The Scarlet Letter

Criticism of Puritan Society: Nature in Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter"

Throughout the late 18th century and 19th century, Romanticism was a highly popular literary style adopted by many novelists. Nature, a prominent element of Romanticism, is used in these authors' writings not just for descriptions and images, but also to emphasize major ideas. One gifted author influenced by Romanticism was Nathaniel Hawthorne, the creator of "The Scarlet Letter". In "The Scarlet Letter", Hawthorne uses nature as a romantic source for critiquing Puritan life: the harshness of its society, the unjust laws of the Puritan theocracy, and the corruption of the Puritan humanity.

Hawthorne uses a strongly romantic view of nature to emphasize the Puritans' harshness and lack of compassion. For instance, in the first chapter, Hawthorne describes the town as "the black flower of civilized society" (45). In this passage, he uses a flower, an element of nature, to symbolize the despair of the prison town. He further emphasizes this symbol by describing the prison's plot of as "overgrown with burdock, pig-weed, apple-peru, and such unsightly vegetation" (45). By representing the prison and scaffold as a gloomy place of punishment, Hawthorne foreshadows the immoral events...

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