ in America, which is a biblical term and is being translated in different sources as ‘the light’. Winthrop, a Puritan man who would be­come a governor stated that Puritans were destined to be an example for the rest of the world (“we shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us”, Winthrop 1630).


Excerpt out of 12 pages


Puritan Society and the Role of the Female Gender in the 17th Century. By the example of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlett Letter”
University of Duisburg-Essen
Catalog Number
ISBN (Book)
puritan society, puritanism, scarlett letter, nathaniel hawthorne, hawthorne, 17th century, female gender, the scarlett letter, literature
Quote paper
Berna Dayioglu (Author), 2019, Puritan Society and the Role of the Female Gender in the 17th Century. By the example of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlett Letter”, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/1252969


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