Similar Gothic Elements in the Work of Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne

Topics: Edgar Allan Poe, Gothic fiction, The Fall of the House of Usher Pages: 6 (2443 words) Published: April 11, 2010
Similar Gothic Elements in the Work of Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe are considered masters of American gothic fiction. They used similar gothic elements in their writing and used it to build up a sense of impending doom. Even today numerous readers enjoy, study, and discuss the gothic elements both utilized in their work. Gothic writing is a style that is concerned with the dark side of society, an evil that lies within the self. Poe and Hawthorne contributed stories which contained dark struggles between characters and society with its rules of order of the time. Gothic writing is fantasy meant to entertain despite the fact that it depicts the political and social problems happening at the time. Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allen Poe used their writing to allow them and readers deal with the problems of society, their own lives, and their inner demons. Poe and Hawthorne’s works are still being interpreted by generations of readers on many different levels. Nathaniel Hawthorne was one of the most valiant and significant writers of fiction before the Civil War. He gained fame for publishing, The Scarlet Letter, and was praised for his literary style. The Scarlet Letter, allowed him to direct attention to issues he valued. Other stories like, “The Birthmark,” and, “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” provided a unique view of a how a male dominated society can harm its women. Author Henry James considered him a genius and the most significant writer of his time (Norton Anthology, “Nathaniel Hawthorne” 1272). Often Hawthorne’s jobs pulled him away from his writing but allowed him to support his family. Hawthorne skillfully used gothic elements in his writing to create a clear picture of some approaching death. Though he favored his poetry, Edgar Allan Poe was a master weaver of horror tales who influenced other writers such as T.S. Eliot and William Faulkner (Norton Anthology, “Edgar Allan Poe” 1531). His lifetime of troubles may have shaped his stories of haunting and death. His reputation as one of the key writers of the macabre in the 18th century is due to selections of poetry and prose such as, “The Raven,” "The Purloined Letter," "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Cask of Amontillado." His story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” is considered to be the first modern detective story. Poe tried to make writing his sole means of work but found that was not possible so he spent time doing different jobs and even joining the military for a time, none of which worked out. He was prone to drinking and had health issues most of his life. For a time, he was an editor for different publications. However, after the death of his wife, Virginia, Poe’s weakness for drinking increased and partly contributed to his death. Hawthorne and Poe used gothic elements in their writing to build up the sense of impending doom. For example, “Some of Edgar Allan Poe’s work seems to follow a pattern: the indeterminate urban situations, the nightmare intensities, and above all, the confusions of consciousness as the protagonist’s madness destabilizes narrative and setting” (Lloyd-Smith, “Chapter Three” 30). Poe used these near death situations and a dreamlike feeling in his writing coupled with his morbid sense of humor to reverse the outlook of his readers. He combined in his poetry and prose ways to make his readers quiver unspeakably and tantalize them with psychological complexities. In the selections “The Fall of the House of Usher,” and “The Murders at Rue Morgue,” he incorporates gothic elements of fantastic excess which invite and challenge interpretation (Lloyd-Smith, “Chapter Three” 32). To illustrate this, “Nathaniel Hawthorne similarly internalized and domesticated the Gothic to explore its insights into the psychology of everyday life, and its applicability to history” (Lloyd-Smith, “Chapter Three” 33). His tales are full of magical or fetish objects which are used to...

Cited: Vol. B. New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 2007. 1272-1495.
Lloyd-Smith, Allan. “Chapter Five: Major Themes in American Gothic.” 65-132. Continuum
International Publishing Group Ltd – Books, 2004
Melville. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1989.
Vol. B. New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 2007. 1528-1626.
Poe, Edgar A. “The Tell Tale Heart.” The Portable Poe. Ed. Philip Van Doren Stern. New
York: Penguin, 1973
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