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‘The oval portrait’ and ‘The birthmark’: An insight to an era

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Madison Board of Education
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  1. Introduction.
  2. The popularity of Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne.
  3. Georgiana in The Birthmark.
  4. The artist in The Oval Portrait.
  5. The artist and Aylmer.
  6. Beauty as a curse in The Oval Portrait and The Birthmark.
  7. The occupation of both the artist and Aylmer.
  8. Conclusion.

Documents, records locked away in vaults, and history books are all excellent way to learn about the past. These are all ways that facts can be found, but that is only part of what can be discovered about past. Literature gives an insight into the culture of the times that facts and figures cannot do. The stories of any society reflect the attitudes and issues of concern that were on the minds of the people of the time, and The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allan Poe and The Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne are perfect examples of how this is true.

[...] Turning to the number which designated the oval portrait, I there read the vague and quaint words which follow: (203) The narrator does not play a part in the actual story of the artist and his wife. He is just a bystander to the story by reading about it. He is also in a delusional state that could have an affect on how he perceives the painting and the book that he is reading. He has obviously wounded and has probably lost a lot of blood which could cause his delusion. [...]


[...] In both The Oval Portrait and The Birthmark, neither of the young women would have lost her life if she had refused to go along with what would seem to be an illogical event. Their youth is symbolic for the way that women were treated as children and these two women accept their husband's demands as a child would in her innocence. In both The Oval Portrait and The Birthmark, the beauty of each woman dooms her to death. During the Romantic Period, the scholars of the day were more centered on the personality and the creativity of the individual than his/her physical beauty. [...]


[...] The Birthmark has the character of Aminadab who is merely an unsophisticated assistant to Aylmer. He is not an educated man, but only follows instructions given to him by his employer. However, Aminadab proves to be smarter than Aylmer. He goes with his intuition in the beginning because he feels bad that Aylmer would want to change anything about Georgiana. The Romantics believed that intuition was much more valuable a tool that reason. Aminadab also proves right in the end when Aylmer realizes that he has killed Georgiana. [...]

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