Two authors best who typify a Romantic style of writing are Edgar Allen Poe, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Both authors identify their characters through the use of creative symbolism, colorful metaphors, and the use of the supernatural in their works. Like many authors of the seventeenth century Poe and Hawthorne stretched Realism beyond the edge of reality thereby developing a style of writing which today is commonly refer to as Romanticism. The use of the short story format in both “The Black Cat” and “Young Goodman Brown” evokes an allegorical use of the English language to stun their readers from reality into non-reality.
Edgar Allen Poe was born in 1809 and died in 1849. Orphaned at the age of two, Poe was raised by his adopted father, John Allen. Poe had an unhappy childhood. His relationship with his father was a troubled one, filled with great tension and strife. Through the passing years this relationship degenerated into a complete dissolution between father and son. Poe spent one year at the University of Virginia, then served two years as an enlisted man in the army . Poe also attended West Point Military Academy for a short time, after his Army stint.
Poe grew very fond of writing and published his first book of poetry in 1827 at the age of sixteen. Poe is considered one of the first nineteenth century writers to establish aesthetic principles regarding short fiction stories as a high art, and one of the forefathers in the Romantic Movement. Poe stressed the idea of a well developed imagination through the identification of the characters, and the use of symbolism to enhance the atmosphere of the story. He used symbols to explain the nature of man, his hidden darkness and fears. He showed the conflict between mans soul and his existential presence.
His goal was to enhance the readers senses and emotions so that they could truly feel the intensity of his story. ” The Black Cat “, written by Poe, exemplifies how he creates a certain atmosphere in which the reader is almost lifted from his or her own reality into a place where mood, sensations, and events are limitless. Poe uses his romantic style to help the reader explore his or her self through a perception of illusions and the supernatural. In “The Black Cat” Poe conveys to the reader how alcohol can be the harbinger to unleashing the hidden darkness of man, and once this dark rage and hate is unleashed it breeds insanity.
Poe uses the character of a pious man with a loving wife and a pet cat in his efforts to contrast the harsh sense of realism he is quick to introduce to his reader. The pious narrator begins to consume alcohol, which Poe uses as a symbol for all of lifes evil temptations. Over the course of a few days his once faithful feline companion becomes frightened of his drunken master. One night, in fit of rage, the narrator cut out the cats eye, and then a day later he hanged the cat. Poe used a supernatural twist to his story by bringing his cat back from the dead. This time he resurrected it with a white ring around its neck.
The ring symbolized the rope used to hang the cat, and is used by Poe to strengthen his grasp of his readers interests. The narrators transformation continues when in an attempt to kill his resurrected cat, he viciously kills his wife. Through these murderous acts Poe paints graphically enhanced descriptions of his principle characters emotions. This can be seen when the narrator states, “Evil thoughts became my sole intimates-the darkest and most evil of thoughts. ” Toward the end of the story our principle character tried to hide the body, this action completed his transformation into a monster.
He had lost all humanity, and his rage and hate had consumed him. Eugene Current-Garcia and Bert Hitchcock of Auburn University comment that “many of Poes stories are physco-moral allegories or symbolic dramas that explore the hidden depths of the human psyche. Viewed in this light “The Black Cat” is less about a black cat than the darkness of a mans mind. More about mental imprisonment than about murder. ” Walter Shear , a contemporary critic, writes that “Poe is best known as a writer of Gothic tales, stories which depend heavily on their atmosphere for their effects and which make use of the supernatural and sometimes goulash incidents.
He also states that ” in The black Cat the narrator is haunted and tortured by seemingly ubiquitous moral witnesses, who satanically harass him. ” Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem Massachusetts, in 1804. He was a descendant of the Puritian colonists responsible for the persecutions in the seventeenth century done in the name of religion. His sense of guilt over the superstitious cruelty of his ancestors is reflected in much of his writing. His father died when he was only four years old, and it is thought that growing up with no male role model and surrounded by women could have influenced his writing style.
