Comparison/ Contrast of Poe/ Hawthorne Essay
Poe and Hawthorne are the most significant American writers of 19th century. They have their own way of relating to their audiences that’s varied and similar at the same time. Poe’s writing involves the reader emotionally. Hawthorne on the other hand considers author’s imagination important and paints a picture based on it. These innovative thoughts and experimentations in language have forever changed what we appreciate in writing. Poe and Hawthorne used various techniques in their writing including symbolism, allegory, suspense, characterization and great use of setting to make it very real to the reader.
Both gothic writers set a different mood for the reader in their writings. Symbolism is present in stories to provide depth and insight into the plot. It’s the surroundings that make a character look a certain way to the reader. Both Poe and Hawthorne make use of symbolism in their writing. Hawthorne uses light and dark imagery in his short story, “The Minister’s Black Veil”. The main dark symbol comes in the form of the black veil that Mr. Hooper wears to represent some form of sin.
The comparative light symbolism comes in less obvious forms during the story, like in the metaphor of a smile being a flame or flickering of a light, which makes you question if the truth is as dark as it is assumed to be by the town (Hawthorne). An example of this in “The Minister’s Black Veil” is a description of Mr. Hooper’s character, “If he erred at all, it was by so painful a degree of self-distrust, that even the mildest censure would lead him to consider an indifferent action as a crime” (Hawthorne) Poe uses strong forms of symbolism that are present throughout his stories.
In Poe’s symbolism of dark deeds in “The Black Cat” is shown in how the creature itself is constantly provoking the narrator to insane violence. An ever-present symbol is also found in Dr. Heidegger’s study, where an old, tall mirror told the unshakable truth about the experiment going on there even though everyone present was deceived (Hawthorne). By this constant presence of symbolism the reader becomes more aware of symbolic references. Poe and Hawthorne use different methods to convey to the reader important information for the understanding of the story like setting and haracterization, but both utilize the strong influence of a narrator’s voice in their compositions. In “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment”, the narrator is important as an unbiased account of what really happened. If you were presented the story from Dr. Heidegger’s view the tale would be full of cynical observation, but from the eyes of the subjects, only wonder and amazement, not reality, would be conveyed because they were unaware of anything more than their own feelings. From the mouth of the narrator we are presented with the events and left to decide for ourselves what really happened.
In doing this, Hawthorne leaves the ending open to interpretation, encouraging the reader to dig into what they have read. Poe uses the narrator as well to describe parts of the story lacking inner thought processes. Because most of Poe and Hawthorne’s writings that are analyzed use a narrator, it shows the authors intent for the story. Intent can be conveyed through the language of the piece. Both authors use a higher-level vocabulary and diction, showing the intent for an educated audience. This can be seen in the use of words like “visage”, “venerable”, “omniscient” (Hawthorne, “The Minister’s Black Veil”).
Also, the reader can analyze the choice of words and their conveyed meaning by the connotation they bring. In “The Minister’s Black Veil”, Hawthorne uses dark and melancholy words such as “miserable obscurity”, “lonely”, and “frightened” to show Mr. Hooper’s state of mind. These authors’ uses of language skills show not only their excellent command of the English language but also their great desire to find the perfect word to fit their story and their style of writing. The greatest underlying difference in Poe and Hawthorne’s stories are their categorized styles.
Hawthorne is an author drawn to writings of romance, which holds broad guidelines. He uses his “unexplained” happenings as part of this genre. Hawthorne uses his characters to portray his belief that the truth of life comes from the human heart. Hawthorne’s romantic literature likes to use the extraordinary. The importance of nature plays a strong role when the secrecy and evil of the woods are described and gossiped about in The Scarlet Letter. All of these aspects portray stories built on the romance theory, which Hawthorne helped to develop.
Poe’s writing style was much like that of Hawthorne’s, but drew from the darker side of romance creations. This gothic mood believed in the dark truths of the human heart, which are the ends and motivations for many of his stories. Human corruption and violence ends in murder in “The Black Cat”. Gothic writings move more into the supernatural side, which lets observer of the see a living person in the picture at his first, sleepy glance. Poe and Hawthorne both use all aspects of literature to strengthen their styles, but they use them in such different ways.
While Hawthorne investigates the truths of human nature, and discovers them underneath victorious over all odds, Poe looks at the human heart with a critique of our reasoning, beliefs, and finally, actions. Both authors are very successful in exploring the depths of short stories and using words to create a vivid world for the reader. Through the use of romance fiction and gothic fiction, these two authors have broadened our horizons and with tales of mysterious human reality and the inevitable truths behind human nature.