Hester Prynne and Nora Helmer: A Comparative Analysis


“I hope she’ll be a fool — that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”

That is a line from the book turned into movie, The Great Gatsby. In the years I have been here wandering in the world, virtual and real, I have been slapped in the face by the incandescent standards of the universe and its littlest portion on how women should be. A woman is always portrayed as a gift from the skies, pretty and elegant, or a royalty in distress saved by a hero who makes her swoon, or an evil witch behind every man’s failure. But a woman is not a gift, she is not a possession, she is not an asset. A woman is not someone to be saved, if she is to be protected, then from what?

Back to the criticism, this essay leads to compare two iconic female characters from classic literary pieces, “The Scarlet Letter” and “A Doll’s House”: Hester Prynne and Nora Helmer. Their similarities and differences are simplified in the succeeding bullets:

• Physical beauty

Hester Prynne and Nora Helmer are two women depicted as beautiful and doll-like. Hester Prynne, although not of elite upbringing, is dazzling in her youth that she had Chillingworth marry her to give an accent to his name. Chillingworth thought of marrying Hester a good chunk on his personality for he is known to be physically unattactive (but interesting) aside form him being too smart for anything. The same is true in Nora’s case. Torvald, her husband, married her for the same reason: beautification of his name and image. Nora is beautiful and is a good accessory to his ego. They were both chosen to be trophies and not wives.

• Sacrificial tendencies

They say that women always sacrifice for the people they love. And that sacrifice thing is observed on both characters. Hester sacrificed not just her life but her whole dignity as a person. She was tormented by the public eye, considering the society she belongs in (she actually chose to stay there). The Puritan society believes on life as a way of torment and punishment, and so “sins” are paid off in life on earth, hence making it a dimension of hell. She took all the blame on Pearl’s existence, which is a fruit of infidelity to her husband. While, Nora on the other hand tried to save her husband, which is a mortal sin on their times. She signed (forged) a signature to have access on banking procedures, which is an act viewed as a form of rebellion against the authority of a man over his wife. Women are not allowed to perform and take part on financial aspects even if it concerns her and her family. But they both did it anyway for the man they love. Hester protected Dimmesdale’s name, for he is a clergyman, and Nora tried to protect Torvald for he was sick that time.

The two symbolizes a woman’s change in perspective of her self as they both got out of the stereotype dictated by the society and its people. Nora got out of the doll house, and the chains of his husband’s ball-less-ness to accept that he too needs help, and Hester got of the scarlet’s letter’s barrier. The difference is that, Hester still needed Dimmesdale to be actually freed from the curse of the society, while Nora escaped on her own as she walked out of the house.


Source by Kim Matias