Romanticism flows throughout Hawthorne’s, “The Scarlet Letter” (1850.) He develops this romanticism by utilizing nature to give the reader more insight to the sins throughout the novel, however did not only limit to just that. It also gave refuge to the individuals who did not “fit in” to the puritan society. Hawthorne is a critic of the Puritan society and believes in the power of the individual and the heart. He disagrees with the severity of Puritan punishments and the need to publicly shame individuals. Through the perspective of main characters Hester Prynne and Pearl, he reveals how society attempts to correct sin by punishing an individual. Hawthorne also uses nature to distract the audience from the true conflict of the story and alluding Pearl to in The Parables and the Treasure of the Pearl in the bible is how Hawthorne validates his argument of utilizing romanticism throughout the book.
Certain elements of nature help to connect natural elements of the world to human nature. The rosebush that is first introduced at the beginning of the book at the jail scene, symbolizes the hope that a broken world still has. The beauty of the rosebush that Hawthorne describes also helps to distract both the reader and the other characters of the book from the harsh looked and decaying prison. “It may serve, let us hope, to symbolize some sweet moral blossom… or relieve the darkening close of a tale of human frailty and sorrow.” The rosebush gives color and light to the impoverished front of the jail. This allows the prisoners to think and be reminded that there is still beauty that lies among the Earth even if they are trapped and are not capable of personally experiencing the true beauty that still lies among them. The rosebush also signifies new beginnings, and new light for people to look forward to.
While Hester was imprisoned, the rosebush was her only hope, just as Pearl conveys. Pearl was seen as Hester’s only desire to keep fighting when Wilson calls her a “red rose” who has been “plucked” from the bush of wild roses, where Hester’s hope was fulfilled. This demonstrates how no matter what, beauty can come from even the darkest of situations and places in life. Nature throughout the book, demonstrates the variation between characters and how it describes and establishes certain characters as well. Connecting back to the rosebush, not only does does it help establish a sense of hope for certain characters, it also validates certain characters and their individual personalities. Much like Hester, the rosebush has been, “kept alive in history” (Hawthorne 46.) This proves her strength as both a woman and as a mother.
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She fights every day to overcome the burden that the scarlet letter has brought into her life. She also does not stop to keep Pearl, her only hope in life and fights overcome the harsh criticism and punishments the Puritan society has brought upon her life on a day to day basis. Hawthorne describes how the rosebush, “sprung up under the footsteps of sainted Ann Hutchinson” Ann Hutchinson was viewed as a very powerful woman in her time. Not many women were viewed this way and did not have a strong place or voice in a Puritan society, therefore Hester had to use the scarlet letter as a motivation to move on and also find relief from Dimmesdale’s death which was a, “darkening close of a tale of human frailty and sorrow”. This demonstrates how Hester has also held this strength from the beginning of the book when she was beaten down to the end, where she overcomes her conflicts.
Along with nature, Hawthorne romanticizes the bible and alludes to it as well in order to reveal the secure love that Hester had for her daughter, Pearl. She is the biggest biblical allusion throughout the book because she follows the whole storyline and her symbolism is never absent. Hester explains how she named her daughter Pearl, “as being of great price—purchased with all she had—her mother's only treasure” (Hawthorne 74.). This is a direct reference to The Biblical Gospels of Matthew in the bible. Matthew was in search of Pearls, and when he found one with great value, he went and sold everything he had just to buy that one pearl. Much like Matthew, Hester had to suffer and work for what she truly wanted, which was her daughter. She gave up everything she had in her life just for her daughter as did Matthew in order to find satisfaction in life. She gave up her dignity, her community, and her religion just to be with her daughter.
Hester is now lonely and does not communicate with anyone else besides her daughter and she truly appreciates the bond they have which makes Pearl her only treasure in life. Pearl is also Dimmesdale’s “pearl of great price,” because when they eventually connect as a father and daughter, he gives up his own life and gains forgiveness from God for confessing his sins. Naming Pearl after something of great value, shows how Hester has no regrets for her sins and finds no shame in her sins because they delivered something significant to her life. The romantic elements Hawthorne utilizes throughout the book between nature and the bible, helps to establish Hester and Pearls love for each other, how nature can distinguish between certain characters, and how nature can connect to certain aspects of human nature. The romanticism also helps to distract the audience from the conflict in the book.
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