Edgar Allen Poe: The Realism And Dark Characteristics Of Romanticism

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Romanticism is often associated with positive emotions. When one hears of a “romantic,” he or she would imagine a young lover viewing the world through rose-tinted lenses or a young man waxing poetic about mountain landscapes. One would rarely think of insane asylums, straightjackets, and hallucinations. However, as Tim Blanning suggests in his book The Romantic Revolution, the Romantic literary movement was just as preoccupied with the darker aspects of the human subconscious. As well as focusing on the beauty of love, the sublime, and dreams, Romanticism also had a darker focus on nightmares, sexual repression, the supernatural, and the mad; and no other author embodies these darker characteristics of Romanticism as well as Edgar Allen Poe. …show more content…
In “The Birth of the Asylum” Foucault describes the role of fear in treating the insane, claiming that while the mad were often feared in the Enlightenment era, marking a boundary between the sane and the insane, in the nineteenth century, this line was blurred and fear was instead seen as a unifier. Poe makes use of this fear as well, telling horror stories to unite the mind of the reader with the mind of the mad narrator of the stories. While the mad were seen as frightening in the eighteenth century, Poe instead focuses on fear driving previously normal people mad. For example, in “The Fall of the House of Usher” the narrator, who has kept his senses throughout the story despite his friend’s descent into madness, is finally driven into a brief moment of insanity by the end of the story. The storm, combined with his colleague’s mad ravings, their isolation, and the house collapsing around him induces fear in the narrator and causes the fit of madness in which he shares his friend’s delusion in seeing Usher’s sister. In this instance, fear is indeed a bridge between the narrator’s sane mind and the mind of his insane friend, uniting them in a horrible …show more content…
In The Romantic Revolution Blanning describes the dark sketches created by Goya and how these works were meant to illustrate the dangers of Romanticism, expressing the darker parts of the human psyche that could be expressed when all internal emotions were allowed to be brought into the open. Although Goya created many of these drawings, he claimed that he instead supported reason as a means of controlling these darker impulses that shouldn’t be expressed (Blanning 73-76). Some readers claim that Poe shared a similar goal, attempting to illustrate the dangerous emotions that could potentially be conveyed in Romantic art. However, rather than warning against these darker workings of the mind, Poe relies on the commonalities between the mad and the sane that Pinel describes in order to unite the reader with the madness of his characters. For example, Poe almost exclusively uses first person narration, limiting the reader’s perspective of the events taking place to that of the narrator’s. When this narrator is mad, such as in “The Tell-Tale Heart” or “The Black Cat,” this perspective is limited to madman’s view. Paradoxically, Poe relies on the sanity of the reader to recognize the madness of his narrators, but as the stories progress the reader is

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