Strong Women in Literature - Medea, Scarlet Letter, and Jasper Jones

Strong Women in Literature
Texts cannot be read in isolation; reading multiple texts provides a much deeper and richer understanding of the complex messages, ideas, and issues within literature, and their pertinence to modern culture. The role of women in society is an idea that has become increasingly relevant in the modern world. In the past century, there has been significant advancement in the rights and equality for women, and today, women across the world are becoming increasingly independent and powerful within society. Despite this, our modern world, from third to first world countries, is still a predominantly a patriarchal one, where the female gender and femininity is oppressed and viewed as weakness or evil. Due to the great range and diversity in the representations of women and feminism in literature and throughout history, this idea is best explored through reading a variety of texts. Euripides’ tragic play Medea, first performed in 431 BCE, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 classic The Scarlet Letter, set in 17th century colonial America, and Craig Silvey’s 2009 novel Jasper Jones, about a rural Australia town in 1965, although none are explicitly feminist texts, all explore feminism and the role of women in patriarchal societies. More specifically, it is the strong and independent female characters of these texts that not only reflect society’s view of women at the time, but also explores how women can survive and thrive in a male-dominated culture. Intertextuality is thus an extremely useful term because by reading and analysing the actions, roles and representations of the various female characters across these different texts, set across a wide spectrum of time, audiences are able to gain a deeper understanding of the complex duality of women, and how they subvert conventional popular representations.
The character of Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter challenges the notion that femininity connotes weakness; she finds strength...