Poe vs Hawthorne

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Literature Comparisons Between Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne

Kimberley Prescott

LIT/210

08/01/2012
Sherry Salant

Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne

Popular literature is incomplete without the names of Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Both of these authors lived in the same time period, yet lived very opposite lives. In fact, Poe received notoriety for criticizing Nathaniel Hawthorne. (Poe, 1847) In his career, he wrote several critiques of Hawthorne’s work. On a personal level, Poe often disagreed with how often Hawthorne used allegory. As a literary element that many people use, Poe was not a fan. He once stated that: “I allude to the strain of allegory which completely overwhelms the greater number of his subjects, and which in some measure interferes with the direct conduct of absolutely all.” (Poe, 1847) It seems as though Poe regarded Hawthorne’s work as works of allegory. To say that this was the only literary element he employed, however, would be false. Throughout history, authors have endeavoured to master other forms of literary elements, to become the master of those elements, and equal to none in them. By comparing “The Cask of Amontillado” with “Young Goodman Brown”, is to study two masters, at odds with their specific forms of writing, but each a master in his own right. Each story shows how two people that can be so far apart on a scale, can use the same literary elements in similar and different ways without compromising their work as a whole. Foreshadowing

Foreshadowing is vital in the world of literature. Foreshadowing is always about being subtle. How can an author slip in a clue or help build a story to a dramatic, yet unforeseen conclusion? Foreshadowing in the hands of a master seems to be a piece of elegance and can be so subtle that the reader wonders how he or she missed it to begin with. In “The Cask of Amontillado”, Poe is quite verbose. Even before the foreshadowing begins, Poe goes to great lengths to explain how strong his anger is toward Montressor. (Poe, pg. 217) This can be the first bit of foreshadowing. He is showing his “weakness” by showing his anger. As the story progresses, Poe, in the form of Montressor, begins to exhibit classic foreshadowing hints. For instance, when he hears of Fortunato’s cough, he begs him not to go down into the cellar due to the nitre. (Poe, Pg. 218) His manner of addressing him appeals to Fortunato’s ego and he will not miss out on the opportunity to identify the rare wine and let someone less skilled do it instead. If this was just the first point, it could be called a coincident. However, as they wind further into the vaults, this happens many times. Each time, Montressor can be seen to give a token of rejection, but ultimately letting himself be talked into leading Fortunato further. It seems at each turn, when confronted with a chance that Fortunato could use to escape, he lets himself be led further down the hall to his failure.

Hawthorne also uses foreshadowing in his writing. To what degree, many people differ. The clearest example of foreshadowing takes place in the first page of the story. In the second paragraph, Hawthorne describes how Faith, with pink bows streaming in the air, is begging her husband to stay with her that night and that she is “afeared”. All of this seems to foreshadow many dark things. The most obvious is that his wife, Faith, is terrified to be alone and is afraid something will happen to her. The tone that Faith’s speech sets is one of foreboding and that something might happen if he were to stay out that night. This is later to be proven as Hawthorne hears Faith being presented as a proselyte at the black mass that night. (Hawthorne, 1835) After the parting with his wife, Brown makes several internal comments on how the evil of the night would be a death to her. He continues on to say that this night is a night of evil in which he wants...
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