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American Literature Authors and Genres

Terms in this set (23)

-tried to purify the Catholic Church
-from Great Britain
-settled in America in the 1600's
-post Renaissance
-wrote about religion
-strong sense of community
-had Salem Witch Trials in the 1690's
-came to the New World to escape religious persecution in the Mayflower to Plymouth Rock, MA
-wrote a treaty called the Mayflower Compact

Origins of Protestant Reformation
o in Europe: Puritans began in England following teachings of 2 theologians who were dissenters of the Roman Catholic Church:

-Martin Luther (German)

-John Calvin (French)

o in England: Church of England or Anglican Church which was very much like the Roman Church in terms of liturgy, organization etc.

for many Protestants, England reformation was not enough good change
puritans sought to PURIFY the Anglican Church dividing into 2 groups:
-Separatists or Pilgrims: believed in completely separating form the church

-Non-separating pilgrims who were willing to keep a relationship with the church

Puritan defined: defimed as someone who wants to purify the Christian religion by breaking away from the Roman Catholic Church and making tenants of it's own, and retaining focus on God and the Indvidual

Puritans in North America:
o Plymouth Pilgrims, Separatists, Mayflower

-1620:Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, England with William Bradford and 101 other Pilgrims + crew. With destination of Virginia Colonyà instead, they ended up at Cape Cod, Massachusetts—Plymouth Rock

o Nonseparatists, Massachusetts Bay Colony, Arabella

-1630, John Winthrop led a group 0f 700 settlers on 11 ships to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, with Winthrop sailing on the lead ship Arabella (likely where Winthrop preached his sermon, "A Model of Christian Charity"

Main tenants of Protestant Reformation:
o Supreme authority in the Bible

-not any man or institution

o Individual's direct relationship with God

-not through a priest or institution

Core Beliefs of Puritans (in addition to reformation principles of the Bible and individual)

o Absolute Sovereignty: God is totally n control at all times; nothing happens outside his Knowledge or His power

Providence: another word used discussing the absolute sovereignty
(the protective care of God or of nature as a spiritual power)

o Human Depravity (wickedness)

-because of sin of Adam and Eve, all humanity is inherently evil and incapable of response to God

-all are tainted by original sin

-nothing is good in a human apart from the saving action of god

o Predestination

Election: God in His absolute sovereignty and wisdom determined before human history who would be saved ("the elect") and who would be damned
The elect have no choice but to be saved, the damned cannot choose election, even if they think they want to follow God
-However, in day to day matters, humans are responsible for their choices but God knows all choices and outcomes and is able to make all choices work to achieve his purposes (his sovereignty)
Because of human depravity (wickedness), God must initiate all interaction w/ humans and must give humans the ability to respond

o Covenant Theology

Covenant of Grace: at the HEART OF CALVINISM
Covenant: an agreement or contract between God and his followers when Christ was being crucified that all of hs followers would have eternal life
Compact: another word the Puritans used for covenant
Puritans were Congregationalists (rejecting hierarchy of the Church of England and maintaining that each church or congregation must be self-governing) and autonomous
Members entered into a covenant w/ each other and chose a pastor and elected elders and deacons to carry out the work of the church
Members demonstrated their election being chosen by God through a telling of their conversion experience (a conversion narrative)
Only the elct could partake in communion, i.e. "closed" communion
Concept of the covenant influenced all aspects of puritan life:
-relationship with God
-social and civil relationships (The Mayflower Compact for e.g.)

-church organization

o Individualism & Reading

Because of the Reformation emphasis on Bible and Individual, Puritans placed great emphasis on individual relationships with God
Both men and women studied and interpreted the Bible themselves
Literacy was important for ALL
Puritans were continually reading---literally reading Scripture, figuratively reading events and themselves, all with the goal of interpreting what God had to say
Puritans interpreted every day events as manifestaions of God's will (a calamity might be god's judgement, prosperity his blessing etc.)
They had a deep belief in the supernatural and in "signs and wonders" that showed God at work
b/c of the belief in god's election, puritans believed in individual reflection on and interpretation of personal experience, resulting in:
-conversion narratives

