Comp & Lit. Research Paper

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Patrick O’Shea
4-2-12
Comp & Lit
Research Paper

Three progressive writers Poe, Dickens, and Stevenson would contribute to this new literary style, known as American Gothic Literature. In the 1800’s a new genre emerged in America which was characterized by dark, creepy mansions, detailed characters, and many twisting turns.

The Gothic literature movement was very popular in America during a 60-year period in American history, that was filled with important events. The United States gained its independence, Expanded westward, and tried to find its place in the world. the famed Edgar Allen Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts. In this time the war broke out and Britain marched through Washington, burning the capitol. In the late 1812s Charles Dickens is born, he will also become a well-known novelist of the time. From the 1820’s to 1850’s America kicks into overdrive and creates a transcontinental railroad, This opens the door for thousands of new opportunities, what once took 6 months, now only takes six days. In California thousands flock to the rivers and banks to search for gold in the Gold Rush. In 1850 Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes Uncle Toms Cabin to help fight against slavery. Finally towards the middle of 1850 Robert Louis Stevenson, one of the last Gothic authors is born into the last phases of what today is known as the Gothic Literature Period.

The world during the Gothic literature period was in chaos. In 1812 the British invaded the United States for the second time. Now the stakes were even higher as now the United States has doubled in population and became more industrialized than ever before. While this was taking place the Gothic era was booming, authors used imagery to show the gruesome scenes of battle, but many just read thinking it had only one meaning. Many authors were composing not just novels but short stories, poems and folklore. With more literature in the hands of the people, more educated readers sought to find truth in literature. Many turned towards literature to explain to them the grim scenes or feelings they were to scared too talk about. The content in Gothic Literature fit into their needs and gave them a base to stand on.

After the war a major new event sparked hope for poor people as in 1849 gold was found in the Californian river and the Gold rush to find more began. Thousands of Americans rushed to California to get their share of the Gold. These men who risk their life are called the infamous 49ers. These people all begin to suffer from a disorder known as Gold Fever. In the end only a quarter of the people who went found gold. Thousands of people dropped all they had to follow the American dream of striking it rich, the grim reality struck them as they traveled back home to find their family starving or dead. Nearly half of all the miners who returned home fell into a alcohol induced depression which caused many families to live with a bipolar monster, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.

The last 10 years of the American Gothic movement were the saddest, in the year 1861 the American Civil War broke out. In this conflict the United States lost more men than any other war combined. During the war many authors composed detailed accounts of the gore and mayhem that the soldiers endured to fight for their cause. Distraught families trying to cope with the loss and harsh realities. Many families dealt with the loss of fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, and grandfathers. The majority of shattered families looking for closure turned to Gothic Literature for answers and understanding of this harsh new reality.

Gothic Literature takes many forms of writing; it can be a novel, short story, or even a poem. As long as it follows the dark setting and twisting plot it can be considered a Gothic tale. In 1764 The Castle of Otranto, makes a perfect example of the context that can be found within gothic...
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