The gothic component of the American Romantic Period of 1800-1860 produced several eerie and gothic works by talented literary minds. Three such pieces, “The tell-tale heart,” “The Birthmark,” and Wieland were written by Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Charles Brockden Brown. These works of fiction delve into the minds of seemingly unstable protagonists, and in so doing participated in the general Romantic theme of reacting against reason. These authors also adhered further to the Romantic notion of elevating the human spirit as persons in need not of salvation but of being aroused to a truer relationship with the self.
Thesis: The main characters of each story defy the conventions of the time through gothic settings, anti-religious demonstrations and revolutionary psychological insights that lead to a better understanding of the dark side of human capabilities.
A. Wieland by Charles Brockden Brown
1. Wrote extensively on an array of topics
2. Ushered in the ideas of the American Romantic Period
3. Strong psychological state of female character
4. Weak psychological state of male characters
5. External force having the power to awaken his true character
B. “The tell-tale heart” by Edgar Allan Poe
1. Psychologically challenged character
2. More insight into the inner workings of the unsound mind
3. Takes the reader into uncharted territory
4. Narrator an exercise in self-knowledge
5. Death of a beautiful woman
C. “The Birthmark” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
1. Death of a beautiful woman
2. Gothic tradition of darkness and mystery
3. Puritanical hypocrisy
4. Salvation through self knowledge
Conclusion: The three authors Brown, Poe, and Hawthorne, along with their works Wieland, “The tell-tale heart,” and “The Birthmark,” demonstrate several aspects of the American Romantic Period in which they were written. They display the gothic preoccupation with the ghostly and/or mysterious qualities of the unknown. They also delve into the psychological mysteries of the mind and demonstrate the moral weaknesses of humans. Finally, they seek to bring humans into such contact with the self so that elevation and improvement of the mind and spirit can come about through a thorough knowledge of the self and its functions.
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