Comparison between “The Scarlet Letter” and “The Awakening

Comparison between “The Scarlet Letter” and “The Awakening”

“The Scarlet Letter” and “The Awakening” are eye-catching texts based on the social immorality and societal judgment regarding self-discovery. “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne talks about Hester Prynne’s life which is the central character. Hester has committed adultery with her lover Dimmesdale, and the conflict is brought about as her husband Chillingworth strives to know who the birth father of her child Pearl is. Hester is effectively isolated in the society due to her revealed sin of immorality as a woman. On the other side, “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin is a societal based text based on Edna Pontellier’s social life which is the wife of Leonce and mother of two. At the climax, Edna’s awakening is revealed as the beginning of self-discovery and urge of an independent life which significantly results in vacationing with her husband. In the discussion below, the stories “The Scarlet Letter “and “The Awakening” are compared and contrasted into an in-depth extent with regards to the motif of self-discovery, struggles and its results in consideration of the stories progression and transgression as well as the concept of sacrifice.

To begin with are the similarities between the two stories which seem to overweight the disparities. In both texts, the protagonists are brought out to be female who undergo various challenges in their marital and social life. They seem to be a projection of the today’s growth as the standard theme portrayed in the novels reflects the social vehemence in society and its repulsions. Both Edna and Hester suffers as a result of awakening through their immoral acts of infidelity in their marriages. The community depicted in both the stories is patriarchal where women are supposed to leave according to their husband’s ways and show respect, but the protagonists go against this leading to the seclusion by the community. The action of Hester getting her child Pearl through adultery ruins her marital relationship with Chillingworth where she is forced to live in a secluded place together with her child. The community significantly segregates her to the extent that she could not openly reveal the father of her child as he would supposedly be punished for committing adultery (Hawthorne & Weinstein 2008). On the other side, Edna eagerness of self-discovery and awakening after her interaction with her friend Adele Ratignolle who was an epitome of women charm and elegance led to her social erosion. She ended up committing adultery and moving out of her marital house to an independent lifestyle with the intention of getting affairs with her lover Robert.

In both the stories, the act of adultery is postulated to be a social evil that is against the communities’ norms. Both protagonists are victims of the immorality and undergo the significant repercussions of societal seclusion as well as self-suffering. After Hester is committing adultery with Dimmesdale, she is forced to live secluded together with a child where she could all the time be haunted by the pain caused the sinful action of infidelity. After Dimmesdale’s death, she gets back to the community and lives her own life which was contrary to many people expectations and decided to be a confessor of other women who has desecrated the social customs. The action of advising other secluded women as a way of comforting them shows the pain that she undergone during the period she was viewed as an outcast in the society and signifies that she did not want any other lady to go through the same suffering. Edna’s social immorality of vacationing her husband and infidelity led to her grief in the society. After committing adultery and getting into affairs with Robert, she lastly realized the eagerness of awakening led to her loss of dignity in the social life and ended up moving back to her family as a result of her incompetence guilt.

Another similarity in the stories appears where the antagonists get to know the reality and the victims of out the bonds affair reveal the truth to the society as well as undergoing the significant suffering due to self-sacrifice. Regarding Dimmesdale who was the lover to Hester in “The Scarlet Letter,” he revealed that he was the father of Pearl before his demise. It is revealed in his word where he said, “may God forgive thee’ thou, too, hast deeply sinned.” Dimmesdale undergoes the pain throughout his secret life as he had the weakness of being incapable of informing the community about his relationship with Hester. On the story, “The Awakening” Leonce appears to be the central character’s antagonist and Robert being the cause of conflict between the couple. However, in the end, Robert suffers guilt resulting in his action of rejecting to commit adultery which was against the cultural norms. It also affected Edna leading to the realization of her immorality.

Furthermore there exist a difference between the two stories regarding the central character’s personality. Hester, the protagonist in “The Scarlet Letter,” is portrayed as loving, caring and optimistic. Her king of awakening is revealed through the sacrifice of bringing up Pearl alone at a secluded place where she obviously faced lots of challenges. Also after the demise of Dimmesdale, she went back to the community in a sound manner of encouraging other women who have gone against the social customs suggesting that she had the hopes of changing peoples’ way of thinking and doing things. While in “The Awakening” Edna is depicted as pessimistic and wicked. After the act of leaving her family in the name independence, she went ahead committing adultery with Arobin and at the same time she was in affairs with Robert (Chopin, 2017). The action of abandoning her family signified that she did not have hopes of self-satisfaction with her ever busy husband and their family’s diversification.

As discussed above, the writers of both the stories portray the theme of social infidelity as the evil that ruins social cohesion in the community. The stories are educative and act as a reflection of the modern society where people do not mind about their social status. For instance, there is a lot of drama when it comes to marriages and family matters where many end up divorcing or living alone regardless of having a partner. They show the importance of keeping social norms and following their ways as the way to enhancing good well-being and development of the social life.


Chopin, K. (2017). The Awakening and other stories. Dreamscape Media, LLC.

Hawthorne, N., & Weinstein, C. (2008). The scarlet letter. Oxford University Press.

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