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JOHN SMITH (1580-1631)
1. Introduction
Did Pocahontas actually save Captain John Smith, or did Smith make up the story in
order to gain popularity? Professor J. A. Leo Lemay of the University of Delaware
has recently written a book on the subject in which he argues convincingly that the
story is true. Lemay is the first scholar to have seriously studied the question in
over a hundred years, and due to his thoroughness and the modern conveniences
that make research so much easier in our century than in previous ones, I believe
that his book may well become the definitive work on the subject.
We start our introduction to John Smith history through this question due to the
importance Pocahontas has in his life history.
Now the question before us is whether John Smith, who is generally considered an
honest man and whose descriptions about Eastern Europe and early Virginia have
been shown to be accurate, lied when he said that Pocahontas saved his life. To
convict Smith of falsehood, we must find some strong motivation for him to act out
of character, some evidence that the story did not happen (or lack of evidence that
it did), and some reason to explain why no one seriously questioned the story for
250 years. On the contrary, we will see that Smith's motives were more likely to
cause him to hide the story than to advertise it, and that the evidence for the story
is overwhelming.
2. History
John Smith was the author of the first English book written in America: A true
relation of such occurrences and accidents of notes as hath happened in Virginia.
(published in London, June 1608). He wrote it as a personal letter to a friend in
England while being in Virginia. After this book, he wrote various ones about the
English colonization of America. (Map of Virginia 1612-, General history of
Virginia 1624-, The true travels 1630)
He was born into a farmers family in Willoughby (Lincolnshire). After his fathers
death, while being 16, he went to the Netherlands as a volunteer soldier to fight for
the Dutch independence. This marked the beginning of his military career. In
1600 he joined the Austrian army (The true travels, adventures and observations
of Captain John Smith in Europe, Asia, Africa and America (1630)) to fight against
the Turks and was promoted to captain while fighting in Hungary. In Transylvania he
was wounded, taken prisoner and sold to a Turk as a slave. This Turk send captain
Smith as a gift to his sweetheart in Istambul. This lady fell in love with him and
send him to her brother to be trained for the Turkish Imperial Service. Smith killed
him and run away back to Transylvania where he was rewarded.
Back in England, he became involved in the Virginia Company, a joint stock
corporation (owned by some people who bought shares in that company)
constituted by King James I for the settlement of Virginia. Thus, in December 1606,
he sailed with this company towards Virginia as one of the seven councillors who
were going to govern Virginia. They all wanted to accumulate wealth for their
investors through the discovery of gold and copper. It took them three month to
get to Jamestown (1607). Although he had serious conflicts with the other
travellers, he was eventually elected president of the council (1608-1609). We can
describe him as a soldier, adventurer, explorer, geographer and a self-made
man of action.

Native people wanted colonists to leave. Captain Smith often fought them (the
natives), nevertheless, he had sometimes to negociate with them for food. He was
taken prisoner by Powhatan, the chief (emperor) of a confederacy of tribes. In the
end, he was released and guided to Jamestown by Powhatans men. He governed
the colony until his return to England (October 1609), due to a gunpowder
explosion, that required for treatment. The Virginia Company didnt support him
any longer, so he went back to America to explore Maine and Massachusetts Bay
area (New England). After that, he had no more opportunities to go back to the
colonies, thus, he spend the rest of his life writing books.
He is currently known as a hero of a love tale with an Indian Princess,
Pocahontas (something that probably never happened), rather than as a writer.
We are not sure that this princess saved the captains life, as he didnt mention nor
the princess neither her courageous intervention until his letter to Queen Anne
(June 1616)1. However, in 1624, Smith published a thrilling account similar to
another rescue by an Indian princess described in a Spanish work that he might
read in those years. He published it within his book General History of Virginia, New
England and the Summer Isles which is a story about his experiences in the New
World that was published in six books. In this book, he pointed out the importance
of his aggressive colonial policy and highlighted his role for the colony survival. This
work is essential to understand the concept of manifest destiny: which is the
idea that America made manifest the destined expansion of European civilization
and therefore, the European had the right to colonize the whole American
continent. He used to write about himself in the third person, playing the role of a
3. Content
3.1. The authors biography

The settlement of Virginia, 1607

A True Relation of Virginia, 1608
A Map of Virginia with a Description of the Country, 1612
The proceedings of the English colony in Virginia, 1612
A Description of New England, 1616
New Englands Trials, 1620; 1622
The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles, 1624
Description of Naval from: a sea grammar, 1627.
The True Travels, Adventures, and Ohservations of Captaine John Smith,
Advertisements for the Unexperienced Planters of New England, or
3.2. Relevant information of the time

Powhatan, 1618: Native North American chief of the Powhatan tribe in Virginia,
whose personal name was Wahunsonacock. He greatly extended the dominion of
the Powhatan Confederacy and after the marriage (1614) of his daughter
Pocahontas to John Rolfe kept peace with the English colonists
Smith has been viewed both as a self-aggrandizing and inaccurate historian and as
the savior of the Virginia colony and friend to Native Americans. For example, one
historian, Karen Ordahl Kupperman, has suggested that Smith's writing was most
self-consciously literary--and therefore most historically suspect--in those passages

Before this letter, he wrote A true relation of such occurrences and accidents of notes as hath
happened in Virginia (1608, his first book), and Map of Virginia (1612), and there is no trace of the
princess in any of them.

that recount his interchanges with Powhatan. Interestingly, she and others also
contend that Smith offered his readers a fairly reliable ethnographic account of
Native American life. Students might usefully examine the process of Smith's selffashioning that has evoked this variety of responses. Such an examination could
also provide the basis for a discussion of the opposition between the New England
and Virginian models of colonization, as well as strategies of self-representation.
4. The authors work
From The general history of Virginia, New England and the Summer Isles (Book
III, Chapter 2)
The savages found Robinson and Ermy (captain Smiths men) and slew 2 them. They
also found Captain Smith and took him near the fire. When he asked for their
captain, savages showed him Openchancanough, the King of Pamunkey. Smith gave
him an ivory compass dial. They remained marveled with the gift. Still, this fact
didnt serve to avoid him being tied to a tree to be shooted. However, the King
Openchancanough decided to take him to Orapaks, a temporary hunting village
further inland where, following their tradition, he was kindly feasted. He was taken
over there held by each arm and being on each side six men in file, with their
arrows ready to use. When he got to the village, all the women and children behold 3
him. The soldiers who were around him started to perform the form of a bissom 4.
After that, they started dancing, singing and yelling 5 dressed and equipped as true
soldiers. In the meanwhile, Captain Smith stood just in the middle together with the
King. He was afterwards conducted to a long house where he was offered much
more food that he could ever imagine. Then, they led him to many groups of the
Powhatan confederacy, and back again to Pamunkey. He was eventually conducted
to Werowocomoco (Powhatans village) and presentd him to their king (Powhatan),
who was, together with his train6, waiting for him in their best braveries7. He was
sat down covered with a robe made of raccoon 8 and with a young wench 9 in each
side. There were also two rows of men and as many women behind them, with their
heads and shoulders painted red and a great chain of white beads around their
necks. The Queen of Apomattoc brought him water to washhis hands and another
one brought him a bunch of feathers as a towel. They feasted him and then, a
consultation was held. He was condemned to death, but Pocahontas, Powhatan
Kings dearest daughter, sacrificed her life for his, taking his head in her arms and
laying hers upon him.
4.1. Smith like author
His way of writing:

Travel writing tradition

Describes natives in a derogatory (despectivo) way
Quotations from classical writers (Seneca)
Use of military technical terms + words from native languages
Third person narrative (in other works, first person)

