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The Scarlett Letter and Their Eyes Were Watching God compare and contrast

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Jonathan Youdeem Mrs. Holmes English 1HL, Period 1 25 January 2008 Comparing and Contrasting the Use of Symbols to Embrace Thematic Ideals of Female Oppression in The Scarlet Letter and Their Eyes Were Watching God English novelist, Virginia Woolf once said "The history of men's opposition to women's emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of that emancipation itself. Within Hawthorne's The Scarlett Letter and Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, Woolf's statement is truly evident. As a whole, both novels have a central focus of the oppression of women in society. Both novels contain the central theme of female oppression manifested throughout the whole novel. Throughout Hurston's, Their Eyes Were Watching God and Hawthorne's, The Scarlet Letter, both authors employ the use of symbols to embrace the thematic ideal of female oppression. In the two novels, hair, and the confinement of that hair effectively acts as symbols of female oppression. At the beginning of the novel as Hester descends down the path of judgmental woman, the author makes an observation about the "dark and abundant hair, so glossy that it threw off the sunshine with a gleam. (Hawthorne 40)." Not only a sign of oppression but also as a sign of her beauty, Hester's beauty, which her hair is a part of, causes all the women and the towns people to be jealous and highly envious of her. ...read more.


The "nations passed through their mouths" were larger than life to Janie and afflicted her more and more. The people of the town "sat in judgment" upon their pedal stool feeling as if they were the ones who were moral and just in the situation, voicing their opinions when having no justification for them what so ever, making the oppression towards Janie even worse. After creating the frame, Janie explains her story to her dear friend Pheoby, when she tells the tale of tea cake and how "It was after the picnic the town began to notice [...] hadn't been but nine months and here shoes sashaying off" (Hurston 110). Janie explains that the town hadnt thought much of her and tea cake's relationship until the pivotal moment they started going off together. The community comments on the length of the time period following her late husbands death that Janie took to get back on track was awfully short for a mourning woman. This commentary further oppresses Janie although she hears only second hand about it, the oppressiveness of the comment lies with in the sense that the community insists Janie and Jody were happy and she must mourn for long than the nine month period, however this insistence by the community can only make Janie realized how suppressed and oppressed she was by Jody. ...read more.


She dislikes the demeanor in which Jody treats her, therefore she feels for the mule and displays similar feelings when witnessing the mistreatment that it suffers. Upon the death of Matt Bonners mule, the townspeople " drag him out to the edge of the hammock [...] the rest was up to the buzzards" (Hawthorne 59). At the time of the death of the mule, Janie has experienced all the oppressive mistreatment of the mule, and in turn she has suffered much oppressive mistreatment, such as Jody not allowing her to attend the funeral, and causing her to feel inferior.. The utter submission of the dead mule to the buzzards creates equivalence with Janie's submission to Jody's treatment for the majority of their time as a couple. Both the mule and the scarlet letter "A" serve to embrace the thematic ideal of female oppression. In Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter and Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, both novelist embrace the thematic ideal of female oppression throughout their novels. The use of symbols is effective in eliciting the thematic idea. In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne effectively utilizes the confinement of Hester's hair, the puritan society and the scarlet "A", to draw forth the oppression that Hester faced. Within Their Eyes Were Watching God, Hurston employs the use of the confinement of Janie's hair, the judgmental community of Eatonville, and Matt Bonners mule, to further educe the oppression Janie suffered. ...read more.

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