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Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorn

The works of Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorn are quite similar in many aspects. While Poe was a writer of the macabre and the father of the modern mystery story, Hawthorn was a writer whose fiction became part of the Romantic Movement of the period, in particular, his works were mostly categorized as dark romanticism. Considering Poe’s gothic themes in his tales and poetry, the two writers have almost the same choice of subject matter.

To begin the discussion of these two great fiction writers works, let us take into consideration their short stories, from Poe, ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’, and ‘The Cask of Amontillado’, his poem, ‘The Raven’, and from Hawthorn, ‘Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment’ and ‘The Minister’s Black Veil’. Initially, let us first consider the voice in all of these pieces. Poe was fond of using the first-person perspective in his stories and pieces, while Hawthorn, in the two stories mentioned in particular, uses the third-person perspective.

While there is nothing wrong in this narrative voice chosen by the authors, it has to be noted that on a literary level, the use of the first person perspective allow the reader more involvement into the piece, while in Hawthorn’s case where the author is always the narrator, more often referred to as ‘the god-perspective’, the reader would feel a bit distant, and less involved in the story.

As in the case of the ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ with the main character being the narrator in the story, the audience or the readers are given a more privileged view of the narrator’s thoughts, a front-row seat so to speak, however, if the story of ‘The Minister’s Black Veil’ is considered for its narrative, a sense of omnipresence is what the reader would get.

The use of the first-person perspective allows the author lesser control of the story but gives the reader a more involved point of view, on the other hand, using the third person perspective can allow the author to control everything in the story, but will also isolate the reader in one way or another.

For instance, let us consider the line, “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had born as best as I could but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge” (Poe 174); in particular, this initial line in the story ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ already gives the reader an immediate idea of what the story is all about, all because of the first-person narrative voice, while in ‘The Minister’s Black Veil’ the initial line, “The sexton stood in the porch of Milford meeting house, pulling busily at the bell rope” (Hawthorne 40), a panoramic view of the story is offered instead of the more psychological and quite effective device of allowing the reader to peer into the narrator’s mind.

The same case is evident in Poe’s ‘The Tell Tale Heart’, when in the first line, he writes, “True! – nervous – very,very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? ” (Poe 329), when compared to the first line in ‘Dr Heidegger’s Experiment’s first line, “That very singular man, old Dr. Heidegger, once invited four venerable friends to meet him…” (Hawthorne 266) Both of these lines assume different perspectives and as for Poe, he again effectively gives the audience a privileged view into the character’s mind, while Hawthorne presents another visual scene. With regards to theme there is a sense of Gothicism in both of these author’s works. Dr.

Heidegger, being a weird scientist himself fits the mold of classic literature, in Poe’s ‘The Raven’ he writes, “And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;” (Poe 946); in Hawthorne’s ‘The Minister’s Black Veil’, we have the ‘tolling of the bell’ (Hawthorne 40); in the ‘Tell Tale Heart’ the main character describes the source of his fear, “One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture…” (Poe 303); and finally in ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ Montressor describes after he had entombed Fortunato, “and then I heard the furious vibrations of the chain…” (Poe 278). All of these details in all of the works of these authors all fit the mold of Gothic literature, this is, of course, notwithstanding the subject matter in all of the pieces which also very well meets the qualities of classic Gothicism. The subject matter also has to do with the similarities of these two authors.

In Poe’s pieces, the ‘Tell Tale Heart’ the subject matter is murder and psychological guilt, the ‘Cask of Amontillado’ still deals with the indifference of the main character to murder, and ‘The Raven’ is about death. Hawthorne, on the other hand has strikingly similar, but more surreal subject matters; he talks about death in a deconstructive manner in ‘Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment’ and about sin and death in ‘The Minister’s Black Veil’. To further validate this, let us consider the very obvious lines from ‘Tell Tale Heart’, “All in vain; because death in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim” (Poe 332), and “.. the veil lay heavily on his uplifted countenance.

Did he seek to hide it from the dread Being whom he was addressing? ” (Hawthorne 45) These two quotes from the two stories both speak of the subject matter in both of the stories and are very clear manifestation’s of both of the author’s choice of topic. Next, let us consider the use of symbolism in these stories, in ‘The Minister’s Black veil’ Hawthorne uses the black veil to represent guilt, in ‘The raven’ Poe uses the raven itself to personify death, and in the ‘Cask of Amontillado’ Poe uses wines to represent various details in the story, for instance ‘De Grave’ represents death. The heavy symbolism in the works of both of these authors simply shows their mastery of the craft.

The language that they use in all of these stories is representative of the period in which the stories were written. Considering both of the author’s Puritan background we can easily conclude that they wrote while incorporating the concepts of their beliefs as well such as their interpretations of sin, youth, death, and murder. Poe however, had a more direct approach to his subject matters than Hawthorne. In a way, this approach of Poe gave the reader a greater sense of dread while Hawthorne’s readers were treated to a more surrealistic, fantastical, and more magical atmosphere. Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaneil Hawthorne were both masters in their craft and this is easily gleaned in the kind of pieces that they produced.

While there is a very slight difference between the writing styles and the tones in which the writers approached their subject matters, it is obvious that they both knew what they were doing and did very well at it. These two writers have influenced many other modern writers in the field of fiction. Many of the stories that we read today are mere offshoots of the works of these two authors. The modern detective story has its roots in the works of Poe. Both of these authors also lived quite mysterious lives, so aside from just their stories being quite similar, their lives also mimicked their work. These two writers have left the world with great treasures and a heritage that is literally more than a thousand words. It is always a pleasure reading these two authors and their works have found their niches in the field of literature.

Suffice it to say that the author’s works will always live beyond the authors themselves and this is exactly what happened to the pieces of both Hawthorne and Poe. Their works have transcended time and space. However, let us consider the role of the reader in all of these pieces; belief in the idea that it is the reader that makes the writer is quite accurate, so to speak, because in many of these pieces, it is the reader who is the reason for their immortality. Works Cited Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Twice Told Tales. New York: Plain Label , 1964. Poe, Edgar Allan. The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. New York: Random House, Inc, 1962. 527-1027. Poe, Edgar Allan. The Works of Edgar Allan Poe. New York: Plain Label

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