How is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Novel the Scarlet Letter an Example of Romanticism?
The Scarlet Letter begins with an introduction explaining how the book came to be. The introduction is narrated by the surveyor of the customhouse. While in the customhouse attic he found documents, and one of the documents was wrapped with a gold patch in the shape of an “A.” This document discussed specific events that happened many years prior to when the narrator was even alive. Once he lost his job at the customhouse he decided to write about the events discussed in this specific document, this lead to the creation of The Scarlet Letter. The novel begins with Hester Prynne, a Puritan woman, coming out of the jailhouse with an embroidered letter “A” on her chest for her altruism. Prynne was originally from Europe and was sent by her husband to Massachusetts, where he would eventually meet her. Once a couple of years passed without her husband Prynne began to feel lonely and ended up having an affair. People found out about the affair once she was pregnant. When Prynne was walked out of the prison, holding her three month old baby, she is taken to stand on the scaffold where they keep the pillory, which she was not taken to. While standing there she notices a man putting his finger over his mouth, the man is her husband. Prynne had no idea that he had made it to Boston and was surprised to see him in the crowd. He had his finger over his mouth to keep Prynne from revealing him to the crowd, he wanted no one to know who he was, so he is posing as a doctor named Roger Chillingworth. While still at the scaffold, the governor and the oldest clergyman ask Arthur Dimmesdale to speak with Prynne. Prynne is asked to reveal the father of her baby so that he too can be punished for this crime, but Prynne refuses and she swears to not reveal him. Prynne is taken back to her cell and her husband comes to see her. He forgives her for having an affair and he promises to find out who pearl’s, Prynne’s baby, father is.
Hester Prynne and Pearl live in an isolated cottage, where she is forced to wear the scarlet letter and is treated as an outcast. She makes a living with her skill in needlework, she even embroidered the scarlet letter herself. She would make lace garments for officials to wear for ceremonies. Very quickly Prynne’s work became fashionable. Prynne is a very selfless woman, with the money she was earning she never wanted anything more than to provide for herself and daughter. Her clothing was made with “coarsest materials and the most sombre hue” but her daughter’s clothes were “distinguished by a fantastic ingenuity” (Hawthorne). Even on her free time, she would sew clothes for the poor. Rumors begin to spread saying that pear should be taken away from Hester, and given to a foster family that will take better care of pearl. This makes Prynne upset, so she goes to speak with the governor about it. While at the governor’s mansion Roger Chillingworth, Arthur Dimmesdale, and Rev. Wilson are all there. Pearl is asked some questions to see if Prynne is raising her right. Pearl was a wild child, and didn’t answer the questions appropriately, this makes them believe that Prynne is not a good mother. Prynne appeals to Arthur Dimmesdale to speak for her and he says “God gave this child to her” and “no other person could understand such a peculiar child” (Hawthorne). This convinces the Governor and Pearl is to remain with her mother. As the novel goes on Arthur Dimmesdale becomes sick and Roger Chillingworth becomes his doctor and they are forced to now live together. As some time goes on people in town begin to believe that Chillingworth is a bad influence on Dimmesdale, and this is true because Chillingworth suspects Dimmesdale to be Pearl’s father. Chillingworth believes that his guilt is what is making him sick and all he wants is to find out the truth and torture Dimmesdale. Once Chillingworth finds out the truth he begins to torture Dimmesdale even more. However, Dimmesdale is consumed by his guilt and even confesses to the congregation that he is a sinner, but that only makes them love him more. Dimmesdale even goes to the extent of beating himself for his sins to get some sort of repercussion for his big secret.
How it works
One night Dimmesdale takes it upon himself to stand on the pillory and shrieks, thinking people might show up and find out the truth. Some people begin to show but not many, two of them being Pearl and Hester Prynne and he brings them up as well. While up there a meteor passes by, and in the light the meteor creates Dimmesdale can see Chillingworth. Dimmesdale asks pearl who that man in the light is, he says he is afraid of him. Time goes on and Hester Prynne is getting more respect within the town because her humanitarianism, people even begin to suggest that they remove the scarlet letter. However, Hester Prynne is no longer concerned about what the townspeople think of her anymore. Prynne is upset with the torment that Chillingworth has caused Dimmesdale, so she goes to confront him. When she confronts him he refuses to stop tormenting Dimmesdale and Prynne is disgusted by him. Eventually, Prynne and Dimmesdale meet again for the first time in seven years, they end up deciding on leaving town together, but before they can leave Dimmesdale has to give his last sermon. The sermon ends up being the biggest sermon ever given. After the sermon Dimmesdale brings Pearl and Hester Prynne to the Pillory and reveals the red “A” on his chest, confessing that he is the one that Hester Prynne had an affair with. This was a very beautiful moment in the novel, and Pearl gives Dimmesdale the kiss on the forehead that she had run away from earlier when her parents met up. Dimmesdale dies in Hester Prynne’s arms, but before he dies Hester asks him if they’ll ever be together and he says no because they have to repent his sins.
Some time after Chillingworth dies as well, but he leaves behind a large for Pearl. The novel ends with Pearl and Prynne leaving the colony for a while, but Hester returns and Pearl marries a rich man from Europe. Hester dies as well and is buried near Dimmesdale and they both have a matching letter “A” on their tombstones. Overall The Scarlet Letter was a good read and I would definitely recommend it. The novel was very well organized and the narrator tells the story from an unbiased point of view, even using direct quotes from the manuscript, allowing the reader to make judgments for themselves. The novel gives the reader a new perspective on what women back then would go through when they stood up for themselves and refused to become the woman that society was telling them to be. Hester Prynne is very inspirational for doing what she did in her time because women now, in the twenty-first century, don’t have the courage to do what she did. Being a woman in America can be very difficult and Hester Prynne is a prime example of that.