Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Monika Elbert

Committee Member

Alyce Miller

Committee Member

Jonathan Greenberg


This thesis will explore the ways in which Hawthorne addresses the role of womanhood in The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables, by using constructs of 19lh-century domesticity and women’s position in society. In each novel, Hawthorne clearly depicts what society expects of women, as well as how they should behave according to social and religious standards. A historical and feminist lens will be used to examine the way in which a woman can be both restricted by and freed from a patriarchal society in both novels. Through the characters of Hester, Pearl and Mistress Hibbins in The Scarlet Letter and Hepzibah and Phoebe in The House of the Seven Gables, Hawthorne demonstrates his interest in female defiance. Most of these characters are aware of their domestic expectations, yet ultimately choose to live according to their own moral laws. As a result, they gain independence and a new shaping in the definition of true womanhood. Both Phoebe and Hester experience numerous struggles but live successfully by developing individuality and a strong sense-of-self. However, women such as Hepzibah exhibit strength and courage but do not possess the capabilities to become the ideal domestic woman. Whereas the women display the ability to remain independent while living within society, the men unsuccessfully live by their own moral law and fail at resisting society’s ways. In both novels, Hawthorne privileges women by demonstrating that they can ultimately live by and maintain their own moral law, even while living among the same society that they reject. By demonstrating the ways women can develop individuality and yet reside peacefully in society, Hawthorne shows that women do have the opportunity to maintain strength and begin a new way in which to define womanhood: a way in which other women will follow.

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