Essay: Hawthorne and Poe

Clockwork butterfly by Mike LibbyThe Week 5 reading assignments for my online class on Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World were Nathaniel Hawthorne‘s short stories “The Birthmark,” “Rappaccini’s Daughter,”  and “The Artist of the Beautiful,” found in Mosses from an Old Manse, and “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment,” found in Twice-Told Tales; and Edgar Allan Poe‘s “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Black Cat,” “The Oval Portrait,” “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” “The Bells,” “The Raven,” and “Annabel Lee,” found in The Portable Poe.

The best known of these is undoubtedly “The Raven.”   It is the first poem I fell in love with in English.  I was the right age, a brooding teenager, when I found a volume of poems for some long-forgotten class on the early 20th century.  The old textbook had a faded dark blue cloth cover and was tucked with other books in a box found by my uncle in an old house he had bought.  He was going to throw the books away, but I thumbed through a few and decided to salvage them.

I remember standing there in front of his garage, reading “The Raven” and feeling my brooding teenager soul, lately fed on J.R.R. Tolkien, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas and Charles Dickens, gasp with delight.  The gloom!  The pathos!  The supernatural!  If we’d had Romantic Goths back then, that would have been my tribe, at least that year.  I didn’t like Hawthorne, I didn’t care to read his musings on sin.

Now I’m older, and I find that while I still like Poe, I don’t love him as much; and I got much more interested in Hawthorne than I did long ago.  I guess I’ve grown up despite my best efforts!  Like many others on the class forum, I particularly enjoyed Hawthorne’s tale “Rappaccini’s Daughter”, an interesting reversal of the Grimm Brothers’ “Rapunzel.”

Anyhow, here is my 300-word essay on one aspect of the tales (we were free to focus on only one or a few tales.) Continue reading “Essay: Hawthorne and Poe”