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Aspects of Romanticism in The Scarlet Letter: Innocence

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Kourosh Arasteh

on 15 October 2013

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Transcript of Aspects of Romanticism in The Scarlet Letter: Innocence

Aspects of Romanticism in The Scarlet Letter: Innocence
Pearl as Sin
”Pearl was a born outcast of the infantile world. An imp of evil, emblem and product of sin, she had no right among christened infants”(65).
The Romantics believe that children are innocent and can see with greater clarity than we who have been corrupted.
Remember that children have one thing we adults have lost: imagination.
Romantics advocated allowing them to explore, to be wild and free. Don't restrict them. Don't inhibit them. Let them frolic and nurture their creativity.
“‘...he haunts this forest, and carries a book with him,-a big, heavy book, with iron clasps; and how this ugly Black Man offers his book and an iron pen to everybody that meets him here among the trees; and they are to write their names with their own blood. And then he sets his mark on their bosoms! Didst thou ever meet the Black Man, mother?’”(126)

"The truth seems to be , however, that the mother-forest, and these wild things which it nourished, all recognized a kindred wildness in the human child... And she was gentler here than in the grassy- margined streets of the settlement, or in her mothers cottage" (p. 246).
What we charmingly refer to as "growing up" is really a narrowing down to one acceptable vision.
"The children of the Puritans looked up from their play and spake gravely one to another: 'Behold, verily, there is the woman of the scarlet letter; and , of a truth, moreover, there is the likeness of the scarlet letter running along side her! Come, therefore, and let us fling mud at them!'" (93)
Why would Pearl call Chillingsworth the 'Black Man'?
Who is the Black Man in this novel?
Is Pearl's claim that the Black Man (Chillingsworth) has already 'gotten' Dimmesdale due to her unique perception of the situation, or is she simply playing?
Is Pearl suggesting that Dimmesdale has been approached by Chillingsworth, or the Devil?
{Dimmesdale's Dream}
”And now, through the chamber which these spectral thoughts had made so ghastly, gilded Hester Prynne, leading along little Pearl, in her scarlet garb, and pointing her forefinger, first at the scarlet letter on her bosom, and then at the clergyman’s own breast”(100).
Is the author trying to show Dimmesdale's paranoia?
Or does he actually understand that Pearl knows his secret?
Why would Hawthorne include Pearl's keen perception in Dimmesdale's dream?
How do Pearl's actions in Dimmesdale's dream show what he is most worried about?
How is it symbolic for Pearl to be at her most natural state in the forest, a place that most people consider to be evil and sinful?
How does Pearl's love of nature compare to Hester's?
Why does Hawthorne choose the forest to be Pearl's place of freedom?
Why is Pearl portrayed as such a nature-child?
How does Hawthorne portray the children of the town? Are they still considered innocent or have they become "corrupt"? What has corrupted them?
Why do you think Hawthorne uses these children in comparison to the use of Pearl?
"Come away Mother! Come away, or yonder old Black Man will catch you! He hath got hold of the minister already"(93).
"Hereupon, Pearl broke away from her mother, and, running to the brook, stooped over it, and bathed her forehead,until the unwelcome kiss was quite washed off, and diffused through a long lapse of the gliding water" (p255)
What is significant about Pearl washing away her father's affection?
Does she truly understand what is going on between Dimmesdale and her mother in the forest?
Are there any true elements to Pearl's imagination of the Black Man?
Who/what is she basing her description on?
If Romantics are supposed to view children as pure or innocent, why does Hawthorne use Pearl to embody Hester's sin?

Is Hawthorne speaking from a Puritan view, or his own?

If Puritan, is Hawthorne deriding the concepts of sin as stifling?

Whereas in the olden days we treated kids as little adults...
“She saw the children of the settlement, on the grassy margin of the streets, or at the domestic thresholds, disporting themselves in such grim fashion as the Puritanical nurture would permit; playing at going to church, perchance; or at scourging Quakers; or taking scalps in a sham-fight with the Indians; or scaring one another with freaks of imitative witchcraft”(65).

Connecting to art and works outside of this one, can we see Hawthorne satirizing the Puritan method of nurture of children as raising smaller adults?

Hawthorne is attempting to mock the Puritans in most of the comparisons between Pearl and the village children. How do the Puritan children fit into the vision of children as innocent and perceptive?

if Pearl is the product of wild and free and she ended up being wild and free, what are the children of the village the products of?

Works Cited
Unidentified artist, seventeenth century,The Mason Children, 1670, oil on canvas, 39 1/2 x 42 11/16 in. (100.4 x 108.5 cm), The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller III, 1979.7.3.© Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. New York: Dover Publications, 1994. Print.
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