“I hope she is a fool – this is the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”

This is a line from the book turned into a movie, The Great Gatsby. In the years I’ve been here wandering the world, virtual and real, I’ve been slapped by the glowing standards of the universe and its smallest part of what women should be like. A woman is always portrayed as a gift from heaven, beautiful and elegant, or a kingship in danger saved by a fainting hero, or an evil witch behind every man’s failure. But a woman is not a gift, she is not a possession, she is not a good. A woman is not someone to be saved, if she is to be protected, then from what?

Returning to the criticism, this essay compares 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 following bullet points:

• Physical beauty

Hester Prynne and Nora Helmer are two women depicted as beautiful and doll-like. Hester Prynne, although she is not of an elite upbringing, it is dazzling in her youth that she got married to Chillingworth to give an accent to her name. Chillingworth has considered marrying Hester for a good part of her personality because she is known to be physically unattractive (but interesting) other than the fact that she is too smart for anything. The same is true in the case of Nora. Torvald, her husband, married her for the same reason: the embellishment of her name and her image. Nora is beautiful and is a good accessory for her ego. They were both chosen to be trophies and not wives.

• Sacrificial tendencies

They say women always sacrifice themselves for the people they love. And that sacrifice thing is observed on both characters. Hester sacrificed not only her life, but her whole dignity as a person. She has been haunted by the public eye, considering the society she belongs to (she has chosen to stay there). Puritan society believes in life as a means of torment and punishment, and so “sins” are repaid in life on earth, thus making it a dimension of hell. She took all the blame for Pearl’s existence, which is the fruit of her infidelity to her husband. While, Nora on the other hand tried to save her husband, which is a mortal sin for their times. She has signed (forged) a signature to gain access to banking procedures, which is an act seen as a form of rebellion against a man’s authority over his wife. Women are not allowed to perform and participate in financial matters even if it concerns you and her family. But they both did it anyway for the man they love. Hester protected Dimmesdale’s name because he is a pastor, and Nora tried to protect Torvald because he was sick this time.

The two symbolize the change of a woman in the perspective of herself while both have come out of the stereotype dictated by society and its people. Nora has come out of the dollhouse and the shackles of her husband’s lack of balls to accept that he too needs help, and Hester has come out of the barrier of the scarlet letter. The difference is that Hester still needed Dimmesdale to actually be freed from the curse of society, while Nora ran away on her own as she left the house.

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