Kill in a violent way

Look at
A snakelike formation
Mamfero del norte de Amrica

Shelf promoting ways of writing, justifies and defends himself

Mixes fact + fiction

4.2. Vocabulary

Harsh: terrible (harsh weather)

Gunpowder: plvora
Saviour: salvadora (Pocahontas emerged as Smiths saviour)
Barge: barcaza (captain Smith ordered his two men to remain in their
Slay, slew, slain: muerto (in a violent way)
Whither: to which place
Bow: arco
Ahield: escudo
Galled: wounded (herido)
Oozy: slimy (con lodo)
Creek: small river
Chafe, d: frotarse para darse calor
Benumbed: entumecidos por el fro
Notwithstanding: a pesar de ello
In the midst: en medio
Screeches: chirrios
Shell: armazn
Drag(ged): arrastrar
Mammal: mamfero
Entreaty: earnest request (ltimo deseo)
Depict: describir
Yield: rendirse
Hint: alusin
Struggle: luchar

JOHN SMITH (1580-1631)

He is the author of the first English work written in America: A true Relation of
Such Occurrences and Accidents of Note as Hath Happened in Virginia (written
to a friend. Published in London as a pamphlet in 1608).
Autobiographical work: The true travels, Adventures and Observations of
Captain John Smith in Europe, Asia and America (1630) Many critics doubt
about its authenticity.
In the winter of 1604-1605 he became involved with the Virginia Company,
which was a joint stock corporation formed with a charter from King James I
and charged with the settlement of Virginia. Their main goal was commercial,
not religious. Therefore, unlike the Puritan families who latter settled in
America, these group wanted to gain money.
In 1609 he returned to London. Prevented by his opponent from returning to
Virginia, he crossed the Atlantic to explore the Maine and Massachusetts Bay
areas, which he named New England with the approval of the Prince of Wales,
who would become King Charles I.
Nowadays he is most widely known as the hero of a love tale about an Indian
Princess (Pocahontas supposedly saved Captains life). There was no trace of
her intervention in his first book. It was not mentioned till 1624 (7 years after
her death). Smith published that story which was suspiciously similar to
another rescue by an Indian princess described in a Spanish work. General
History of Virginia, New England and the Summer Isles (1624)

He wrote with political intention and his work constitutes a major resource for
understanding the concept of manifest of destiny: the notion that America
made manifest the destined expansion of European civilization and, therefore,
that Europeans had the right to take possession of the whole continent.
READING: General History of Virginia, New England and the Summer Isles (1624)
[Book III, Chapter 2]

Travel writing tradition (description + report of events)

Derogatory terms for the natives (savages, devils)
Quotations from classical writers.
Lexicon: military terms + words from the natives.
Third person narrator (in other words: I)
Rhetoric: self-promoting way of writing; proud, he tries to justify himself
and defends himself.
Fact vs. Fiction.
Philip L. Barbour: accepted the Pocahontas rescue story as true. He
suggested that the captain might have misunderstood a ceremony of
naturalization and adoption in which he was symbolically killed and
reborn with the status of one of the Powhatans sons. Pocahontas action
would have been part of a ritual which Smith could not understand.
Pocahontas became a symbol to all Americans, representing wilderness
reclaimed by civilization. Pocahontas gesture has been interpreted as a
sign of the Native Americans submission to their English conquerors
because she converted to Christianism.

Born in Yorkshire.
Spiritually moved by the nonconformist minister Richard Clyfton. At the age of 12
years old, he attended separatist meetings. He left his family home for Scrooby to
join a community separated form the Church of England. Strict Calvinist protestants
who supported the separation of church and state, covenanted churches that
swore loyalty to the group instead of the king. They were often persecuted as
heretics and traitors.
In 1608, The Scrooby congregation, fearful for their lives, goes to Holland. There he
becomes a weaver and marries the daughter of a Separatist elder.
Due to poor economic conditions, the Scrooby congregation decided to move to
New England in search of a better life and set themselves apart form the rest of the
world and establish the City of God on earth.
They regarded their journey to the promised land as a religious pilgrimage they
were called the Pilgrim Fathers. They were also labelled Puritans, since they
wanted to maintain a church of ancient purity(most English Puritans at that time
were non-separatists, they hoped to institute reforms).
In July 1620, they sailed to England and hired the merchant vessel Mayflower and
embarked from Southampton. They travelled with other emigrants recruited by the
English investors. The English investors financed the voyage and the settlement,
and the settlers invested their personal labour for seven years. After 66 days at
sea, finally they disembarked at the site of the future town of Plymouth on
December 11, 1620.
Bradford was one of the authors of the Mayflower Compact a civil convenant drawn
up by the Pilgrims (still on board) to guarantee co-operation because unity was
essential for the survival of the colony and the settlers who were outside the church
were included. The agreement provided for social and economic freedom, while still
maintaining ties with Great Britain.
Bradford was elected governor of Plymouth Colony and re-elected thirty times.
Self-educated man, learned several languages. Particularly skilled in Hebrew to see
with his own eyes the ancient oracles in their native beauty
Of Plymouth Plantation (two volumes)
First: ten chapters in 1630 and the eleventh in 1644. Events that led the Scrooby
community to leave England for Holland, the Pilgrims voyage and the colonys
Second: in the form of annals (1620-1646). The authors disappointment at the
gradual decline of the once cohesive community in danger of dissolution. He wanted
to exhort the younger generation to live up to the religious ideals of the Pilgrims.
Book I, Chapter IX
The most frequently cited passage. A description of the trials of the expedition, the
hardships of the Atlantic crossing and the bleak impression the Pilgrims received of
the New World.
Ideas from the reading:

The author gives evidence of Gods favour: one seamans atrocious behaviour was
punished by disease and death.
The weather was changeable and occasionally extreme.
The Pilgrims felt happy but uncertain when they arrived.
Crossing an ocean is a hazardous business only to be undertaken with Gods help.
The character of the Pilgrims: devout.
The author asks his readers to feel pity for the Pilgrims because they had nowhere
comfortable to go.
The authors description of the landscape invites the reader to think that the
immediate future will be difficult and dangerous.
The main idea behind the excerpt: The Pilgrims were like characters from the Bible,
struggling against the elements to do Gods will.
The Pilgrims only source of comfort was looking at the sky and thinking about
The Pilgrims thanked God for their safe landed.
Book II, Chapter XII. Anno 1621
This episode took place the following autumn, the colony was firmly established.
The first winter had been extremely harsh (out of 102 passengers, only 51
They made friendly contact with the Wampanog Indians, who taught them how to
plan corn. They celebrated the harvest with a feast later associated with the
Thanksgiving holiday. It was a traditional English harvest celebration which lasted
three days and was attended by Indian guests.
Ideas from the reading:
The Pilgrims spent their first summer making provisions for the following winter.
All the summer there was no want: had enough to eat.
At the end of the summer thy felt satisfied.
The mood of the narrator is peaceful
The prevailing tone of both passages is dignified.
Bradford uses the first person narrative: he was there, he survived, he was a
The Puritans ( Calvinism) interpreted all events as symbols with spiritual
meanings: the death of the young man aboard a special work of Gods providence.
The author tries to demonstrate the workings of divine providence.
Bradfords idea of God: in the covenanted churches god was considered as a
contractual partner to the believers. The Pilgrims were struggled to fulfil what they
believed to be Gods plan.
Good fortune could signify righteousness and bad fortune divine punishment. Trials
can bring out the best in believers (spiritual order).
Little interest in Native culture, no attention to the beauty of the New World:
authors depiction on his arrival.
Balance between the wilderness and the support received from God.
The chief influence was the Bible. A biblical reference: there is a direct analogy to
Saints Paul shipwreck. Bradford points out a difference because these savage
barbarians did not provide them with food or shelter. The Wampanoag had had
previous contact with European explorers such as commercial exchanges
sometimes ending in violent disorder.
Pilgrims as the Israelites chosen people and America as the promised land but a
basic difference pointed out by Bradford (Moses could see from the Pisgah the
Promised Land in Deuteronomy ).
The genre of Puritan history enhances spiritual life by interpreting Gods design:
human history as a progress of mankind toward a predetermined end. Of Plymouth
Plantation is not a chronicle but a history the work is an intentionally ideological
document Bradford produced a good example of providentialist historiography.

