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19th Century of American Literature Essay

Choose one short story and one poem from the 19th century.
Write to compare the ways in which each of these may be considered representative of American culture during the time period in which it was written. Cite specific evidence from the literature to support your ideas.

Short story: The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin
A woman by the name of Mrs. Mallard has some heart problems so those around her are worried that revealing the news of her husband’s recent death might cause her a lot of stress and sadness which might in turn make her heart worse.

“Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband’s death.” (Chopin)

Upon hearing the news she breaks into tears, just as her loved ones had feared. She is expressing sadness over her husband’s death.

“She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance. She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms.” (Chopin)

She then experiences grief, where she doesn’t want anything to do with anyone at the moment because her mind is in such a fragile state, plagued with emotions and thoughts, that she needs space alone to clear it.

“She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance. She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms.” (Chopin)

After being in her room for some time her thoughts are starting to get to her. She doesn’t know it yet, but she is so sad that she’s allowing her thoughts to get the better of her and she is not in a strong state to deal with them which will only cause things to get worse.

“There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it?” (Chopin)

She is dying from a broken heart and she is welcoming death to take her and free her from the pain she is feeling of missing her husband.

“Free! Body and soul free!” she kept whispering.” (Chopin)

She was feeling such sadness and grief that is had but a lot of stress on her heart and weakened it to the point of fatality.

“When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease–of the joy that kills.” (Chopin)

“The Story of an Hour” was written during the romantic period which was a time where writers and artists worked to free humanity from the mindset that everything was based upon logic and explanation. This story was written to bring light to the idea that emotions are important and that they are so important, they can affect you physically and can kill you. This story touches heavily on grief and sorrow and it connects physical problems with emotional ones which portrays the goals of many writers and artists through the romantic period because they wanted to express emotion and this sort story definitely did just that.

Poem: Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
The Raven is a story about a person who is mourning over the loss of a love . “ONCE upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore” (Poe)

The “tapping” he hears are his own thoughts, the answer to a question that he longs to know the answer to. He represents it in the form of a physical object coming to him in the middle of the night.

“While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.” (Poe)

He wants his lover back because he is still deeply in love with her.

“From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore, 10
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore:
Nameless here for evermore.” (Poe)

He is afraid of his own thoughts because deep in his mind he knows that he will never see his lover again and that she is gone for good, but he still refuses to believe she is gone for good so he searches for some reassurance that it’s not true, but he’s scared to find the answer because he’s scared he’ll be proven right.

“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, 25
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;” (Poe)

The poem “The Raven” was written during the romantic period, a time where literature and art expressed senses and emotion rather than reason and logic. This poem is reflecting deeply on the emotions of love, sorrow, grief, and a possible anger. It touches on human emotions and brought attention to humanity and what it is like to be a human from an emotional view which was the goal in the romantic period.

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