-journals and diaries


o all of these conversion narratives, journals and diaries, and histories were kept with the goal of documenting the work of God and individual response to it
-establishment of Plymouth Plantatio on shore of MA in 1620 brought new kind of English settlers (later called Pilgrims by leader and historian William Bradford)
-the pilgrims along with their allies Puritans shared their wish to purify Cjrsitian beleif and and practice
-Puritans wer eintially willing to work within the confines of the established Church of England, yet pilgrims thought the church so corrupt, that they were willing to break away completely
-in England, they set up their own secret congregation in village
b/c of persecution and punishement, the "Scrooby Separatists" saw that they would not be able to stay true to faith in Englan
when James Stuart (anti-reformist) took the thron, the scrooby separitists moved to Netherlands where they had to deal w/ poverty and didnt know the language, took trades like weaving
the reformers petitioned to go to England's Virginia Colonies and because of political/secular and religious reasons,they boarded the Mayflower where there were 3x as many secularists than separitists
the group made preps. for winter with the help of the Wampanoag Indians nearby, with leader Massasoit at MA shore

also, a well financed ordeal brought James Winthrop w/ the Puritans to the Americas to MA bay
Puritans were no exact dander to England b/c they were not as bold in statements
yet, Puritans were similar to Pilgrims
beleived that popes and bishops could not impose religious laws upon them without concsent and agreed with John Calvin's view of God picking thosse who would survive and those who would be damned
when new charter subsumed Pilgrims and Puritans into one Plymouth colony, they became the same entity except for memory
Puritans believed that Adam had broken the "Covenant of Works", and Gid made to Adam he was immortak and he could live in Paradise foreve if he obeyed God's commandments, but Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge of good and bad and then brought eveil and death upon the world
Puritan central doctrine was "Covenant of Grace" a binding agreement Christ made for all those who beleive in in and finalized at his crucification that said they would have eternal life
Puritans medidated on Christ's redeeming power
Puritans had two important sacraments which were taken very seriously: baptism and communion (usually church members got to do this as status ordeal, but then John Wintrhop aboard flagship Arabella said that the world's eyes were upon the "city on top of the hill"
Like William Bradofrd, James Winthrop wanted to record the acuatalization of the theme
+Develop your answers in focused paragraphs using complete sentences and specific textual references; submit your homework to the specific homework dropbox on the portal before class on the day the assignment is due.
+See "Puritan Outline" for terms and questions pertaining to "Introduction to Puritans" YouTube video/ppt. and "Pilgrim and Puritan" Norton Introduction

Notes on William Bradford's Account:
William Bradford had the spirit of determination and self-sacrifice
elected governor at Plymouth, MA
chief judge
oversaw agriculture
made allottments of land
Hisory of the Pilgrims:
when Bradford was 12 or 13, he heard the religious srmons of nonconformist minister Richard Clyfton
Clifton was religious guide of a small community of beleievers who met in Scrooby known as Separatists (saw no hope in reofrming England's church), not sympatyhetic to national church, rather wanted special churches which they enetered by professing faith and swearing to the covenant
god offered himself as partner to each person
sick of hidden life on Englan (b/c going against chirch was treachery, Scrooby community took up residence in Netherlands
living in foreign land was not easy, and so Scrooby community petitioned for a grant to go to the Virginia colonies, but high seas got them to Plymouth, MA instead
then signed Mayflower Compact: civil covenant allowing the temporal state to serve the godly citizen

Gurliv Chahal

Block 2

William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation (pages 72-78, 81-86)

What can you infer from this narrative about what Puritans are like? Avoid pointing out the obvious, "religious," but instead identify some of their other characteristics and values.
Puritans believed in fairness, or the phrase," Every action has an equal and opposite reaction." This value of fairness can be found in William Bradford's description of the treacherous voyage, where a young man is described as, "proud and very profane," (74). The young man always acts negatively by, "contemning the poor people in their sickness and cursing them daily.... that he hoped to cast half of them overboard before they came to the journey's end," (74). In accordance to the rules, the man having no respect for others, is cursed himself with disease and suffering, as shown in, "He died in a desperate manner, so was himself the first that was thrown overboard," (74). Basically, William Bradford, as a Puritan, puts emphasis on the ideas that one's dealings with other people are then applied later on oneself. One will always be punished for the bad they have done to others.

An important characteristic of Puritans that helped them survive the harsh new world was is toughness. As Bradford states, "Being thus passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles...they had now no friends to welcome them or inns to entertain or refresh their weatherbeaten bodies," (75-76). Even with their exhausted physical condition and adverse storms, the Puritans are able to withstand and maintain their sensibility in order to create their new home in the middle of nowhere.

