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Power and Women in Literature: Macbeth, The Scarlet Letter, My Antonia

Uploaded by masone4718 on Dec 05, 2006

Often in literature women are depicted as powerful, impelling forces that alter the characters or entire society that surrounds them. In Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, Lady Macbeth urges Macbeth into murder, in The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hester Prynne alters society’s attitudes toward her sin, and in My Ántonia, by Willa Cather, the life of Ántonia Shimerda motivates Jim Burden to lead an exceptionally successful life.

In Macbeth, Lady Macbeth compels Macbeth to assassinate King Duncan. From the instant Lady Macbeth is introduced to the reader, one can infer that she is a strong and ambitious woman. Moreover, when the reader first encounters Lady Macbeth, she is already plotting Duncan’s murder. From this first meeting with Lady Macbeth, one can easily deduce that Lady Macbeth is an ambitious woman who has an intense desire to gain more power. Lady Macbeth is “…mentioned as the ambitious wife who instigates her husband to murder [so] that she may herself be queen (Freud 33).” Furthermore, she is “…the dry, mannish fury, the harsh, rough, vain mistress…, the detestable business woman, inflexible, self contained, unfeeling, crafty, treacherous and colder than the steel of the dagger which she wields…(Brooke 30).” Lady Macbeth is thus powerful enough to manipulate Macbeth into murdering King Duncan. In addition, Lady Macbeth promises to provide the pusillanimous Macbeth with the courage he desperately needs to make the prophecy of the three witches become true, fearing that his nature is too soft to take the direct route to the throne (Dominic 256). Furthermore, she realizes that Macbeth is too full of human kindness, and “…part of her tactics with Macbeth is to urge him to be more of a man (Johnston).” Ultimately, Macbeth murders King Duncan as a result of the vigor and forcefulness of Lady Macbeth.

Likewise, the power of women is illustrated in The Scarlet Letter, wherein the vitality of Hester Prynne provides for the change of her Puritan society. Hester, characterized as a tough and persevering woman, is “…tall, with a figure of perfect elegance on a large scale (Stewart 104).” After the township discovers Hester’s sin, Reverend Dimmesdale publicly torments her. While on the scaffold, under the pressure of the entire parish, Dimmesdale tortures Hester into revealing the name of the father. Nonetheless Hester stays strong and does not fall victim to his constant...

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Uploaded by:   masone4718

Date:   12/05/2006

Category:   Literature

Length:   5 pages (1,022 words)

Views:   6585

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