Romanticism In The Scarlet Letter Essay

1590 words - 6 pages

A Puritan’s Folly“Never forget that only dead fish swim with the stream.” -Malcolm Muggeridge. This famous quote justifies that to be an individual, one must break from society and think for himself, and only when he has done this, is he truly alive. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter is about a courageous woman, Hester Prynne, and her struggle to split from society in order to live the loving life she has always wanted. By the use of symbolism, Hawthorne is effectively able to portray the forest, which promotes individuality, and the town, which rewards conformity. The clothes portrayed by the Puritans, the town, are dull and plain whereas those expressed by the Romantics, the forest, are vivid and eccentric. Also, the various events of the novel contrast from cold and punishing with the Puritans to hopeful and exciting with the Romantics. Finally, the characters representing the Romantics are passionate and carefree whereas those of the Puritans are serious and punishing. Because the Romantic ideas incorporate an enjoyable, fulfilling life whereas the Puritan ideas incorporate a cold and punishing life, it is evident that Hawthorne is trying to spread the thought of individualism, a quality greatly promoted in the Romantic lifestyle, through his novel.Throughout the novel, Hawthorne continues to show the clothes of the Romantics as vivid and eccentric and the clothes of the Puritans as plain and dull in order to spread his underlined theme of individuality. The people of the town wore very unadorned and dull clothes, lessening their opportunity of individuality. In order to be complete servants of God, the towns’ people wore clothes “{of} a coarser fibre” (48). They did this in order to not make themselves appear like they were better than God, rather much lower of an individual than he. By doing this, the people of the town clumped together to form a society ruled by only one opinion. In consequence the ruling of the society brought devastation and pain to those who tried to express their individual ideas, eventually leading to death or public humiliation. Also, Hester’s clothes act as a transition between the Puritan and Romantic beliefs, for although she wears the emblem of humiliation, the scarlet letter, she lavishes it up with extravagant detailing. Although Hester was forced to wear the Scarlet “A” on her bosom, she used her needlework to “add the richer and more spiritual adornment of human ingenuity” to the once plain emblem (75). This shows that, although she still confides with the town to ware the mark of shame, she still tries to break free and make the mark her own. This scene is significant for it begins to portray Hawthorne’s universal theme of individuality. In consequence, the people eventually replace the meaning of Hester’s scarlet letter from that of adulterer to that of able. Finally, Pearl becomes the complete symbol For the Romantics when...

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