Choose one short story and one poem from the 19th century.
Write to compare the ways in which each of these may be considered representative of American culture during the time period in which it was written. Cite specific evidence from the literature to support your ideas.
“The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe is a poem that was written during the Romantic period (1800-1850). It depicts the story of a young man mourning over the loss of his love, Lenore. One night he was reading “forgotten lore” (Poe) as a way to rid his mind of his lost love. But as he was reading, he heard a “rapping at his chamber's door”(Poe) which at first reveals nothing when he goes to investigate the noise. But when the noise arises again, he goes to check and it is a Raven, who just sits “On a bust of Pallas above the door”. (Poe) Then, he begins to ask the Raven questions. He asks whether or not he'll be reunited with his love again in Heaven, to which the Raven replies, “Nevermore.”(Poe).Before he begins inquiring about his lost love, he notices a strong smell of perfume and begins to call himself a wretch, thinking he's gone crazy. He realizes that it is the Raven's doing. This enrages the narrator and he begins to call the Raven a “thing of evil” and a “prophet”.(Poe) At the end, the narrator admits that his soul is trapped under the raven's shadow and shall be lifted, “Nevermore.”. (Poe) This poem is a fantastic representation of life in America during the 1800's. During the Romantic period, it validated strong emotion, placing emphasis on emotions like apprehension, horror and terror, and awe. In “The Raven”, you can see that Poe was putting emphasis on awe, as the narrator was amazed by the Raven at first.
“But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered - not a feather then he fluttered -
Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before -
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.'
Then the bird said, `Nevermore.'” (Poe)
In this excerpt, you can sense his fascination with the Raven, therefore getting the strong feeling of awe. In addition to the strong emotional aspects, the poem helps show what the Romantic period consisted of in terms of literature. Often authors and artists would base their work on nature. Although it wasn't an essential aspect of Romanticism, they would base their work on it due to the idea of distrust of other people, so their connection with nature and the natural world is stronger than any bond they could form with someone. This poem helps us understand the thoughts of a Romantic author, as all the components to Romantic writing exist in this emotional, yet thoughtful poem.
“The Story Of An Hour” by Kate Chopin is a short story that was written in 1894. The story depicts a young woman named Mrs. Louise Mallard. She is introduced as being “afflicted with heart trouble”.(Chopin) Because of her heart troubles, her sister Josephine had to be very careful when telling Louise of her husband's death. At first, Louise locks herself in her bedroom to mourn the loss of her husband. But as she's sitting there, she feels a sense of exhilaration. She describes her body being free by exclaiming “Free! Body and soul free! (Chopin). At the end of the story, Mr. Mallard returns home, obviously showing that the news of his death was false. This shocks Mrs. Mallard, who dies soon after seeing him. This story has different elements of life during the 1800's. First, they speak of the railroad. Mr. Mallard supposedly dies during a railroad accident. At this point in history, the Industrial Revolution had just ended, so men often worked at the railroads, usually constructing or repairing them. In addition to the railroad, Chopin speaks of the telegram. The telegram was the easiest way to communicate at the period of time depicted. Chopin was attempting to take everyday life as of 1894 and apply it to her work, much like authors do now a days. Finally, the story depicts feminism to some extent. After learning her husband has been killed, Mrs. Mallard feels an extreme amount of happiness, because her body and soul are free. She feels as if she's free from the life she'd been living. Although it doesn't state why she said she was free in the story, it is predicted that Chopin was talking about Mrs. Mallard’s miserable life with her husband. After her husband returns home, she dies with the doctor saying she has “joy that kills.” I believe Mrs. Mallard was looking forward to being independent, which is why she was so shocked to see her husband alive and well.
The two works of literature from the 1800's depict two different ways of thinking and living during the time period they were written. “The Raven” depicts the culture of basing work on nature and the natural world, while “The Story of an Hour” depicts the culture of every day thinking and living. “The Raven” helps us understand the Romantic period, as the author showed all components to a fantastic piece of work written during the Romantic period. “The Story of an Hour”helps us understand the daily life of someone in the 1800's. After telling us about Mrs. Mallard's husband's job, we can automatically think in our heads about the Industrial Revolution and the effect it had on American history. In addition, the telegram reference tells us that their means of communication were rather different at the time. Then finally, her emotions toward her husband show that it's possible that not many women were happy in their marriage. The two works tell us about two different cultures during the 1800's, which can show major similarity and differences between 1845 and 1849.