How can I identify and discuss specific techniques or concerns typical of Romanticism exemplified in Hawthorne's works?What about Washington Irving and Edgar Allan Poe; how can I do the same for them

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nathaniel Hawthorne was what is termed an anti-Romantic, or a dark Romantic.  Dark Romanticism is a reaction to Transcendentalism, a belief that seems too optimistic to such writers as Hawthorne, Poe, and Melville. The best way to identify techniques is to look for passages that exemplify the following characteristics: (Some example are provided for you, but you will need man more, I know.)

  • These writers much less confident of the notion that perfection is an innate quality of mankind, presenting individuals as prone to sin and self-destruction rather than possessing divinity and wisdom.  According to critic G.R. Thompson, dark Romantics "adapted images of anthromorphized evil in the form of Satan, devils, ghosts, ghouls, etc.

In "The Scarlet Letter," Roger Chillingworth is an evil force, Hester and Arthur Dimmesdale are sinners, and Dimmesdale certainly self-destructs.

  • These dark Romantics perceived Nature as the Romantics as a deeply spiritual force, but less in tune with humanity and more as a dark force, revealing hellish truths to man.

In "The Scarlet Letter," the brook complains and divides Pearl from Hester, and the forest is the site of the Black Mass.

  • Rather than leading to social reform, dark Romantics perceive society as failing to make changes for the better.

The "Utopia of human virtue and happiness" of Puritanism is presented in Chapter I as having failed because there is a prison which has been the first building constructed. Because of the harshness of the Puritan judges, the lives of Hester and Arthur Dimmesdale are destroyed as they struggle to make meaning of their existences.

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