Puritans officially condemned ornate speech (English Aristocracy) They promoted

humble modes to inform and instruct, not to please But Bradford was a true
Renaissance man, familiar with the literary fashion, his style was not so plain
(adjectives, length of sentences, comparisons, the words,...).
Puritan theology was designed to transform lives and to inspire action.
His attitude to native: savage barbarians were considered as excluded from
Opposition between wilderness and civilisation: horror of the wild (first passage)
transformed (second passage) in one year a result of colonisation.
Puritan Typology
Puritans saw human and social history as a cyclical succession of eras that
lead toward a single, glorious design conceived in the mind of God. The
Puritans saw their departure from England and Holland to a new promised
land in America as yet another historical manifestation of this history, with
themselves being the new Israelites chosen and favored by God. As you read
the selections from Of Plymouth Plantation, pay attention to Bradford's
efforts to associate the Plymouth colonists with the Israelites of Scripture.
Audience and Context
As you read the selections from Bradford's account of Plymouth Plantation,
you need to keep in mind Bradford's intended audience and the historical
context of the composition of the history. Of Plymouth Plantation was written
after the original settlement had been accomplished by the Mayflower
pilgrims ("old comers"), and after their intense suffering and sacrifices had
finally brought about security and prosperity for the colony. Bradford writes
not to the old comers but to the second and third generations of colonists
whom he believes have strayed away from the original faith, piety, and
spiritual fortitude of their parents and grandparents. In the words of the
critic Jesper Rosenmeier, "Bradford's aim [as a historian] is not to portray
the past with the fullest possible objectivity but to resurrect a bygone
holiness; a holiness that, he knows and never loses sight of, must be
resurrected by and in his audience." As you read the selections, keep track
of passages that seem to reflect Bradford's effort to inspire puritan piety
within a generation of spiritualists threatened by prosperity and worldliness.
Conscious Craft
Hasty readers may find Bradford's prose to be dry and burdensome, and in
fact he deliberately chose to write his history in what was then called the
"plain style," in contrast to the deeply elaborate and ornate style of
"euphuism." And yet Bradford's style is anything but plain. The critic E. F.
Bradford first called attention to his use of emphatic couplings to create a
variety of sense and description, his use of syntactical balance and
antithesis, his use of alliteration, assonance, and consonance.
The opening paragraph on page 165 provides fine examples:
When as by the travail and diligence of some godly and zealous
preachers, and God's blessing on their labors, as in other places of the
land so in the North parts, many became enlightened by the Word of God
and had their ignorance and sins discovered unto them, and began by his
grace to reform their lives and make conscience of their ways; the work
of God was no sooner manifest in them but presently they were both
scoffed and scorned by the profane multitude; and the ministers urged
with the yoke of subscription, or else must be silenced. And the poor
people were so vexed with apparitors and pursuivants and the
commissary courts, as truly their affliction was not small. Which,
notwithstanding, they bore sundry years with much patience, till they
were occasioned by the continuance and increase of these troubles,
and other means which the Lord raised up in those days, to see further
into things by the light of the Word of God. . . .

Pay attention not only to what Bradford says, but how he says it. His elegant
prose style is part of what makes Of Plymouth Plantation such a memorable
and profound record of early American colonization.
Separation of Church and State
1. Total depravity: Every person bears the corruption due to Adam
2.Unconditional ellection: God chooses who is to be saved. To be a
memeber of the chuch doesnt mean you willbe saved.
3. Limited atonement: We were redeemed partially by Christ.
4. Irresistible and grace: no matter what you do if Jesus chooses you you
will be saved.
5. Perseverance of Saints: once a person has been chsen to be Saint that
person will follow the way iof Faith.
Puritanism in New England


or Federal
and the

The term "Puritan" first began as a taunt or insult applied by traditional

Anglicans to those who criticized or wished to "purify" the Church of
England. Although the word is often applied loosely, "Puritan" refers to
two distinct groups: "separating" Puritans, such as the Plymouth
colonists, who believed that the Church of England was corrupt and that
true Christians must separate themselves from it; and non-separating
Puritans, such as the colonists who settled the Massachusetts Bay Colony,
who believed in reform but not separation. Most Massachusetts colonists
were nonseparating Puritans who wished to reform the established
church, largely Congregationalists who believed in forming churches
through voluntary compacts. The idea of compacts or covenants was
central to the Puritans' conception of social, political, and religious
Several beliefs differentiated Puritans from other Christians. The first was
their belief in predestination. Puritans believed that belief in Jesus and
participation in the sacraments could not alone effect ones salvation; one
cannot choose salvation, for that is the privilege of God alone. All features
of salvation are determined by Gods sovereignty, including choosing
those who will be saved and those who will receive Gods irresistible
The concept of a covenant or contract between God and his elect
pervaded Puritan theology and social relationships. In religious terms,
several types of covenants were central to Puritan thought.
The Covenant of Works held that God promised Adam and his progeny
eternal life if they obeyed moral law. After Adam broke this covenant, God
made a new Covenant of Grace with Abraham (Genesis 18-19).
Covenant of Grace. This covenant requires an active faith, and, as such,
it softens the doctrine of predestination. Although God still chooses the
elect, the relationship becomes one of contract in which punishment for
sins is a judicially proper response to disobedience. Covenant of
Redemption. The Covenant of Redemption was assumed to be
preexistent to the Covenant of Grace. It held that Christ, who freely chose

The New



to sacrifice himself for fallen man, bound God to accept him as mans
representative. Having accepted this pact, God is then committed to
carrying out the Covenant of Grace.
The concept of the covenant also provided a practical means of organizing
churches. Since the state did not control the church, the Puritans
reasoned, there must be an alternate method of of establishing authority.
Thus the ultimate authority in both political and religious spheres was
God's word, but the commitments made to congregation and community
through voluntary obedience to covenants ensured order and a functional
system of religious and political governance. This system came to be
called the Congregational or "New England Way."
Unlike Anglican and Catholic churches of the time, Puritan churches did
not hold that all parish residents should be full church members. A true
church, they believed, consisted not of everyone but of the elect. As a
test of election, many New England churches began to require applicants
for church membership to testify to their personal experience of God in
the form of autobiographical conversion narratives. Since citizenship
was tied to church membership, the motivation for experiencing
conversion was secular and civil as well as religious in nature. Gods
covenant that bound church members to him had to be renewed and
accepted by each individual believer, although this could be seen as a
dilution of the covenant binding God and his chosen people.
The children of first-generation believers were admitted to limited
membership in the Congregational church, on the grounds that as
children of the elect, they would undoubtedly experience conversion and
become full members of the church. Not all underwent a conversion
experience, however, thus leaving in doubt the future of their children,
the grandchildren of the original church members.