A second characteristic of the Puritans is that they were courageous. Being winter, the Puritans were subject to, "cruel and fierce storms," where it was even dangerous to "travel to known places, much more to search an unknown coast," (76). Yet, not deterred by danger, they explored a "hideous and desolate wilderness," (76). The whole country was, "full of woods and thickets" that represented "a wild and savage hue" (76). Coming from the civil countries of England and the Netherlands, without paying much thought to danger or pain, the Puritans scouted areas around them in dangerous winter to make their ends for survival meet.
Puritan: one who wanted to "purify" the church and return it to the customs of the old church, by eradicating materialism as well as control by papacy's word
Separatist: oe who wanted to completely separate from the Church of England b/c ideals and values were so different
Pilgrim: a person who journies for a religious or spiritual reason, also the non-separatists under John Winthrop who came to New England
Providence: protective care of god or nature as a spiritual power
Covenant: agreement between two entities
Election: idea that god has already picked (predestined fate) whether one will be damned or enlightened

William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation
Describe Bradford's writing style. What are its characteristics, and what effect(s) do these create in you as a reader?:
Bradshaw's wtiting style is very dry with a few sparce "harsh"es or "cruel"s
Bradshaw always displays his deep reverence in god
the effect it creates in me is that the Puritans were very tough and resistant to the changes of the environment they experieced
What can you infer about Bradford's purposes for writing his narrative?
Bradshaw's purpose for writing this was to make sure he did his part to spread the word of god, showing that being the people of god, the Puritans were able to wear the toughest extremes
Is Bradford's text a history? Explain and defend your answer referring to style, content, etc.
Bradford's text is not a history partly because it so subjective, with deep thoughts and god and explanations of why something happened in Bradshaw's religious thinking
also, Bradford called the Native Americans "savages", making this more of a personal account, than an actual history
What can you infer from this narrative about what Puritans are like? avoid pointing out the obvious, "religious," but instead identify some of their other characteristics and values.
Puritans were tough (could stand harsh weather, winters, and seas)
they beleived in fairness (Bradshaw showed how one young man cursed those aboard the ship, and ended up being cursed with disease himself and thrown oveboard)
besides absolute soveriegny, covenant
What story does Bradford tell in the section describing the voyage to America?
Bradford tells the story of a young man who curses the poor and sick people, and contracts disease, and is thrown overborad before any one of them
Where/how do you see the Puritan concept of Providence at play in this work?
Bradford always talks about things turning out positively because of god (god punished those who did bad to others, meaning God was protecting the true Puritans)
Consider how Bradford describes encounters with the Natives; from these scenes, what can you infer about Bradford's view of the Puritans and their goals, and/or about the Natives?
Bradford's view of the African Americans is cruel considering he has just set eyes on them
he calls the NA "savages"
The Stronger: Physical or Mental?

The Puritans, reformers of the Anglican Church, were persecuted for "radical" beliefs. Being Puritan, the religious group wanted to "purify" and restore faith by solely heeding the Bible. Yet in the 1600's, most affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church beleived in salvation through generally corrupt clergy. Through these conflicting ideas, the Puritans realized their path to salvation required diplaying fortitude through total separation from the Roman Catholics and even other Protestants to persue Providence, where God had direct intervention and protective care over the Elect ( the Puritans, chosen to survive damnation). In God's Providence, the New World, in order to please God to reach salvation, the Puritans displayed fortitude. The typical Puritan belief of fortitude appears moderately in my life.

Being the Elect, the Puritans are subjected to a new level of worship under God including facing the power of Nature (God's creation) and disease (God's infliction of pain), to single out the devout onto a smaller level. "In the depth of winter," a time of chilling discomfort, "half of [the Puritans'] company [die], while those alive are, "infected with the scurvy and other disease, (Bradsford 82). Scurvy, a "disease caused by a lack of vitamin C and characterized by spongy gums, loosening of the teeth, and a bleeding into the skin," ("Scurvy") inflicts pain and danger of death onto the victim. As well, the Puritans not only lose loved ones to the harsh environment of Providence, bogged down with painful disease, the Puritans struggle to prove to God their loyalty and position in the Elect. Yet, the "six or seven sound persons...[spare] no pains" (Bradsford 82). In this context, "sound" refers to stable physical and mental condition, whereas "pains" refer to "neccesary offices for [the ill] which dainty or queasy stomaches cannot endure to hear. (Bradsford 82). The stable conditioned Puritans struggled to surive themselves, as well as tend to the domestic services of the scurvy-ridden, while putting themselves at risk of catching an infection. The major connection to fortidude comes into play as Bradsford describes the able-minded doing their work "willingly and cheerfully, without any gurdging in the least," (Bradsford) The several sound Puritans, by displaying morality towards companions and doing work willingly in God's Providence, escape death and show these several are the Elect. Through their moral deeds and positive manner in times of suffering. these Puritans show they have fortitude in Providence, a land of God's direct intervention, which hopefully will help the group achieve the ultimate goal: salvation.

