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Analysis of Romanticism in the ”Scarlet Letter”

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Romanticism, the biggest theme in The Scarlet Letter, can be seen in every page that is turned throughout the novel. Examples of romanticism can be found from the beginning with the air of authenticity to the end with the element of a moral. Nathaniel Hawthorne is hands down the most romantic writer from his time period. Hawthorne seems to cover all the aspects of romanticism in The Scarlet Letter. However Hawthorne seems to zero in on three major elements of romanticism; he focuses the most on the element of symbolism then is followed by love of nature and supernatural.

Symbolism is the biggest factor of romanticism that Nathaniel Hawthorne focuses on in The Scarlet Letter. During the first chapter the prison is mentioned and then the cemetery is talked about soon after. This symbolizes the book’s beginning and its end. The beginning is Hester’s release from jail and the end Dimmesdale, Hester, and Chillingsworth are all buried at the mentioned cemetery. The rosebush is a symbol from Hawthorne directly to the reader; Hawthorne says about the rosebush, “[… it] symbolize[s] some sweet moral blossom […] or relieve the darkening close of a tale of human frailty and sorrow.” (2). The quote speaks of how the rosebush is there for comfort since this is such a melancholy tale.

The letter A symbolizes many different things in The Scarlet Letter. The most obvious representation is adultery. Besides adultery the A represents how Hester has become ‘able’ in how she is very helpful and kind to the “less fortunate.” It also represents ‘angel’, which is what Hester has become. From the time she is forced to wear the scarlet letter she begins to live a mostly sinless life. Pearl is the living scarlet letter and symbolizes the sin that changed her life. The brook resembles Pearl “as much as the current of her life gushed from wellspring as mysterious […]” (141).

Pearl is a great symbol throughout The Scarlet Letter, but also is key in love of nature; she is keen to nature and close to it. In result, she believes she is a product of nature. Pearl shows her belief in the scene in which Reverend Wilson asks who made her and Hawthorne says, “[…] she had not been made at all but had been plucked by her mother from the bush of wild roses […]”(63). Another moment of loving nature is evident in the scene in which Pearl has broken a bird’s wing with a stone, then stops because she feels guilty. Her reason for feeling guilty is she harmed something, “[…] that was wild as the sea breeze, or as wild as Pearl herself.” (131). Pearl is the main source of love of nature; but, Dimmesdale has his experience with it after to talking to Hester in the forest. Before he ventures into the forest he is decrepit; however, at the time he leaves the forest he “[…] leaped […] thrust […] climbed […] and overcame […]” (171). The forest seems to have an invigorating effect on Dimmesdale, which seems to be a little supernatural also

The supernatural element is put into this book to keep readers on the end of their seats and show that Hawthorne does not limit himself with the laws of nature. Hester has a personal encounter with the supernatural when Hawthorne says; “[…] the scarlet letter had endowed her with a new sense.” (39). The scarlet letter gives Hester, “[…] sympathetic knowledge of the hidden sin in others’ hearts.” (39). The most blatant example of the supernatural is at the end of the second scaffold scene when Hawthorne says “[…] beheld there the appearance of an immense letter- the letter A- marked out in lines of dull red light.” (107). The red A is an example of how supernatural events can double as symbols (with double meanings; Angel and Adultery).

Nathaniel Hawthorne focuses highly on romanticism in this novel and does a very good job of covering all the elements. While Hawthorne uses all aspects of romanticism in his novel three elements stuck out above the rest. Symbolism seems to have the most importance to him. His focus on symbolism is so well written that it revolutionized the historic book Moby Dick. He uses Pearl a lot to show love of nature and it seems that Hawthorne made Pearl’s only friend nature. Hawthorne put the supernatural in the novel to set the story apart from the normal limitations of everyday life. Of all the elements of romanticism that are used by Nathaniel Hawthorne, symbolism, love of nature, and supernatural are the most outstanding.

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