• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Analyse two heroic women who find ways of being that go against the patriarchal grain and subvert the stereotype of the 'weaker sex'.

Extracts from this document...


Analyse two heroic women who find ways of being that go against the patriarchal grain and subvert the stereotype of the 'weaker sex'. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne are two pieces of work in which a heroic woman is depicted. Both the memoir and the novella portray their female protagonists as going against the patriarchal grain - within a familial home and a Puritan society respectively - and subverting the stereotype of the 'weaker sex' through displays of great emotional strength. As a result the protagonists of both works could be considered as female literary heroes. The Scarlet Letter is set in Puritan New England, and the first chapter of the novella immediately depicts a strict, grey society: "sad-coloured garments and grey steeple-crowned hats ... beetle-browed and gloomy" (Hawthorne, 1992, ch.1). This setting is furthered with descriptions of a heavy, spiked door and general use of pathetic fallacy to convey a sense of severity (Chapman, n.d.). When Hawthorne contrasts this colourless society with the scarlet shade of the "ignominious" letter 'A', that is forcibly emblazoned upon Hester Prynne's chest due to her conviction as an 'adulteress', Hester is seen to instantly be placed against the grain of the patriarchal Puritan society (Hawthorne, 1992, ch.2). Hester furthers this rebellion by staying in the town which has condemned her - she could easily have fled the oppressive society in search of a new life elsewhere, but instead chooses to live out her public humiliation ...read more.


Conversely, Hester's femininity is suppressed by the society she lives in: Puritan women were to dress to reflect their station, and colours were universally dark and "drab" (Bremer, 1995, p.49). Hester conforms to this ideal and it is not until she meets Dimmesdale in the woods that she can literally let down her hair and free her femininity. The exception here, however, is of Hester's fantastically-embroidered letter 'A'. One of the female spectators in the market place remarks: 'She hath good skill at her needle ... but did ever a woman, before this brazen hussy, contrive such a way of showing it? ... what is it but to laugh in the faces of our godly magistrates, and make a pride out of what they, worth gentlemen, meant for punishment?' (Hawthorne, 1992, ch.2) It can here be seen that Hester beautifies the symbol of her sinfulness as a means of taking control over it, which directly undermines the intentions of the patriarchy. Both works feature a female character who expresses herself via a creative medium: Alison discovers illustration, and Hester uses her impressive embroidery skills. In Fun Home Bechdel describes her family unit as: "... like an artists' colony. We ate together, but otherwise were absorbed in our separate pursuits." This panel is illustrated with an image of her family home, where each individual is encircled and presented as a silhouette working on his or her own creative projects. ...read more.


Hester could be a considered a hero throughout the course of the novella due to the strength in her silence. As Simone de Beauvoir writes: "... no group ever sets itself up as the One without at once setting up the Other over against itself." (n.d.) In The Scarlet Letter, it is clear that the Puritans class Hester as this 'Other': a model to which they carry out their own lives in contrast. The spectating wives in the market place scorn Hester, and her daughter Pearl is similarly treated by the children of the town: '... the little Puritans, being of the most intolerant brood that ever lived, had got a vague idea of something outlandish, unearthly or at variance with ordinary fashions, in the mother and child, and therefore scorned them in their hearts, and not unfrequently reviled them with their tongues.' (Hawthorne, 1992, ch.6) Hester endures this judgement in silence - normally a sign of passivity, but here a signifier of emotional strength, which clearly calls the stereotype of the 'weaker sex' into question. It can therefore be said that Fun Home and The Scarlet Letter both present heroic women who have displayed emotional strength during times of adversity. In both works the female protagonists go against the patriarchal grain. Alison does this through the acceptance of her homosexuality and her own self, and Hester through the strength in her silence and refusal to be driven from her home. Therefore, both Alison Bechdel and Hester Prynne become heroic women. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Literary Criticism section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree Literary Criticism essays

  1. A Structuralist Analysis of Nathaniel Hawthornes Young Goodman Brown.

    in store for him because he makes an effort to return to Salem when he says, "'Too far! too far!' exclaimed the goodman, unconsciously resuming his walk. 'My father never went into the woods on such an errand, nor his father before him.

  2. Imagination in Heroics of Odysseus and Don Quixote. Both the authors draw different ...

    His squire is not as educated but he has good common sense. So, Don Quixote is actually the story of how an ordinary man becomes a hero even with his silly and foolish deeds. In medieval times, knights roamed the countryside of Europe, rescuing people and vanquishing evil lords and enchanters.

  1. What was new about Modernist literature? Explain with reference to two or more texts.

    However, where the novel celebrates life, the poem condemns it. The novel despite having an informal time line and having an ephemeral tone, is continuous and whole; The Waste Land on the other hand is fragmented, a principle characteristic of modernism.

  2. Discuss how "Jane Eyre" and the works of Robert Browning subvert gender stereotypes.

    (Bront�, 2010, ch.1). The upfront manner in which Jane speaks to her elders, and later to Mr. Rochester and St. John, was shocking in the Victorian era due to the expectations that women were to be quiet and respectful at all times.

  1. Compare and contrast the manner in which the work of any two theorists involves ...

    Foucault and Barthes think that the 'author-function' arises out of the 'division and distance' of the author and the speaker, and that 'identity is lost' when writing. Cixous was of the opinion that 'life becomes text starting out from my body I am already text'6 which is contradictory to the

  2. In Theodore Roethke's "My Papa's Waltz" and Robert Hayden's "Those Winter Sundays", the protagonists ...

    (Hayden 5). Otherwise, he may have continued in the first person point of view and emphasized rather "I never thanked him." Regardless, there appears to be a struggle at hand for both narrators. Despite conflicts of the household and obvious troubled fathers, the sons of each poem still have a genuine love for their dads.

  1. Free essay

    Appearance vs reality in Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Pride and Prejudice by ...

    This all turns upside down. Marlow is able to learn more about Mr. Kurtz from a variety of people. The first is from the company manager and his uncle as they talk below Marlow's steamship at night. They discuss about the amount of power that he has; the manager is

  2. Specters of Totalitarianism: Representations of Power and Control in Twentieth Century Dystopian Fiction ...

    By refusing to be inferior to the Party?s beliefs and doctrines, thereby being ?corrupt to the bone? (p.149), she proves to be a rebellious force within society. As a result of this, she is a potential threat to Oceania?s stability. Similarly, Huxley?s World State also reveals limits in suppressing individuality.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work