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Comparison of Preternatural Elements between “Moby Dick” and “Scarlet Letter” in the concept of Dark Romanticism

            The literary movement of Romanticism based on human’s optimistic feelings, considerably, beliefs and admirations are more prominent than senses and logic. Rather than seeking a reason for something, Romanticism, emphasize human’s social doctrines and passion for love or nature, etc. In the Dark romanticism which is the sub-genre of Romanticism, Human’s dark side and demonic manners are notified. By improving that movement preternatural elements are covered in the stories in order to make the reader deep emotions much more. Preternatural should not be confused with Supernatural. Preternatural events do not contradict nature. It is abnormal just as Supernatural but preternatural does not include metaphysical things and also does not out of reason as well. On the contrary, Supernatural beyond the laws of nature. In that condition, both Hawthorne’s romance “Scarlet Letter” and Herman Melville’s novel “Moby Dick” employs common celestial representatives by using preternatural elements. In this website, we compare both work’s preternatural elements in the concept of Dark Romanticism.

Moby Dick

            In the Melville’s novel “Moby Dick”, Moby Dick itself is a preternatural creature. All sailors believe that it is immortal and direct representative of god. Sailors claim that Moby Dick exist in multiple places at the same time, furthermore it is unbeaten. Its ability of awareness of danger makes him immortal. When it feels in danger, it vigorously attack them who came to hunt him. Although it is just a sperm whale in appearance, nobody hunts it down because of its intelligence and unordinary abilities. Ahab, in fact, is obsessed with Moby Dick because he claims, it rip his leg off. In the Chapter 135, Ahab quote its immortality by saying: “Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale” Moby Dick’s fast and unforeseen attack kills Ahab just like the other sailors who want to kill it. It is obvious that Moby Dick is a preternatural creature. Since it is intelligent and always beats hunters with the mind games. Unlike the other whales which moves on with their instincts rather than mind.

Scarlet Letter

            Nathaniel Hawthorne’s romance “Scarlet Letter” has preternatural elements as well. In the story Pearl, the offspring of Arthur Dimmesdale and Hester Prynne is not a normal child. She is so intellectual that everybody is surprised. She awares of everything about adultery. In the second scaffold scene, she unites Hester and Dimmesdale together with connect their hands. During that emotional scene, Dimmesdale feels relieve when holding Pearl’s hand. Another odd behavior of Pearl is the river scene. When Hester goes in the river, she takes off the “A” sigil. After that, she call Pearl to come with her but Pearl does not listen and just nodding because her mother’s A sigil is in outside. Pearl’s stands against her mom is because, she is the product of Adultery. In the chapter 16, Pearl wisely, says her mother: “’Mother,’ said litter Pearl, ‘the sunshine does not love you. It runs away and hides itself, because it is afraid of something on your bosom….” Her prophet like persona in the quote has also symbolize her divinity. The whole characteristic features of her separate from her counterparts. That is, unordinary awkward behaviors of Pearl is the perfect instance of Preternatural element.


            Both of the works share similar theme of Preternatural elements as well. Fedallah in Moby Dick and Chillingworth, in the Scarlett Letter represents as a devil in disguise. Fedallah is only be seen by Ahab and he comes out suddenly when they start to hunt first whale. Fedallah’s shadow assassin like depictions and unknown past of him symbolizes demon’s shadow on the earth. Therewithal, Chillingworth carries similar features. Just as Fedallah he came upon suddenly in the first scaffold scene. He makes his plots in a mysterious ways and Just as Fedallah, Chilligoworth  is known dead by everyone in the town before he came back suddenly. His silence manners and abilities which is the mastery of poison makes him a perfect demon archetype. In that conditions both of the characters defined as preternatural.


            In Conclusion, Both of the works emphasize same characteristic models such as God figure, a prophet and a demon as well. In the concept of Dark Romanticism, both writers employ preternatural elements by referring celestial figures so that readers can feels the human’s dark sides and the theme of death, sins and adultery. Rather than an ordinary characteristics, both of the writers chose to furnish them with preternatural elements. Since, evermore, unknown and unordinary is the more spine- chilling.

Works Cited

  1. About Supernaturalism in the Scarlet Letter:
  2. About Ahab and Preternatural archetype:’s_Moby-Dick (Chapter 5 and 6)
  3. About Moby Dick as a God:
  4. For Preternatural Word Etymology:,inspired%20the%20modern%20English%20version.

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