As a subgenre of Romanticism, Dark Romanticism differenciates itself from its main source with the prevalent emphasis on the fallibility of the human and sin. As indicated by Dark Romantics, even good individuals deviate towards a world of sin, transgression and self destruction, as they believed humans were drawn to evil. Dark Romanticism, without the belief in the innate goodness of people, explored the human capacity for depravity, often with the emphasis on emotion, nature and the individual themselves while including supernatural elements to frame it all. As G.R Thompson expressed, “the Dark Romantics adapted images of anthropomorphized evil in the form of Satan, devils, ghosts … vampires, and ghouls.”
Although both rely on nature, Dark Romaticism deals with nature in a more pessimistic, darker light than Romaticism, seeing it as a force that harbours wickedness. For Dark Romantics, the natural world is ominous, deterioritaing, and unknown; when it unveils the truth to the individual, its divulgements are malevolent and infernal. Nathaniel Hawthorne, a prominent author associated with Dark Romanticism, handles the subject in his book ‘’The Scarlet Letter’’, carefully weaving Dark Romanticism through every description, thus, making it a great example of the genre. Hawthorne almost explains the genre to the reader with his masterfully drawn characters in the book, one of whom is Arthur Dimmesdale, ‘’the Scarlet Letter’’ character suffering in silence, but not forgetting to do so abiding by the rules of Dark Romanticism, thanks to Hawthorne.
Starting with the prominent subject of ‘’no man is without a sin’’, we meet Arthur Dimmesdale, a reverend revered by the townspeople of Massachusetts Bay, commits adultery with Hester Prynne, producing a child as a consequence.The child, Pearl is a direct result of a sin, the ultimate embodiment of adultery commited by both parties and a reminder of the evil that they took part in. Although Hester confesses and atones for her sins, Arthur stays silent and the torment begins.
Dimmesdale falling victim to his urges examplifies that no individual is innately ‘’good’’. The decision to stay silent on the matter, slowly consumes Dimmesdale, with this anguish presenting itself as physical weakness as well as mental. At First Dimmesdale’s dynamic conscience makes him sympathetic towars Hester, as she bear all the burden of their sin alone with their daughter but slowly, as Dimmesdale’s unrest and guilt pushes him towards believing that he suffers more than Hester, in light of the fact that he lives with a secret, that consumes him day and night and is terrified of being found out. Portrayal of Arthur Dimmesdale start off as a cheerful and bright reverend to a dreadful and shameful man. We see Dimmesdale’s descent into madness, as he suffers the consequences of his sin, not by the hands of the townspeople but at the grasp of his own psyche.
The next breaking point and an important relation to the Dark Romanticism the is Dimmesdale’s relation and reaction to the nature. In the story, in true Dark Romanticism fashion, we see the the habitants of the Massachusetts Bay consider the woods as the home of evil and the devil himself. The forest is where the Black Man, the devil, resides, the forest listens and talks and has its own enigma.
Dimmesdale, after reuniting with Hester for the first time in seven years in the woods by a brook, the elements of nature almost seem to listen in on their conversation. After this interaction in by the brook, Dimmesdale demenour significantly changes as he becames more and more uncontrollable and wicked, thinking about all the sins he could commit and afraid of people constantly looking at him. We directly see the nature affecting an individual in mischievous ways.
Throughout the book, the presence of supernatural and mystery is apparent. Later in the book the reader alongside Chillingworth, discover that the scarlet letter ‘’A’’ is present on Dimmesdale’s chest, right above his heart. His anguish and deteriorating state and suffering, presents itself as a literal physical marking on his chest for him to carry, once again n secret. It can be concluded that the reason Dimmesdale constantly locates his hand on his heart is this carved out marking of the letter, as he is reminded of it constantly. The direct origin of the letter is left out, and later on Dimmesdale claims that it is a marking from God as a punishments and a reminder of his transgression while Pearl, who definitely present an aura of the supernatural by claiming he sees the Black Man in Chillingworth, thinks aloud that the Black Man, devil, might have been the one who put this marking on his chest.
Dimmesdale’s suffering further magnifies when the townsfolk fails to believe he is an evil man and sees his sermons about sins, not as a direct recounts from a sinner who understands it but as a brilliantly spoken truth. The meteor that is seen while Dimmesdale stands with Hester and Pearl, casts a shadow of an ‘’A’’ in the sky. For Dimmesdale, this is a clear sign form God for him to accept the reality that he is a sinner and repent, while the townspeople see it as an ‘’A’’ for ‘’angel’’, once againg failing to accept the his confession and eventually let Dimmesdale move on from it.