He joined a community of religious believers who had separated from the
Church of England. They were dissenters, strict Calvinists, who established a
Church of their own in 1606. At a time when Church and State were united,
those who seceded from the Church of England were often persecuted not only
as heretic but as traitors to the king. The Scrooby Congregation decided to
move again from Holland (where they went running away from England) in
search of a better life, to New England. They regarded their journey to the
promised land as a religious pilgrimage (they were called later the Pilgrim
Fathers). They bought a small ship, the Speedwell, and in England they hired a
merchant vessel, the Mayflower. The Speedwell leaked badly so they travelled
in the Mayflower alone. All the passengers had received financial baking from a
consortium of London merchants. They sighted land at Cape Cod and
disembarked at the site of the future town of Plymouth (1620).
William Bradford is one of the authors of the Mayflower Compact a civil
covenant or agreement in order to guarantee cooperation within their
unsharpened community.
He was elected governor of the Plymouth Colony, and he was re-elected 30
He was a self-educated man, who had learned several languages.
He wrote a journal, some poems and a series of dialogues.

READING: Of Plymouth Plantation (1857). [Book I: Chapter IX. Of the voyage

and How they Passed the sea; and of Their safe arrival to Cape Cod]


Book I: events that led the Scrooby Community to leave England from
Holland, and gave clear account of the pilgrims voyage and the colonys
beginnings. He finished it around 1650, although it was not published till
Book II: in the form of annals. Reflects the author disappointment at the
gradual decline of the once cohesive community, which he considered in
danger of dissolution.





Individual self: 1 pers and 3 pers.

Cohesive community: 3rd pers pl. (they)

Political Intent


Secular contents

Spiritual contents

Classical Sources

Biblical Sources

Fact and fiction

Providential interpretation of facts

Informative and entertaining


Ornate Style

Plain Style



Her book was also the first book in American literature to be published by
a woman.
Her brother-in-law had it printed in London under the pretentious title of
The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung up in America. (1650)
Later on, Anne revised the volume, added a considerable number of new
pieces and wrote a poem as a preface to the second edition Several
Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, which was not
published after her death.
At present, she is considered the grandmother of American poetry.


Anne was born and educated in England.

She received a very good education. She was raised in luxurious
surroundings, had access to private tutors and made excellent use of
Earls extensive library.
She learned Greek, Latin, Hebrew and French.
In 1628 she married Simon Bradstreet, her fathers assistant.
In 1630, she and her family emigrated to the New World, to escape
religious persecution. They were non-Separatists Puritans.
They settled the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
For a time, Anne Bradstreets husband was governor of the
Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Their life in America was much harder than it had been in England.
Anne gave birth eight times and all of her children grew to adulthood.
She death with sixty years old.


Two aspects:
On the one hand: Her public were devout and strict puritans, she was the
dutiful daughter of a prominent man and she was the submissive wife of
all-known colony official.
The other hand: Her private self, emotionally attached to her family as a
wife, mother and grandmother.
She is in continuity unresolved conflicts, of tensions between her
religious and her inner feelings. A self-division based on the tensions
between what she thought she ought to feel (Puritan theology told her
what she had to believe) and what she really felt.
Her later poems show how difficult it was for her to control some of her



She acknowledged that she had been troubled by religious doubts all
her life, due to spiritual confusion concerning verity of scriptures a
remark that should be taken into account when analysing her extensive
use of biblical sources.


She felt she had to abide by the Principles of Puritan which the
typical plain style but her work was also deeply rooted in the
ornamented style of the Renaissance tradition.
She was very much influenced by sixteenth-century poets such as:
Sir Edmund Spenser (c 1552-99)
Sir Philip Sidney (c. 1554-86)
Sir Walter Raleigh (c.1554-1618)
Sir Guillaume du Bartas (c. 1544-90) the French Colonist poet whom
she called her literary godfather . He influenced with metaphors.
She was also inspired by her British contemporaries, the English
Metaphysical poets such as: John Donne (c.1572-1631) and George
Herbert (c. 1593-1633).



They share some experiences (ill, health, inner spiritual crises, a deep
sense of religion combined with a genuine concern for secular
problems, and the difficulties of writing in a male-dominated
intellectual world.) and poetic themes (e.g. Speaking about their
poems as their children).
Both of them adhered to the major aesthetic conventions of their
time, and wittily repudiated prejudices against women poets,
Bradstreet using the convention of ironic self-deprecation and Sour
Juana resorting to paradox and polemic


Anne Bradstreet wrote this poem as the new preface to the second edition of
her collection of verses, posthumously published in Boston under the title of
Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning (1678).
Bradstreet responded to Woodbridges birth metaphor which was common
among seventeenth-century writers.
1. In this poem there is an extend metaphor. The speaker of The Author to Her
Book is the poet, likened a mother whose child is her book of poems. The specific
metaphor of book as offspring can be traced back to Plato. Some examples of this:

Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain

My rambling bratshould mother call

2. A pun (paronomasia) is a play on words that has different meanings.


I stretch your joints, to make you even feet,

The effect of this pun is the duality of the childs feet and the metrical of the
3. If we scan the metre of this poem we could see that is a metric pattern known as
iambic, formed by an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. Iambic is
the most common pattern in English poetry.
The poem is written in heroic couplets, also called rhyming couplets because
rhyme on consecutives lines, in pairs (aa,bb,cc,dd). The effect of this metrical
pattern is the sense of movement.
4. If we analyse the poet attitude towards her child/book we could see she regard
it with kindness, tenderness and a certain indulgence toward its faults.


5. Like most artists, Bradstreet probably had mixed feelings about her book, but
some of her fears were clearly determined by the fact that she was a literary
woman writing in a patriarchal society. Comment on the tone of her poem, we could
pay attention to the flash of anger expressed in lines 15-16. Then in line 7 she was
bushed and at finally she was a protector mother.
6. I think Bradstreet it wasnt genuinely modest. She was artfully claiming
artlessness. The poet, well aware with of her societys reaction to women who
ventures to write poems in a society when she has to take care of her family.
She has to seem modest.
7. We could see some irony in the entire poem. Especially in lines 13 and 14.
The meaning is contrary to the words. She critics and apologise of her book/child
when she was really prideful.
8. She is just trying to be playful and amusing. She makes a funny apologise of her
poem. And the effect is that readers who are so perceptive to understand ironic
discourse then could read under the words of socially constrained text.
9. In seventeenth-century women were conditioned by social rules. They were very
submissive to their husbands. They are very modest.
10. Comment on the way the poet links motherhood and artistic creativity we could
paying attention to the fact that her child/book is fatherless.
In the first line, she calls attention to the fact that her book/child sprang from her
mind, not her womb, and was conceived without the intervention of any masculine
force. This could be interpreted as a sign of independence.
Artlessness: naturalidad
Lacks: carece
Offspring: descendencia
Rambling brad: mocoso consentido
Stressed: tnica
Unstressed: tona
Venture: arriesgar
Womb: entraas


