Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, narrates the life of a young woman, Hester Prynne, who had an affair with the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale and was forced to live with the constant torture of Puritan society. Because of this affair that Hester and Dimmesdale underwent, Hester bore a child, Pearl, whom she begot out of wedlock with Dimmesdale. Although Puritan society in the seventeenth century could be brutal with its strict, moral beliefs, Hester and Dimmesdale still managed to express romantic feelings for each other, even though it was forbidden. Hawthorne referred to his work, The Scarlett Letter, as purely Romanticism, however it reflects both Romanticism and Puritanism throughout the novel. The novel reflects Romanticism in the ways that it shows the social transformations and spiritual development of Hester Prynne. It also reflects Puritanism in the ways that Puritan society is revealed and that there is a Theocratic Government.
Romanticism was highly reflected in The Scarlet Letter in the way that it expresses the social transformations and spiritual development of Hester. Hester is changed after being released from prison. She stays in Boston to live out her punishment despite the opposition the
townspeople place on her, and she does not desire to leave Pearl’s real father, Dimmesdale.
“Here, she said to herself had been the scene of her guilt, and here should be the scene of her earthly punishment; and so, perchance, the torture of her daily shame would at length purge her soul, and work out another purity than that which she had lost; more saint-like, because the result of her martyrdom. Hester Prynne, therefore, did not flee” (Hawthorne 74).
Since staying in Boston, Hester grows spiritually and experiences social transformations. The scarlet letter A teaches her lessons of morality and causes her to become wiser. “ ‘Nevertheless,’ said the mother [Hester], calmly, though growing more pale, ‘this badge hath taught me—it daily teaches me—it is teaching me at this moment—lessons whereof my child may be the wiser and better, albeit they can profit nothing to myself’ ” (Hawthorne 102). Hester does not want to take her scarlet letter off and it is eventually given a new meaning because she learns to wear it proudly, letting others know that she accepts what she did and her punishment for it. Although Romanticism is largely indicated in The Scarlet Letter, the novel equally reflects Puritanism in the way that society is revealed.
The Scarlet Letter distinctly reflects Puritanism in the way that society is revealed in numerous ways. The attitude the Puritans exhibit is of hatred and bitterness against Hester and Pearl. Some of the townswomen gossip about Hester and say things such as, “ ‘At the very least, they should have put the brand of a hot iron on Hester Prynne’s...