The belief of fortitude is moderately relevant in my life because of experiences of courage through mentally painful times. When my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer a few summers ago, my family went through a painful state of depression. My grandmother had been the glue of our family, comforting those of my family who were going through tough times. Yet now, tough times instilled itself upon her physical condition. In the summers, when my brother and I were around her all day, her condition was unnerving. She lost most of her hair and her slender five foot ten frame became terribly emaciated and rigid. This suffering was caused by one cause: breast cancer. My grandmother would suffer physically ecpecially hard after getting chemotherapy treatment, and my mother upset about her limited power, would cry at night. I would go between them, trying to consolidate my grandmother with a cup of Indian chai, and giving my mom a meaningful hug. This continued throughout eighth grade, and on top of loads of homework, sports, and social life, I dealt with the unstable condition of my family. Throughout this experience, I did display mental by giving my grandmother and mother moral support. Yet, unlike the Puritans, I do not recall a time in my life where I was physically in danger where I had to display mental strength or courage. In this sense, I displyed fortitude differntly than the Puritans not only through the type of pain, but also through my goal at the end of the suffering. My fortitude was an effort to restore the stability of my family and boost emotional spirit, while the Puritans' fortitude was to physically heal companions..
Age of Scientififc Dsicovery
people beleive in reason
American Revolution (1700's)
increasing people moved inland and all across the Atlantic Seaboard

Absolute Sovereignty:
humans are minor pieces of the puzzle: Puritans
Rationalists: beleive that God created everything, but main focus on human life, endeavors etc.
Rationalists have humans at center of world, ratehr than god

population growth in cities (decline of puritism)
1760: more than 1 million people
increase in transatlantic trade
agriculture grew

Puritans thought god is all powerful and humans are instruments of his will
if you do not have faith in god, you don't go to heaven
god intervenes in people's every day endeavors
Rationalists: all powerful god created world and let it run, also deism (god is a clockmaker, he has created the emchanism and wound it up, and now he just let the clock sit on the sjelf)
thier reason told them that god made evrything perfect, but he does not need to itnervene anymore

Puritan: God has a plan for the universe down to individual laws
God created the world according to certain laws
Newton found obervable, natural phenomens that happen because of physical laws

Puritans: God reveals his plan; Humans need to undertsand God's message
God gave gift of reason to humanity
Rene Descarte, "I think, theorfore I am"
Reason reveals laws of universe that god has determined
Natural Rights/ Self Evident Rights: things we are born with: liberty, persuit of happiness, right to live (Laws of the Universe)---> Rationalists saw them as scientific laws

Puritans: Dermines the elect
Rationalists: Humans are bron with feeling and sentiment (innate moral sense)
your feelings tell you when the natural rights are broken and this is wrong

John Locke:
Tabula Rasa: human mind to a blank wax slate: we are born with undertermiend minds and futures, these develop through experience
social mobility: not the idea " some are born rich, and others poor"
Ben Franklin had rationalist history

Rationalists vs. present:
R: humans all have potential to be perfect and that all humans have inherent characteristics
Present: individualism, more capitalism based on invidualism
Preview these questions, read carefully the assigned text, then review the questions and take notes on your answers (in the book, on this handout, or in your notebook) and bring these notes to class. For those questions assigned as written responses (see assignment sheet), please develop your answers in focused paragraphs using complete sentences and specific textual references; submit your homework to the appropriate dropbox on the portal before class on the day the assignment is due.
Benjamin Franklin: "The Way to Wealth"

There are two "speakers" or narrative voices in this essay: who are they? What is the tone and the content of each of these narratives?
a) Richard Sanders: Quotes of Ben Franklin
b) Ben Franklin: not abovepoking fun at himself
What is "the way to wealth," according to this essay?
-intelligence in th purest form----> wisdom
-must have humility
-don't be afraid to work
-master needs to make sure the people actually do the work
-do NOT trust your workers: be INDEPENDANT

What are some of the human attributes, qualities, weaknesses, virtues, and vices Franklin addresses in this text?
-Franklin is clever, and proud
Franklin's Poor Richard delivers aphorisms or proverbs that may be familiar to you; what are some of the aphorisms and proverbs common today, and how do they compare to Poor Richards'?
+Aphorism: a pithy observation that contains a general truth

Poor Richard frames the narrative.
Which persuasive strategies does Franklin use in the essay? Which strategies do you find most effective?