The first published book of poems by an inhabitant of America was also the
first book in American literature to be published by a woman. Her brother-in-law
had it printed in London under the pretentious title of The Tenth Muse Lately
Sprung Up in America (1650). Later on, Anne added a considerable number of new
pieces and wrote a poem as a preface to the second edition, which was published
six years after her death entitled Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit
and Learning. At present, she is considered the grandmother of American poetry.
She received an education far superior to that of most women of her time,
and started to write poems as a child to please her father, Thomas Dudley, who was
steward to the Puritan Earl of Lincoln. She had access to private tutors and made
excellent use of the Earls extensive library.
Literary critics generally consider two aspects of Anne Bradstreet: on the one
hand, her public self as a member of a community of devout and strict Puritans, as
the dutiful daughter of a prominent man and as the submissive wife of a wellknown colony official. On the other hand, her private self, emotionally attached to


her family as wife, mother and grandmother. Her works show the complex struggle
to reconcile both aspects: the public voice, which tends to be imitative, and the
private voice, which is more original. She is often seen as a poet of ambivalences
and hesitancies, of unresolved conflicts, of tensions between her religious duty and
her inner feelings. She probably experienced some kind of self division based on the
tensions between what she thought she ought to feel and what she really felt.
Puritan theologians had warned that the senses were unreliable and that
appeals to the imagination were dangerous. This particular religious doctrine was
contrary to her nature, for she found great pleasure in the agreeable realities of the
present and was captivated by the beautiful landscape of the New World. Her later
poems show how difficult it was for her to control some of her impulses. She
acknowledged that she had been troubled by religious doubts all her life, due to
spiritual confusion concerning the verity of the scriptures, a remark that should be
taken into account when analysing her extensive use of biblical sources.
As for her literary strategies, she felt she had to abide by the principles of
Puritan aesthetics, which encouraged her to adopt some features of the typical
plain style, but her work was also deeply rooted in the ornamented style of the
Renaissance tradition. She was very much influenced by sixteenth-century poets
such as Edmund Spencer, Philip Sidney and the French Calvinist poet Guillaume du
Bartas, whom she called her literary godfather. In spite of the official Puritan
condemnation of figurative language, sensual imagery and all other forms of verbal
artifice, many poems written by Puritans reveal a high degree of literary complexity.
They draw not only from the Bible as a source of inspiration, but also from classical
New England Puritanism took place around the middle of the seventeenthcentury, when eminent Puritans endorsed this movement towards verbal artistry
both in oral and written forms. It was argued that figurative and symbolic language
could enhance the believers abilities to perceive divine will. Thus, rather than
condemning the use of all kinds of metaphors, it was suggested that some of them
could help the elct to understand religious truths.
Bradstreets long philosophical and religious poems were generally written in
an artificial style. These autobiographical pieces have warmth, intensity and
poignancy; they are not derivative in content or imitative in structure, as were the
early ones, but born from her experience and constitute a more mature work, full of
genuine personal utterances. In her later poems the author comes near to
expressing her true voice.
Although the poet who speaks in the selections does not feel free to express
openly everything that comes to her mind, she seems to be willing to share some of
her thoughts with readers who are perceptive enough to understand ironic
discourse and to unveil meanings hidden under the words of socially constrained
The author to Her Book:
Anne Bradstreet wrote this poem as the new preface to the second edition of
her collection of verses. Her brother-in-law emphasized that he was solely
responsible for the publication of the volume, and he introduced Annes poetry
using a reproductive metaphor in which he presented himself as an impatient
midwife who forced the birth before its due time, thus provoking the mothers pain.
In The author to her Book Anne responded to this birth metaphor which was
common among seventeenth-century writers. The specific metaphor of book as
offspring can be traced back to Plato, and was also used by male writers as Sidney,
Spenser and Guillaume du Bartas. Anne departed from her masters by taking the
metaphor much further and by using it in order to claim her own legitimacy as a
writer. She portrays herself in the more acceptable role of a powerless mother who
lacks the resources to care for her family. She presents her book as a poor and


illegitimate child, dressed in homespun cloth and fatherless. In the first line, she
calls attention to the fact that her book/child sprang from her mind, not her womb,
and was conceived without the intervention of any masculine force.
It should be noted also that much of the coyness and dismissal that is
expressed throughout Bradstreets preface was a common strategy used both by
male and female writers in the Renaissance.
The poem is written in heroic couplet, also called rhyming couplets because
they rhyme on consecutive lines, in pairs (aa, bb, cc). The lines are rhymed
iambic pentameters.
Iambic: unstressed syllable-stressed syllable.
Pentameter: because each line has five feet.
To my Dear and Loving Husband:
As a particular poem focuses on her desire and longing for her husband,
rather than on her duty as a wife, it provides a contrasting image with the popular
view of the supposedly invariable Puritan reserve and restraint. Although Puritans
believed that conjugal love was a proof of piety, they worried that married couples
would lose sight of God. Loving ones spouse and children excessively and for their
own sake was seen as dangerous. This important Puritan belief has been called the
doctrine of weaned affections, which emphasized gradual detachment from
everything in this world.
Anne develops the central idea of this poem in a clear and logical manner:
she feels so loved by her husband that the only way she can reciprocate is by
asking the heavens to repay him; earthly love is the best thing of this world, only to
be surpassed by the union of lovers in eternity.
She uses a highly allusive biblical language. It is written in rhymed iambic
Upon the Burning of Our House
This poem provides a clear example of the tension the poet experienced
between her domestic concerns and her spiritual aspirations. Bradstreet dwells on
her misfortune for the firsts 35 lines, suddenly, in line 36 there is an abrupt change
of direction. She turns to the Bible and finds comfort in the promise of a permanent
house in heaven.
It is written in rhymed iambic tetrameters (four feet).
On my Dear Grandchild Simon Bradstreet
In Classical times, an elegy was any poem on any subject written in elegiac
metre. Since the Renaissance, an elegy has been a meditative poem on the death
of a person. Bradstreet does not break abruptly with the tradition of Christian
elegies, which are supposed to close with consolation and the affirmation that death
is part of a divine plan, but she does not easily accept with pious resignation the
death of her own grandchildren as a part of the providential scheme.
The author expresses how hard it is for her to reconcile the deep love she
feels for her deceased grandson and her duty to maintain her faith in spite of her
suffering. In the first stanza, she reveals a sorrow which threatens to overwhelm
her because she seems to be left alone to struggle with despair. In the second
stanza the poet appears to be able to master her brief and accept the divine will,
although it could be argued that such acceptance is not really complete. If the irony
of the poem is emphasized, it can be interpreted as a direct criticism of the
goodness of God.
This elegy is written in rhymed iambic pentameters.


MARY ROWLANDSON (c. 1637 1711)
From A Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson
From the violent and brutal clash between Indians and British colonist in
Massachusetts during King Philips War (1675-1676) grew a new literary genre:
Indian Captivities. Some colonist who had been prisoners of the Indian wrote
autobiographical accounts of their experiences. These tales became the first bestsellers in America literature. These accounts of captivity continued to be successful
until the 19th century. The early examples of the genre emphasized devotional
aspects while later tales focused mainly on adventures aspects.
The text were about to study belongs to this genere: A Narrative of the Captivity
and Restauration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson.
Rowlandsons account of her 3-mongh capture by a hostile Indian force during king
Philips War became one of the most popular narratives of its type in Britain and in
America during the 17th and 18th centuries, going through 30 editions after its first
publication in 1682.
Mary White was born about 1637 in South Petherson (Somerset), England. She
arrived to America with her nine siblings when she was only a child.
Her father, John White and his family moved to the frontier settlement of Lancaster
where her father was one of the founder.
Around 1656 she married the Reverend Joseph Rowlandson, the first minister of the
church of Lancaster. She had four children, one of whom died in infancy.
After the release of Mary Rowlandson and her two surviving children (the youngest
one died on the attack), they live in Boston for a year.
In 1672 they moved to Wethersfield (Connecticut) where her husband returned to
ministry. He died in 1678. A year later, she married another community leader,
Captain Samuel Taltcott and live in the same town until her death.
On a cold, crisp February morning in 1676 a band of Indians (Wampanoags),
surprised the Puritan frontier village of Lancaster, Mass, where Rowlandson lived
with her children and husband. As the woman and children cowered in the house,
they heard the fighting around them; one by one the defenses were broken and
Indians swarmed all around them.
Rowlandson is captured and separated from two of her children and her youngest
child is mortally wounded.
A Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson was written
in 1677 or 1678 two years after she was released by the Indians.
The narrative is chronological, organized around twenty removals, a term she
used to refer to the stages of her forced march.
The purpose of the writing is obviously didactic. She well, illustrates the Puritans
typological way of thinking. She sees each stage of her captivity and ransom as a
demonstration of the truths of biblical stories and teaching.


