Summary: Edgar Allan Poe’s The Oval Portrait and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Birthmark As Works Of Dark Romanticism

Dark Romanticism is a subgenre in Romanticism, especially American Romanticism. This movement was formed in opposition to Transcendentalism and it was a reaction to its ideas. Dark Romanticism concentrates on the dark side of human psyche. Presents people as sinful and self-destructive individuals. Dark Romantics’ works are characterized by not as an optimistic outlook as Transcendentalists. Two literary works of Dark Romanticism: Edgar Allan Poe’s The Oval Portrait and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Birthmark fit perfectly into the tradition of the movement due to their centralization on the dark side of human nature, the reality of sin and evil in human being.

Edgar Allan Poe’s The Oval Portrait tells the story of wounded man who spent night in an abandoned apartment. From the very start the climate of mystery is omnipresent. An injured man concentrates on the oval portrait which seems to be life-like. Under the painting he reads the story which stands behind all this. The content of read story contains crucial features of Dark Romanticism movement.

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The painter is typical artist. Passionate of his own art which destroys him from the inside. He focuses only on his work and his desire to perpetuate his love in the painting. The art stands for expression of his feelings. An artist is losing himself in his own work. Despite his good intensions he forgets about his model. The girl is becoming weaker. His dark side is disclosed during the act of painting. As an individualist, he fails to make changes for the better and he does not even notice when his love dies.

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By tragic ending, human sinful nature is emphasized. Handiwork becomes more important than the real feeling.

Another great writer associated with Dark Romanticism is Nathaniel Hawthorne.Hawthorne’s The Birthmark concentrates on the dark side of human nature also. Presents main character as sinful individualist and self-destructive. The scientist, Aylmer is dedicated to his work. He left his laboratory to fall in love with Georgiana. Behind the marriage stands his true intention. The scientist nature is so persistent that he forgets about his love. He becomes obsessed with Georgiana’s mark upon her cheek. Her mark becomes the object of desire and subsequent scientific research. Georgiana’s birthmark drives him crazy. Aylmer sacrifices his wife for an experiment and her death is the only result of analysis. Her death is pure self-interest. Deprived of divinity and wisdom presents human fallibility, their darks side.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Birthmark and Edgar Allan Poe’s The Oval Portrait arerepresentative works of Dark Romanticism owing to the most significant movement feature,focus on human fallibility. Their works concentrate on punishment theme also, death isunavoidable. The world in their works is mysterious and dark. Individuals fail to makechanges for the better. They showed sinful nature of humans and their corruption. NathanielHawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe attempted to suppress the more positivist attitude of the Transcendentalists with the right result.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Summary: Edgar Allan Poe’s The Oval Portrait and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Birthmark As Works Of Dark Romanticism. (2024, Feb 02). Retrieved from

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