He put shis voice to many different characters in his papers, with real dialogue. For example, Father Abraham tells Poor Richard how to live his life.
To what extent do you see Puritan and/or Enlightenment characteristics in this text?

Thomas Paine, "Common Sense"

Paine uses a variety of persuasive strategies and rhetorical techniques to argue his point: emotional appeal, rhetorical questions, appeals to reason, metaphors, as well as a number of logical fallacies, etc. Choose a specific example from the essay that you found most effective; explain Paine's argument and consider what techniques Paine uses to make his point.
How does Paine represent America?
Throughout the essay Paine uses the word "natural"--"natural proof," "natural rights," etc. What does he mean by this word?
Where and how does "Common Sense" represent rationalist ideals? Find two different rationalist ideas from different points in the text and analyze the language of the quotes to explain how Paine delivers the ideas.
Thomas Jefferson, "The Declaration of Independence," from The Autobiography

How does "The Declaration" reflect Age of Reason ideals?
Having read the words and passages from Jefferson's original that Congress changed, which changes were made for the sake of style and which for the sake of clarity? Which seem to have been made for political reasons? Especially compare and contrast the last sections of the Declaration.
What persuasive strategies does Jefferson use in the "Declaration"? Consider who is the audience for and what is the purpose of the Declaration: do these strategies help him effectively pursue these goals?
Phillis Wheatley, "On Being Brought from Africa to America" and "To the University at Cambridge in New England"

How does Wheatley view her African origins? What is her overall tone toward Africa? What specific aspects of the poems help reveal her view and her tone?
In "To the University. . ." Wheatley attempts to persuade her audience. What is her direct audience here, and of what does she try to persuade them? What sorts of persuasive techniques, appeals, or arguments does she use to make her point? As a student yourself, are you persuaded by Wheatley? Explain.
Wheatley's poems are more overtly religious than any of the other Rationalist texts that we have read, and yet you couldn't call them Puritan--could you? What Rationalist concepts are apparent in her poems (and also consider whether she uses Christianity to support Rationalist ideas)?

Rationalism vs.Puritanism:
Puritans: Be humble becasue all materials are God's
Rationalists + Ben Franklin: work hard so you can have a good life, not to achieve salvation
Rip Van Winkle: set 1760, many changes happened during that period
Literary America was still MA area
1790: different territories are added, American territory is pretty much doubled
1825: Eerie Canal , connects Ontario to Hudson, more transportation
1840's: railroads opened
mail and communication is easier
America is "boundless", people question their identity though
America says we need a culture of our own, through LITERATURE
Themes of native americans/frontier and slaves


French revolution and European ideas--à leads to romanticism in America (comes from Europe)
Different because rationalists thought humans at center of world/ betterment if humanity, everyone is alike
Romanticism: individuals are different because it is inherent and unique (urge to get inherent uniqueness)
IMAGINATION helps us get better understanding of the truths of the world
Feeling allows us when natural/inherent rights are being thwarted
Seeing, vision-à EYES are symbols
Truth comes through feeling
Rationalist: god created nature
Romantic: nature is place you go the transcend and be at peace away from society
In romanticism, society is negative
Nature means you get away from conformity and society
Nature helps you rise above dull reality


Ralph Waldo Emerson
Edgar Allen Poe
Nathaniel Hawthrone
The Fire Side Poets: cozy, give a lesson

To a Waterfall:

Poem innate
Migration of a bird
Diving power in you leads you where you want to go
Moral story

The American Dream:
Americs is a New Eden (also means garden or paradise, a second chance), a "promised land" of beuaty, unlimited resources, and endless opportunities
Manifest destiny: place divignly given to humans
in 19th century, it becomes the reason for westward expansion and displacement of Native Americans
American birthright is ever expanding opportunity
progress is a good thing
we can optimistically ecpect life to get better and better
Independent, self reliant individual will triumph; everything is possible for the person who places trust in his/her own powers and potential
Different from Puritans: there was no social mobility
both romantics and Puritans beleive in hard work
American Dream begins the moment the Puritan's land, snow ball effect
According to Emerson, what are some of the problems or pitfalls confronting a person who truly wants to be self-reliant, an individual?