Modern literaty critics have pointed the influence of Rowlandson Narrative by the
tradition of the American jeremiad, a form of sermonic or poetic lament which
attributed misfortunes of the Israelites to their abandonment of the covenant with
God and called on them to repent so as to restore the covenant and have a happier
Her narrative illustrates the application in daiyly life of the Puritans beliefs:
- The Puritan held that divine Providence operates in an absolutely arbitrary
manner. The magnitude of Gods punishment for sin were unknowable. Minor
transgressions might provoke Gods greatest wrath.

She considered Indians not as human beings but as mere intruments for
punishment in order to prove the convenant with God. Her opinions of the
Indians, however is changing as the narrative progresses. First, she considered
them a company of hell-hounds or ravenous-beasts. Then, as time goes by,
she started to use the neutral term of Indians.

Her eventual redemption and reunification with her surviving children and
husband affirmed her faith in the Providence. She, as the Puritan, had the belief
that they were the chosen people of God.

In terms of style, the story is told in a natural artless, plain manner, typical of the
Puritan literature.
Its written using first-person narrator.
She has the Bible as a main source of inspiration, especially the Old Testament.
About one third of the biblical references come from the Psalms, used as a spiritual
resource because she found in King Davids way of dealing with religious struggles a
very useful mode to express her deep anger against the enemies and her
confidence in divine retribution.
She uses four narratives modes: description (of people, objects, geographical
settings, etc). Report (of actions) speech (either direct or reported) and comment
(moralizing disquisition of digression), focusing more on the report and comment
The captivity narrative grew out of the violent struggle between the Natives
and the English colonists. As they moved away from their religious roots, they
became more politically influential in a society which had to justify western
Mary Rowlandson created a prototype which stands out as the major
contribution to the captivity genre.
A Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson is a
detailed autobiographical account of the eleven weeks and five days a woman
settler from Massachusetts Bay Colony was held captive by a group of Natives. In
Lancaster, twelve citizens were killed, including Rowlandsons eldest sister, one of
her brothers-in-law and one nephew. Her husband and another brother-in-law
survived because they were in Boston appealing to the colonial government to
protect Lancaster from raids.
Among the 24 colonists that were kidnapped were Mary Rowlandson and her
three children. Sarah, her six-years-old daughter, was fatally wounded by a bullet
and died nine days after the capture.


Rowlandson and her captors travelled over 150 miles, in a forced migration
questing for food and shelter at various encampments, until she was released for a
twenty pound ransom. That summer, her two children were also ransomed.
Mary Rowlandson began her narrative in 1677 or 1678, that is, one or two
years after her captivity, although it was not published until 1682, under the title
which stressed its religious dimension: The Sovereignty and Goodness of God. The
didactic purpose of the narrative is obvious throughout the whole text. When the
author claimed to have written it exclusively for the edification of her surviving
children and friends, she was abiding by the Puritan rule that writing should aim at
educating readers to understand and execute Gods will.
Rowlandson is celebrated by her role in the development of both the
captivity narrative and American womens autobiography.
Modern literary critics have noted how Rowlandsons Narrative is indebted in
tone and content to the tradition of the American jeremiad; The prophet
Jeremiah, who attributed the misfortunes of the Israelites to their abandonment of
the covenant with God, and called on them to repent so as to restore the covenant
and have a happier future.
Of the woman captivities during the early period of colonization only
Rowlandson had the erudition to write her own story. The narratives of Hannah
Swart, Hannah Dunstan and Elizabeth Hanson were transcribed and revised by
educated clergymen who tended to transform them into pieces of devotional
literature. Mary Rowlandson had the support of clergymen such as Increase Mather,
who probably wrote the anonymous preface that accompanied the first editions.
The Reverend Joseph Rowlandsons final sermon, The possibility of Gods forsaking
people, was added as an afterword or appendix
Puritan spiritual leaders were aware of the process of secularization of their
society and they wanted the New England colonists to interpret King Philips War in
supernatural terms, not as the natural reaction of a starving people who were
making their last efforts to retain their land. According to the orthodox Puritan
version of the story, the Natives did not go into battle out of their own initiative, but
were sent by an angry God whenever it was necessary to punish the faults and sins
Divine providence is all-pervading principle throughout the Narrative of
which God is the centre. She also notes how God always supported her during her
spiritual and physical trial and, therefore, credits Him and not the Natives for not
having been sexually abused in word or action. When a Native gave her a copy of
the Bible he had plundered in a raid, she did not feel grateful to him, but to God.
Whereas she depended on the food the Natives gave her for material survival,
scrutinizing the Bible in order to find Gods messages assured her spiritual survival
during her captivity. Consequently, when she later recorded her experiences, she
did not miss any opportunities to allude to whatever scriptural passages she
regarded as relevant, often interpreting them in a prophetical manner.
Thus, if a writer like John Smith (who was not puritan) ornamented his
captivity account with learned quotations from Greek and Latin authors,
Rowlandson restricted herself to the words of the Bible. Thus, she identified with
Job in his afflictions, Daniel in the den of lions, Jonah in the whale, and Moses
wandering in the desert. About one third of the biblical references in the Narrative
come from the Psalms. Rowlandson mentioned the book of Psalms as a spiritual
resource so often because she found in King Davids way of dealing with religious
struggles a very useful model to express her deep anger against her enemies and
her confidence in divine retribution. She did nor feel the need to give complete
quotations because she assumed that her readers would be familiar with the biblical
passages she echoed.


The early Puritan settlers did not perceive the Natives as human beings. The
attackers are portrayed as a company of hell-hounds and ravenous beasts by
the author (this is the symbolic role of the attackers as a malign force, that is, as
the representatives of the forces of Satan, who threatened the Puritan hopes of
establishing a kingdom of God in the New World); as time goes by she uses the
more neutral word Indians, and less often Heathen or Pagans. She also gives
evidence of their virtues and to tell the difference between her various captors.
Rowlandson expresses her happiness when she sees Quanopen and often records
his acts of kindness, such as providing food for her, even fetching water himself so
that she could wash, and then giving her a glass to she how she looked.



Jonathan Edwards was a highly educated philosopher and theologian.

