Gothic Elements In Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'The Scarlet Letter'

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Bhimani 1

Outline

Prescribed Question: How does the text conform to, or deviate from, the conventions of a particular genre, and for what purpose?

Text: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Thesis: In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne effectively conforms to the conventions of the gothic genre for the purpose of characterizing the Puritan society as oppressive, portraying the hypocrisy found within Puritan society and highlighting the consequences for not confessing sin.

Point #1: Hawthorne effectively establishes a dark and gloomy atmosphere that adopts the conventions pertaining to the gothic genre by highlighting the oppressive nature of the Puritan society.

• Use of dark imagery, and prison as a symbol of sin.

• Juxtaposition
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Each genre has distinct features that differentiate it from others, helping the reader better understand the author’s message. Occasionally, authors write novels that are classified as part of one genre, but conform to the conventions of other genres for varying purposes. For instance, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is classified as a romance, however it has conventions pertaining to the gothic genre. Such conventions include, the use of a gloomy atmosphere, the presence of supernatural occurrences and negative emotions being the main motivation for actions, all which The Scarlet Letter incorporates (The Gothic 2005). In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne effectively conforms to the conventions of the gothic genre for the purpose of characterizing the Puritan society as oppressive, portraying the hypocrisy found within the society and highlighting the consequences for not confessing…show more content…
She is characterized as a witch who is the sister of Governor Bellingham. This is illustrated when Hester refuses to go to the witch party with her and she replies, “We shall have thee there anon” said the witch-lady” (107). Witches were often executed or tried as the Puritans believed they were of ill-omen, yet she was not executed until her brother Governor Bellingham lost power in 1956. The supposedly sinless governor is hypocritical as he lives with his devil-worshipper sister in direct contrast to how he attacks Hester’s character. The use of this contradiction provides a strong metaphorical representation of the Puritan society and how they only show their good side to the society represented by Governor Bellingham, while masking their sins, represented by Mistress Hibbins. The society’s intentions to portray themselves as pure individuals while condemning Hester for her sins even though they mask their own, highlights the hypocritical nature of the society. Ultimately, by the use of the supernatural character of Mistress Hibbins, Hawthorne is able to provide a metaphorical representation of the hypocrisy in the society while conforming to the conventions of the gothic genre.

Moreover, through the presence of negative emotions that catalyze actions, Hawthorne effectively illustrates the consequences for not confessing sin while conforming to
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