American literature in the nineteenth century was a journey in exploration of previously hidden aspects of the human psyche and this involved surpassing the boundaries of regular fiction to mystery and fantasy. Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe were pioneers in the subgenre of dark romanticism; the nature of their subgenre was pessimistic and the two authors presented individuals as imperfect and prone to sin and self-destruction. Poe?s works are characteristic in their exploring the psychology of man, including the deviant and self-destructive nature of the conscious and sub-conscious mind. Hawthorne, on the other hand, addresses as one of his common themes the inherent conflict between the good and evil in man. Poe?s ?Fall of the House of Usher? and Hawthorne?s ?Young Goodman Brown? both bear recurring themes of an intense manifestation of evil in the physical world while simultaneously intimating that this evil is simply a product of the human mind.
[...] She talks of dreams, too. Methought as she spoke there was trouble in her face, as if a dream had warned her what work is to be done tonight. But no, no; would kill her to think of it. Well, she's a blessed angel on earth; and after this one night I'll cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven (Hawthorne 134). His resolve to halt any such evil activities and stay by Faith's side for the rest of his life acts as a form of justification for him to be able to carry on with his “present evil purpose” (Hawthorne 134). [...]
[...] He even goes to lengths to describe it as an evil, constitutional and a family evil” (Poe 154). A key and remarkable feature of his mental condition is that he is “enchained by superstitious impressions” of the House of Usher, and he is strongly influenced by the “form and substance of his family mansion” (Poe 155) in such a manner that it had practically “obtained over his spirit” (Poe 155). The House of Usher has fundamentally affected the “morale of his existence” (Poe 155). [...]
[...] The house is determined by the narrator to bear a “barely perceptible fissure, which extending from the roof of the building in front, made its way down the wall in a zig-zag direction” (Poe 152). The presence of this fissure is highly indicative of impending evil and doom and the breaking apart of the House of Usher (again both the actual structure and the family). The interior of the house is dark and lifeless, and the atmosphere of “stern, deep, and irredeemable gloom” (Poe 153) bodes evil. [...]
[...] He writes in his opening sentence: During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher (Poe 149). The tenor of the words in the introductory paragraph, especially the underlined words, establishes the morbid mood and atmosphere. [...]
[...] For the rest of his life, he does not look for the good in people anymore, and instead, shrinks away from their duplicitous nature. He sees the evil in every person, and this is only a byproduct of the evil in him. This failure to comprehend reality leaves him to lead a miserable existence, and dying hour [is ultimately] gloom” (Hawthorne 146). Goodman Brown is essentially destroyed by the evil innately present in him. The name Brown is a common name, and so Goodman Brown is representative of all men; Hawthorne thus depicts in the tale that all men are both inherently good and evil, and elucidates with the example of Goodman Brown's capitulation that evil does in fact have its roots in a person and is the reason behind that person's demise. [...]
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