1) Explain the hermeneutic gaps to be found in “Young Goodman Brown” and in “The Masque of the Red Death.” See A Study Guide for American Literature to 1900, page 99.
As readers, we come across pieces of information that are deliberately withheld by the writer. These information or hermeneutic gaps can range from trivial details to crucial parts of the texts that become the main interest of the reading process. Gaps can both be temporary and resolved at some point of the story or permanent and remain unsolved even after the end. Permanent gaps exist both in the story and in the text, for the information is never given and readers must take a dynamic participation to “reconstruct” and make the text signify. Gaps enhance interest and curiosity, add suspense and contribute to achieve later maximum impact. Both Hawthorne as well as Poe, supreme masters of the narrative techniques handle hermeneutic gaps brilliantly. Within “Young Goodman Brown”, Hawthorne deals with Good and Evil resorting to allegorical features and intermingling gaps, both temporary and permanent. The voyage this young man takes through a gloomy, spectral forest, his companion with the serpent-like staff and even Faith´s pink ribbons stand as temporary gaps that hold our interest in the story. The final question we are left with (Was it a dream?), is a good example of a permanent gap that leads us to examine many elements that will, in another level , stand as symbols of a deeper degree of significance. Poe gives us a new approach to fiction highlighting the importance of Aesthetics and condemning didacticism. The “Art for Art´s sake” concept is a big step towards the New Criticism theory in which the text should stand out for its own, without considering the circumstances that deal with its composition and/or the particularities of the authors’ biographies. In this new esthetic criterion, which foreshadows the later known Close Analysis, literary devices and...
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