1250 of his sermons have survived.
They constitute the basis upon which the artistic renown of this prolific
writer has been established. He has often been labelled the last great
puritan, and was indeed a convinced defender of orthodox Calvinism.
His main contribution to literature lies in his brilliant use of some new
rhetorical strategies by which he managed to awaken audiences that were
no longer interested in the ornamented sermons of the seventeenth century
and remained unimpressed by the simplified form of those of the eighteenth
He was born in East Windsor.
His father. Timothyt Edwards, a graduate of Harvard, was the minister of
East Windsors congregationalist church. His maternal grandfather, the
Reverend Solomon Stoddard, was the prestigious minister of the much
larger congregation of Northampton(Massachusetts).
At the age of thirteen was admitted to the Collegiate School of Connecticut
(Yale), where he learnt Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and graduated four years
later at the head of his class.He stayed to read Theology until 1722.
While he was a student at Yale, the College received a substantial donation
of books which introduced him to the works of Isaac Newton and John
Edwards had no objections to most of Newtonian science, including his
theory of universal gravitational attraction, which many contemporaries
found completely unintelligible.
When Edwards graduated form theologically conservative Yale, he became
the pastor of a small Presbyterian church in New York City. He returned to
Yale to work as a tutor of the college from 1724 until 1726, and then went
back to the ministry. He became assistant pastor to his maternal gradfather
in the town of Northampton.
Eventually, after twenty-three years of mimistry, Edwards was dismissed
from his pastorate basically because his parishioners refected his
abolishmente of Stoddardss reforms.
The Reverend Solomon Stoddard believed that salvation depended not only
on Gods grace, but also on individual moral effort. By contrast, Jonathan
Edwards defended the Calvinist tenet of salvation only by Gods free and
irresistible gift of grace.
His position on the Halway Covenant eventually cost him his pulpit in
Northampton. On June 22, 1750 his congregation voted for his dismissal and
after delivering his Farewell sermon, he stepped down.
In 1751 he acdcepted a position as missionary to the several hundred
Housatonic Indians and as pastor of the twelve white families resident in the
little frontier hamlet of Stockbridge.
In 1757, he was appointed president of the College of New Nersey at Nassau
Hall(Princeton). He died shorthly after, of smallpox, the result of a defective
inoculation to prevent infection. Edwards career had three phases.........a
period of relative obscurity, followed by great popularity and seven last
extremely fruitful years in which he produced some of his greatest writings.


Jonathan Edwards is considered the most eminent advocate of the Great

Awakening, a wave of exaltation intended to awaken dormant religious
feelings. It began in New England in 1734 and involved most colonies,
lasting in some places until the late 1740s, when it started to dwindle.
Edwardss own methods of preaching were rather temperate compared to
those of other awakeners, such as the Reverend George Whitefield, and the
Americans Gilbert tennent and James Davenport.
Edwards forceful sermons had an enormous impact on many of his
audiences, but he read them quietly, from a dignified stance ather than
souting from the pulpit.
Edwards both nuancaed support and subtle criticism of the Great Awakening
are expressed in his publications Some Thoughts Concerning the present
Revival of Religion(1742) and Treatise Concerning Religious
His popular reputation nowadays rests almost exclusively on one single
sermon..........Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, the literary monument
of the Great Awakening.
The focus of the sermon is not on hell, but onn the sinner who is dangling
over the abyss, suspended on a slender thread, when there is still time to
repent and be saved from plunging into eternal agony. The key image of the
sermon is not that of the lake of burning brimstone, but that of the spider.
He had not delivered Sinners as a mere attempt at improving peoples
behaviour, but in order to produce an impression upon their minds.
This sermon is an outstanding example of eloquence partly because it is
filled with an inceasing tension and suspense.
Sinners follows the typical tripartite structure of a Puritan
sermon..........Text, doctrine and Application It starts with the Text, that is,
a biblical quotation, and opens as briefly as possible with an explication to
clarify its meaning in its context.I the second part, the Doctrine is initially
expressed in the form of a concise statement which formulates the main
thesis of the entire sermon.........There is nothing that keeps wicked men at
any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.
The third part of the sermon, the Application, consisting of a series of users
which try to render abstract principles as concrete as possible by applying
them to the practical affairs of life. At the end of the sermon, there is a
simple conclusion which avoids any flourish.


He was a highly educated philosopher and theologian whose decisive impact
on the development of American culture is widely recognized. He has often been
labelled the last great Puritan.
Edwards was a literary innovator who experimented within and beyond the
stylistic conventions of his age. His main contribution to literature lies in his brilliant
use of some new rhetorical strategies by which he managed to awaken audiences
that were no longer interested in the ornamented sermons of the seventeenth
century and remained unimpressed by the simplified form of those of the
eighteenth century.
While he was a student at Yale he had the opportunity of reading the works
of Isaac Newton and John Locke. As Edwards read them with great interest and
pleasure, he drew upon them to adopt whatever aspects he considered useful to
articulate his own thoughts and rejected those incompatible with his own system of
beliefs. He was immersed in the empiricism and rationalism of his time, which he
adapted to his own theories of biblical revelation, and used his synthesis to
repudiate the critique launched by the Deists and other detractors of the Puritans.


Always seeking to reconcile old piety with the new scientific and philosophical
trends of his time, he attempted to resolve the suggested conflict between human
reason and divine revelation by maintaining that religious knowledge could be
As the pastor of the Northampton congregation, he tried to suppress some
of the liberal innovations introduced by his grandfather, one of the most influential
figures in New England. If we used the current terminology of our time, Stoddard
(Edwards grandfather) would be labelled liberal and Edwards conservative.
Stoddard believed that salvation depended not only on Gods grace, but also on
individual moral and effort. Edwards defended the Calvinist tenet of salvation only
by Gods free and irresistible gift of grace.
Edwards career had three phases: a period of relative obscurity, followed by
great popularity (which ended with violent rejections) and seven last extremely
fruitful years in which he produced some of his greatest writings. He is considered
the most eminent advocate of the Great Awakening, a wave of exaltation intended
to awaken dormant religious feelings. The leader of this movement was the
itinerant evangelical minister Reverend George Whitefield. This movement of
spiritual revival tried to restore the religious intensity of the seventeenth-century
Puritans. It not only rekindled but also recast Calvinism because it brought some
changes in Puritan theology. It emphasized the individual experience of conversion
or regeneration, whose authenticity was thought to be revealed by each individuals
own intense emotional conviction.
Some ministers denounced the Great Awakening as heresy, while other
ministers who had initially supported this revival eventually realised that it was
making them lose control of their parishioners, dangerously attracted by those
proclaiming visions and carrying on chaotic religious discussions. Edwards
supported it but he was one of its most perceptive critics as well. This position of
Edwards is expressed in his publications Some Thoughts Concerning the Present
Revival of Religion (1742) and Treatise Concerning Religious Affections.
Nevertheless, his popular reputation nowadays rest almost exclusively on
one single sermon: Sinner in the Hands of an Angry God. The focus on the sermon
is not on hell, but on the sinner who is dangling over the abyss, suspended on a
slender thread, when there is still time to repent and be saved from plunging into
eternal agony. The key image of the sermon is not that of the lake of burning
brimstone, but that of the spider. He read it the first time with no deep impact, but
he delivered it again in Enfield, in 1741. Until then, the unawakened audience had
resisted the revivalism which was sweeping Connecticut. But finally, with this
sermon, Edwards achieved his goal of moving the people of Enfield toward the
experience of conversion and public testimony of their faith. He wanted to touch
emotional chords and provoke an immediate reaction in the form of a sudden
conversion to be proclaimed in front of the whole congregation. His knowledge of
human psychology had led him to believe that conversion could be experienced
through the senses, and not only through reason.
The essential imagery that contributes to the success of this sermon conveys
the sense of the suspension of the sinner, and is kinaesthetic (pertaining to the
sense of movement and bodily effort), rather than merely visual.
Edwards defended the ministers who were being blamed for terrifying
audiences because he was sincerely convinced that such ministers had the duty to
warn sinners so that they would understand their terrifying state, rather than
comfort them.
Being a consummate and sophisticated rhetorician, Edwards was well aware
of the importance of structure in oratory. Sinners follows the typical tripartite
structure of a Puritan sermon: Text, Doctrine and Application. It starts with the


Text, that is, a biblical quotation, and opens as briefly as possible with an
explication to clarify its meaning in its context. In the second part, the Doctrine is
initially expressed in the form of a concise statement which formulates the main
thesis of the entire sermon: There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one
moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God. Then, the Doctrine is expounded
as a series of ten considerations to demonstrate its truth; such reasons are
arranged as numbered points which appear in logical order. Edwards proceeds with
a tight and crushing logic, the product of a rigorous analytical mind. The Doctrine is
followed by the third part of the sermon, the Application, consisting on a series of
uses which try to render abstract principles as concrete as possible by applying
them to the practical affairs of life. At the end of the sermon there is a simple
conclusion which avoids any flourish.
Professor J. A. Leo Lemay, a great scholar of American colonial literature,
has postulated that much of the escalating emotional appeal of this sermon is due
to its increasing immediacy of: 1. personal reference (by shifting from they to we
to you), 2. time (from part tense to the present, and by heightening the effect
with a repetitive now) and 3. place (from Israel to here).