One of the problems for these people include the fact when his/her own mind gives them idea or though, "he dismisses without notice," just because it is his (Emerson 55). So first of all, many individuals do not believe in their abilities. In the outside world, society is also "in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of it's members" (Emerson 551). Emerson describes the ideal virtues of a man being: "independent", "unaffected", and "bribable" but none of the members of society are able to practice these virtues because individuals have to "surrender" their personal liberty. As Emerson says, "The virtue in most request now is conformity" (Emerson 551). Since society is a joint group, one must conform his/her belief's to those similar to the society they are part of, which includes the characteristic of showing some individualism through self reliance. As Emerson says, "It is easy to live under the opinion of others" more so than under your own beliefs and values. This is how society takes away the individual you are and replaces it with a general cookie cutter shape. "But the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude," the author then mentions in a later line (Emerson 553). Therefore, Emerson says that in the midst of wanting to conform to society to have an easier life with mockery, a good man has trouble keeping to his own values and beliefs. Even if the "world wips around you with displeasure" a good man (who wants to be self reliant, an individual) should treat society's wrath as "a trifle of no concernment" (Emerson 553). Of coarse, this is no easy task.

When people who want to be self-reliant individuals try to break from society, their actions can be misunderstood just as Jesus's, Socrates and Luther's were. Society ends up scorning upon these unique individuals for their differences, which causes a hindrance in the unique man's further actions toward independence and individuality.
Location of Passage: Top of Page 85, starting with "It was a look so intelligent..." and ends with "Like a glimmering light that comes we no not whence, and goes we know not wither."

+ The main idea that develops within this passage is the depth character development of Pearl, Hester Prynne's daughter, into a human being with Romantic ideals.

+The reason I chose this passage was because it had a high concentration of figurative language to help the effect of the language on the reader's perception of this somewhat new character

+To start, "Pearl" is Hester's connotation or interpretation of her daughter, because she mentions that "Pearl" describes her daughter as a treasure, yet also an object of great price she payed to acquire during her suffering

+ Denotative-wise, or literally, a pearl is a jewel that is formed within to confines of a shell of an oyster

+ this automatically helps explain that a pearl is a very pure object made by nature, clamped and isolated within it's protective shell, just as Pearl is protected from the rigidness and cruelty of society by her mother in a house protected by isolation

+ a pearl, at least in this time, could not be fabricated artificially by human hands, so it implies a sense of creation by a superior force, because even Hester questions in the passage if "Pearl was a human child"

+ Moving on to the passage itself, Pearl is described as giving her mother a certain kind of look, "It was a look so intelligent, yet inexplicable, so perverse, sometimes so malicious, but generally accompanied by a wild flow of spirits"

+"Spirit" as defined by Oxford Dictionary is "the nonphysical part of a person that is the seat of emotions and character; the soul"

+ as well, a look is an expression of an individual that displays emotion, like in this case malice (desire to do evil)

+this phrase connects to Hawthorne's perception of Pearl as being able to use emotions and feelings to express herself and her needs (the use of feelings/emotions and also express her needs in act of individualism is very Romantic)

+ "She seemed a rather airy sprite which after playing its fantastic sport for a little while upon the cottage-floor, would flit away with a mocking smile" :

+a sprite is an elf or fairy, which usually can be heard in many fairytales living in forests and inside trees

+ since sprites, or fairies, are found in fairy tales, they are part of imagination, or the creative process of the mind

+since Pearl is being described as the sprite, she embodies the Romantic ideal of imagination, and in this case, since imagination reveals truths, she might act as a mean through which Hester or the Puritan society may experience truths on human nature

+ as well, "fantastic" when Pearl is described as a sprite playing it's creative sport relates back to creativity, an ideal that Romantics embrace and puts Pearl in a positive light, since fantastic is used quite a few times with a positive connotation in previous pages

+fantastic in previous pages means creative or imaginative, and it is used to describe Hester's expression of art in sowing like on page 77, Pearl is described dressed by Hester in clothing that is distinguished by "a fanciful or fantastic ingenuity"

+ even before that, Hester is described on page 48, when the scarlet letter is described "surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread"

+ so before, because Pearl was younger she was not able to express her own creativity, she wore "the fantastic ingenuity" that her mother created for her

+yet now, she is shown to have an imagination entirely her own because she creates her own "fantastic sport"-à Hawthorne embraces her