Hawthornes life was devoted to literature. He studied for twelve years at Bowoin college, where he was a prolific writer. In 1828 he published his first story, ” Fanshawe”. Some of his more famous works were “The Scarlet Letter”, and the short story ,”Young Goodman Brown”, written in 1853. Like Poe, Hawthorne became one of the foremost Romantic writers of the period, developing his own unique writing style. He alternately used picturesque descriptions of trees , clouds, houses, and people in many of his writings.
Hawthorne is recognized as a very important writer primarily because of his interest in human psychology , and his daring exploration into the dark side of human consciousness. According to Sigmund Freud “civilization requires men to suppress and deny their aggressive and sexual impulses, which lead to inner conflict , guilt, and in some individuals to neurosis psychosis. ” Hawthorne explored these ideas of the human consciousness long before Freud was even born. He approached writing about this daring topic through symbols and allegories.
In this style his ideas are concealed to a first glance but as you read deeper into his colorful portrayals, you understand his concepts of the human consciousness. This is best exemplified in, “Young Goodman Brown. ” In “Young Goodman Brown,” Hawthorne analyzes the Puritans consciousness and the hidden wickedness of their nature. He takes a nave Puritan man and takes him on a journey into the dark forest to meet an old man whom we presume, is the devil. As the nave Puritan embarks on his journey, his wife “Faith” kisses him good bye.
The Puritan has an overwhelming feeling of guilt as he is entering the forest to meet with the Devil. He realized what he is doing was forbidden and none of his forefathers or fellow Puritans would ever commit such a sin. During his meeting with the Devil his navet dissolves. He sees Deacon Gookin, his old catechism teacher, and other upstanding members of the community, whom he looked up to and feared, dancing around the Devils fire. He is told that the Devil has helped his father and Grandfather in years past. His innocence is completely destroyed when he sees his own wife Faith dancing around the Devils circle .
He screams in agony: “My faith is gone. There is no good on earth; and sin is but a name. Come, Devil; for to thee is this world given. ” As he leaves the forest he realizes that those people whom he thought were so pure in spirit were in reality . He goes through a transformation, questioning any form of deity. Hawthornes use of elaborate symbolism is seen through out the entire story. The nave man represents all people, who at first are blind to all the wicked darkness in life. The forest is a foreshadowing of evil, and is used to set the atmosphere in the story.
Hawthorne cleverly uses “Faith” as the Puritans wifes name to show his readers that even those whom we entrust with our most intimate love and faith often experience the same temptations and desires as the rest of mankind. The Devils fire, around which all the townspeople danced, is a representation of all their sins. At the end of the Puritans journey his transformation is a symbol of what happens to people when faced with the realization that no individual is sinless. This situation is similar to when a child discovers that its once loving and all knowing parents have flaws, it goes through this transition and it too looses its innocence.
Through this gloomy allegory filled will elaborate symbolism Hawthorne conveys his ideas on the darkness of human nature. Frank N. Magill Comments that “Hawthorne writes about witches and devils like a man who does not really believe in such grotesque creatures but appreciates them as colorful and dramatic symbols of humanitys hidden guilt and fear. ” Magill believes that some of Hawthorns work can be compared to modern horror films, in that both evoke laughter but at the same time they leave their viewer or reader with shivers and shrieks.
Magill also believes that “in Hawthorns own refined and genteel way, he opened up a new world of human experience for his literary heirs to read. ” Eugene Garcia and Bert Hitchcock concur that ” Hawthorne wrote with a high seriousness of purpose, concerning himself primarily with fundamental problems of human character and conscience. ” In conclusion the parallel between these two authors styles epitomizes the very essence of what romantic literature of the seventeenth century depicted. In particular we can see a masterful allegorical use of the English language to shock and mesmerize readers out of reality and into fantasy.
This affect is markedly punctuated in Poes “The Black Cat” and in Hawthorns “Young Goodman Brown”. Within a few pages of each story the reader is carried from reality to fantasy, transposing its principle characters from angels to devils using intricate symbols, colorful metaphors, and enhanced characterization. Both Poe and Hawthorne stretched Realism beyond the scope of the mundane in order to entice their readers and create more allusive images. Poe and Hawthorne created the fundamental structure of the Romantic Age and have set a distinctive precedent in American literature .