The gothic literary movement is a part of the larger Romantic Movement. Gothic literature shares many of the traits of romanticism, such as the emphasis on emotions and the imagination. Gothic literature goes beyond the melancholy evident in most romantic works, however, and enters into the areas of horror and decay, becoming preoccupied with death. “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe is a powerful example of gothic fiction, whereas James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans serves as the romantic predecessor, illustrating the differences and the similarities between romantic and gothic literature.
One of the most defining characteristics on romanticism is the tendency to exalt nature. The wilderness is often described to the minutest detail, as fully fleshed out as many of the human characters in the story. The Last of the Mohicans is a prime example of the nature worship practiced by romantics. Cooper describes the area in which Hawk-eye and Chingachgook hold a discussion as follows:
“The vast canopy of woods spread itself to the margin of the river, overhanging the water, and shadowing its dark glassy current with a deeper hue. The rays of the sun were beginning to grow less fierce, and the intense heat of the day was lessened, as the cooler vapours of the springs and fountains rose above their leafy beds, and rested in the atmosphere” (1003).
Cooper continues to elaborate further on the wilderness in which the heroes of the tale are currently residing. Cooper spends nearly as much text detailing the land as he does describing Chingachgook, one of the main characters in the story. Ten lines of text describe the forest in full detail, while only twelve lines are used to describe the Indian Chief. Cooper’s in-depth telling of the land seems to personify the forest, making it a living, feeling being and nearly as important to the story as the humans that Cooper writes about.
Poe, one of the... [continues]
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