Abrams (1999) defines Romanticism as how we believe it should be rather than what it actually is, creating heroes who completely lack human shortcomings and villains who are completely evil. While Realism is just as it sounds. In other words, Romanticism is concerned more with idealistic views of the world along the lines of optimism and opportunity. On the other hand, Romanticism emphasises the story and the plot. Whereas, Realism is more about the development of characters ("Romanticism versus Realism"). Moreover, Realism emphasises more on morality and its place in the community ("Romanticism, Realism and Naturalism). That being said, Nathanial Hawthorne, in The Scarlet Letter, straddles the line between the two realms and creates a 'grey area' with characters that can exist in both realms by means of using ideas from both Romanticism and Realism.
The Scarlet Letter can be considered as Romanticism in several different aspects especially when it comes to exotic settings, symbolism, and supernatural elements. First of all, Romantic works often happens in exotic locales. The Scarlet Letter happens in the wilderness on the outer parts of civilised humanity. The small town is a tiny spot of what seems to be a peaceful land, which is in the middle of an immoral forest. Furthermore, Romanticism also has an excessive heavy emphasis on symbolism. For example, the most frequent symbol in the novel is the scarlet letter 'A' itself, where it is a symbol of different things throughout the novel. It can be deciphered as adultery due to the fact that the letter is found on both Dimmsdale's chest and Hester's breast. Therefore, it is a symbol of sin and shame. However, there are other several meanings for the letter such as 'able' or 'agony' or how the townspeople has interpreted it as 'angel' when it has been seen in the sky. Another use of symbolism is through nature that is used for the most part in the forest for this novel.