The Scarlet Letter Historical Context

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The Scarlet Letter, which takes as its principal subject colonial seventeenth-century New England, was written and published in the middle of the nineteenth century. Hawthorne began writing the novel in 1849, after his dismissal from the Custom-House, and it was published in 1850. The discrepancy between the time represented in the novel and the time of its production has often been a point of confusion to students. Because Hawthorne took an earlier time as his subject, the novel is considered a historical romance written in the midst of the American literary movement called transcendentalism (c. 1836-60).

The principle writers of transcendentalism included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and W H Channing. Transcendentalism was, broadly speaking, a reaction against the rationalism of the previous century and the religious orthodoxy of Calvinist New England Transcendentalism stressed the romantic tenets of mysticism, idealism, and individualism. In religious...

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This section contains 780 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy The Scarlet Letter Study Guide
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The Scarlet Letter from Novels for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.