Analysis Of The Characters Edna From The Awakening By Kate Chopin And Hester From The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne
Imagine living in a society where people judge someone for every little thing that they do. The Awakening by Kate Chopin and The Scarlet letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne show this many times throughout each book. Both books have many themes and symbols that relate to one another. Each book focuses mainly on one character. In The Awakening the character is Edna and in The Scarlet Letter the character is Hester. Throughout The Awakening and The Scarlet Letter, the authors Chopin and Hawthorne show great examples of how Edna and Hester are isolated from society, shamed, and how the characters try to make their lives better.
In the time periods of the two novels, women were treated differently. The men were the big role in the societies, and this made some women feel isolated. Edna and Hester are great examples with this situation. When Hester got sent to the scaffold at the beginning of the novel, she was looked at differently. She tried to isolate herself from the society until things started toning down throughout the community. She works on her sewing and she takes care of her daughter Pearl. This helped her with everything that was going on. Edna's case is somewhat similar to Hester's situation, but not exactly. Edna decided to cheat on her husband during the novel, and everyone found out. She didn't really care that people found out because she wanted herself to be isolated. Also, Edna is not considered a mother-woman. In the society that she lives in, the woman are expected to love their children and do anything for them. She started to really isolate herself when Madame Reisz started teaching her how to become an artist. She started drawing sketches and making art, and this helped comfort her with everything that was occurring.
During the novels, Edna and Hester get shamed by the community. People dislike them for some of the things they have done, and this makes them feel terrible about themselves. Hester makes a few bad decisions at the start of the novel. She has an affair with a man and everyone finds out. She is sentenced to stand on the scaffold in the middle of the town. People say bad things to her and make her feel excluded from society. “Here, she said to herself, had been the scene of her earthly punishment; and so perchance the torture of her daily shame would at length purger her soul.” This is where Hester is saying to herself that she feels so guilty for what she has done, she must take the shame and guilt for her punishment. Edna’s situation is a little different than Hester’s. Edna has an affair with a man named Robert, and she does it because she doesn't care that people don't care about her. She is a selfish human being from inside to out, and doesn't care what people think. Throughout both of the novels Edna and Hester are trying to build new relationships with people, but they do it in different ways. Towards the middle and to the end of the novel Hester helps with the sickly and the poor. She tries to help people by repairing their clothes, because she is a very good seamstress. She also gives the money she makes to the poor. Since Hester has helped with the poor and have done many things for them, many people start to think of the letter “A” as “able” instead of adultery at the end of the novel. Edna on the other hand does nothing for the community, but she meets some new people. She meets a lady named Madame Adele, and they become really good friends. Also, Madame Reisz and Edna have become really good friends, and Reisz teaches Edna many things.
Symbols play a big role in the novels. The symbols connect with the characters and show them how certain things happen. Hester’s biggest and most shown symbol is her daughter Pearl. Pearl plays a big role in Hester's life, she is like Hesters protector. Pearl symbolizes Hester by being the living piece of the scarlet letter. He gave her in requital of all things else which ye had taken from me. She is my happiness – she is my torture, none the less! Pearl keeps me here in life! Pearl punishes me, too! See ye not, she is the scarlet letter, only capable of being loved, and so endowed with a million fold the power of retribution for my sin? Ye shall not take her! I will die first! This shows that Hester knows that Pearl symbolizes her own shame and humiliation. She is the consequence of Hester's actions of adultery. Edna has a few symbols also. The biggest one that symbolizes her is the birds throughout the novel. At the beginning of the novel she sees Madame Lebrun's parrot. It is in a cage and it shows how Edna is trapped in her life and wants to escape it. Also, there is the bird with a broken wing. “A bird with a broken wing was beating the air above, reeling fluttering, circling disabled down, down to the water”. When Edna is going to commit suicide she sees this bird fly over her. It shows her that her wings are too weak to live anymore.
Both of these characters are treated different in these novels. Hester is isolated by the community and chooses to live in a modest house outside of the town. While Edna chooses to isolate herself by leaving her beautiful and big house to live on her own. Also, the two characters are shamed by society, but only Hester feels bad for what she has done. Within the novels we see a change in Hester’s attitude towards herself and society, but Edna stays the same selfish person all through the novel. Since they were treated differently in their society, it made them feel like they didn't belong. Each of them acted differently with the humiliation and shame, and this is what set them apart. As you can see Edna and Hester are very similar, and different in many ways.