The Scarlet Letter belongs to the Romantic period in American literature. Many elements of Romanticism are evident in the story and Hawthorne's development of plot, characters, and themes. Like other Romantic works, the novel explores the human spirit and the emotions of the heart. It is a story of individual lives; society is presented as a destructive force that limits and restrains personal freedom. As a work of Romanticism, The Scarlet Letter equates nature with freedom and beauty, a refuge from society.
Other Romantic elements include the presence of the Divine, as well as mystery and supernatural events, real or implied. Finally, Romanticism focused on the past, as does this novel. The narrator of the story tells a tale from long ago, handed down through various accounts of what happened and shrouded in mystery.