Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, and Kate Chopin’s, The Awakening, both have similar motifs, yet differentiate in many ways, like the actions of Hester and Edna, symbolism in each novel, and how the other characters affect Hester and Edna, which all affect the views on women and femininity. Hester commits adultery by sleeping with Arthur Dimmesdale thus causing her to have a baby with him that she loves dearly. The problem is that Hester already has a husband, whose name is Chillingworth, but she did not love him as much he loved her.
Now, she has to wear a scarlet letter, which is an “A,” on her chest at all times until she finally reveals who the father of her child is. “Here, there was the taint of deepest sin in the most sacred quality of human life, working such effect that the world was only the darker for this woman’s beauty, and the more lost for the infant that she had borne. ” (Hawthorne, 54) The sin that Hester created is hidden behind her beauty and her child. Divine Maternity is a great image for Puritans, which Hester was. As for Edna, she also does not love her husband but she does love her two children.
Since Edna does not feel the same way for her husband, feelings for other men start to occur; not only one, but several others. “Beneath its pink-lined shelter were his wife, Mrs. Pontellier, and young Robert Lebrun. ” (Chopin, 2) Robert was one of the men Edna would flirt with and ended up having feelings for. However, Robert cared about Edna too much to have her commit adultery. Both Hester and Edna had to marry during their time, but they did not love their husbands, so they ended up having affairs with another guy, or guys in Edna’s case.
Although they both had affairs with someone else, Edna did not actually commit the crime of adultery. She was merely just talking to other guys and developing feelings for them. Hester actually slept with another man and ended up having a baby with him. Hester and Edna’s actions come to show that Hester’s sin is worse than what Edna did, but the two are still very awful. Symbolism plays a huge role in both novels. Pearl is a major dynamic symbol in The Scarlet Letter. She represents the sin of Hester and Dimmesdale. Throughout the novel, she is constantly changing yet still perceived as evil.
However, she is named “Pearl” because of its literal meaning as well. “But she named the infant ‘Pearl,’ as if being of great price-purchased with all she had-her mother’s only treasure. ” (Hawthorne, 85) Pearl is Hester and Dimmesdale’s treasure that they created. The scarlet letter also represents adultery. Hester is to wear it at all times until she finally decides to reveal who the father of Pearl is. The letter prevents Hester from doing whatever she pleases and causes her to become frustrated. As for The Awakening, the Parrot is one of the main symbols.
It represents Edna in the way of how her life is like. The parrot is trapped inside a cage and wants to be released so that it can finally spread its wings and fly. This relates to Edna because she wants to escape from her husband, children, and the society so that she can finally be on her own. Water is another symbol in Chopin’s novel. The sea represents Edna’s freedom and escape. It is where she truly feels like she can be herself and safe in solitary. Also, the sea represents rebirth, in which Edna’s awakening is associated with rebirth.
However, Edna ends her life in the sea which also shows how horrifying independence can be. The symbols in both stories represent Hester and Edna and how they act. Each symbol does have a different meaning, though and mean different things between each story. It just comes to show how each character is different from each other regarding their personalities and actions. Other characters in the stories affect the main characters and the plot. Dimmesdale, the father of Pearl, is the man Hester committed her sin with.
He is forced to hide the fact that he is the father, because Dimmesdale is a respected minister within their society. Dimmesdale and Hester love each other and love Pearl very dearly. Chillingworth is Hester’s husband and is forced to hide his identity by changing his name. He left Hester for 2 years and within those two years, she committed adultery. Chillingworth comes back only to see that Hester has a child with a man that is not him. Chillingworth figured out that it was Dimmesdale and tries to sabotage him. Pearl is Hester and Dimmesdale’s daughter. Pearl tries to make Hester accept er sin.
She also makes her mother wear the scarlet letter and will not take it off for the wrong reason. Pearl does not want her mother to run away from her sin but to face up to it, so when Hester tries to run away from her sin, Pearl starts to become stubborn. “And here by a sudden impulse, she turned to the young clergyman, Mr. Dimmesdale... --"Speak thou for me! " cried she. "Thou wast my pastor, and hadst charge of my soul, and knowest me better than these man can. I will not lose the child! Speak for me! Thou knowest--for thou hast sympathies which these men lack... Look thou to it!
I will not lose the child! Look to it! " (Hawthorne, 100). By Hester announcing that, it meant that her only true reason for life was for Pearl, and that if the one richness of her life was devoured by Puritan thought and society, she would have lost her. Pearl was everything to her. She was all that she had left to lose, and she would do anything to protect her beloved daughter. In The Awakening, Leonce Pontellier is Edna’s husband and the father of their two children. He does not spend very much time with them due to him always being out doing other goods with his friends or business.
Leonce expects Edna to be the perfect wife and mother and treats her with love. Be that as it may, Edna does not feel the same way towards him. Robert is one of Edna’s lovers. During the beginning of the novel, they start flirting with each other, thus developing feelings towards one another. Adele is one of Edna’s good friends and is the ideal female. She helps Edna gain towards her freedom. Mademoiselle Reisz is Edna’s inspiration. She only revolves her life around one thing; music. She has no husband, no children and is a talented pianist. She helps Edna get to where she is during the climax of the story.
Hester seems to love Pearl to a greater degree than Edna loves her children, because of her devotion to Pearl, Hester could be seen as stereotypical 'true woman' more than than Edna does; not exactly. The commitment of adultery with Dimmesdale is keeping her from having that title. Hester, like Edna, believes that society needs to change its attitude towards women and their role in their society. The difference between the two women is that Hester fees that she has something to lose and if she actually spoke her mind, Pearl would be taken away from her.
Edna, however, felt so strongly about the injustices within her society that it became more important to her than her love for her children. Both stories are based on the fact that women are not treated fairly within their society. The two women do not endure their husbands, causing them to have affairs with others. Although, the differences create the actual story for each novel and makes them different in their own way. The actions of the characters really show their personalities. The symbols change how the aspects of the novel and characters are interpreted and other characters affect how the main character is changed.