1. Introduction

Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston in 1706, and showed his restless character
very early in life. Among other activities and posts, he became printer, editor, leader
of debating club, writer, scientist, inventor. He embodied the American
Enlightenment ideals: he was practical, hard-working, rational, and successful. He
was the first self-made man in America, despite his poor origins, and the most
famous and respected private figure of his time. His books were attempts to share
his way to success with others, like Poor Richards Almanack, which used to be
published annually from 1732, and his Autobiography, first published in its
complete form in 1868.

2. Benjamin Franklin

2.1 Franklin and the Enlightenment

Variously known as the Enlightenment, the Neoclassical Era, and the

Augustan Age, the period between 1700 and 1800 was a natural
outgrowth of the Renaissance. Europeans, especially the French and
the English, took the Renaissance interest in human affairs to new
heights, focusing particularly on human potential. In philosophy and
politics, writers such as John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin
Franklin argued that individual humans, guided by their reason, could
and should govern their own lives and play a role in the government
of their countries, paving the way for the American and French
Franklins personality personified the 18th century American
Enlightenment. Enlightenments ideals were justice, liberty and
equality. Franklin set an example of enlightened cosmopolitanism and
won international renown. His figure also became a symbol of
American civilization at a time when political independence from
England was thought to require the creation of a new national identity
with a distinct culture and literature.
Benjamin Franklin was the first famous self-made man in America, and according
David Hume, Americas first great man of letters. He was a versatile writer,


creative scientist, and prolific inventor. He also had a very influential role as
legislator, diplomat and statesman.
2.1 Biography
* Written by Charles William Elliot, like introduction of The Autobiography 1909 edition *

Benjamin Franklin was born in Milk Street, Boston, on January 6, 1706. His father,
Josiah Franklin, was a tallow chandler who married twice, and of his seventeen
children Benjamin was the youngest son. His schooling ended at ten, and at twelve
he was bound apprentice to his brother James, a printer, who published the New
England Courant. To this journal he became a contributor, and later was for a time
its nominal editor. But the brothers quarreled, and Benjamin ran away, going first
to New York, and thence to Philadelphia, where he arrived in October, 1723. He
soon obtained work as a printer, but after a few months he was induced by
Governor Keith to go to London, where, finding Keith's promises empty, he again
worked as a compositor till he was brought back to Philadelphia by a merchant
named Denman, who gave him a position in his business.
On Denman's death he returned to his former trade, and set up a printing house of
his own from which he published The Pennsylvania Gazette, to which he
contributed many essays, and which he made a medium for agitating a variety of
local reforms. In 1732 he began to issue his famous Poor Richard's Almanac for
the enrichment of which he borrowed or composed those pithy utterances of
worldly wisdom which are the basis of a large part of his popular reputation. In
1758, the year in which he ceases writing for the Almanac, he printed in it Father
Abraham's Sermon, now regarded as the most famous piece of literature produced
in Colonial America.
Meantime Franklin was concerning himself more and more with public affairs. He
set forth a scheme for an Academy, which was taken up later and finally developed
into the University of Pennsylvania; and he founded an "American Philosophical
Society" for the purpose of enabling scientific men to communicate their discoveries
to one another. He himself had already begun his electrical researches, which, with
other scientific inquiries, he called on in the intervals of money-making and politics
to the end of his life. In 1748 he sold his business in order to get leisure for study,
having now acquired comparative wealth; and in a few years he had made
discoveries that gave him a reputation with the learned throughout Europe. In
politics he proved very able both as an administrator and as a controversialist; but
his record as an office-holder is stained by the use he made of his position to
advance his relatives.
His most notable service in home politics was his reform of the postal system; but
his fame as a statesman rests chiefly on his services in connection with the
relations of the Colonies with Great Britain, and later with France. In 1757 he was
sent to England to protest against the influence of the Penns in the government of
the colony, and for five years he remained there, striving to enlighten the people
and the ministry of England as to Colonial conditions. On his return to America he
played an honorable part in the Paxton affair, through which he lost his seat in the
Assembly; but in 1764 he was again despatched to England as agent for the colony,
this time to petition the King to resume the government from the hands of the
In London he actively opposed the proposed Stamp Act, but lost the credit for this
and much of his popularity through his securing for a friend the office of stamp
agent in America. Even his effective work in helping to obtain the repeal of the act
left him still a suspect; but he continued his efforts to present the case for the


Colonies as the troubles thickened toward the crisis of the Revolution. In 1767 he
crossed to France, where he was received with honor; but before his return home
in 1775 he lost his position as postmaster through his share in divulging to
Massachusetts the famous letter of Hutchinson and Oliver. On his arrival in
Philadelphia he was chosen a member of the Continental Congress and in 1777 he
was despatched to France as commissioner for the United States. Here he
remained till 1785, the favorite of French society; and with such success did he
conduct the affairs of his country that when he finally returned he received a place
only second to that of Washington as the champion of American independence. He
died on April 17, 1790.
The first five chapters of the Autobiography were composed in England in 1771,
continued in 1784-5, and again in 1788, at which date he brought it down to 1757.
After a most extraordinary series of adventures, the original form of the manuscript
was finally printed by Mr. John Bigelow, and is here reproduced in recognition of its
value as a picture of one of the most notable personalities of Colonial times, and of
its acknowledged rank as one of the great autobiographies.
2.3 Most important non-literature facts
Franklin was a self-taught young man who never went to University and, through
his own efforts, achieved the kind of education that only the upper classes could
afford. He learned languages and read the works of the most important English
Enlightenment writers.
Under their influence, Franklin broke with the narrow sectarian aspects of Puritan
tradition, and embraced10 a quite moderate form of free-thinking Deism 11. In spite
of his Deism, he developed some typical Puritan habits: constant self-scrutiny,
devotion to hard work and publy duty, and a string desire to better himself and his
Apart of publishing his own works, Franklin also started a lucrative career as a
printer and tradesman by reprinting works of the Classics.
He served as American minister plenipotentiary to France, during the American War
of Independence. As a member of the American delegation to the Paris peace
conference, he was one of the negotiators and signed the Treaty of Paris (1783).
Also are important, the time he was president of the Council od Pennsylvania, and
his help in writing the Declaration of Independence, or his presidency of an antisalavery asociation and his promotion of universal public education.
3. Franklin Works

As for Franklins contributions to literature, it should be noted that while some

modern literaty critics celebrate him as a great writer, other deny him this
3.1 The Autobiography
Benjamin Franklins primary motive for writing the story of his life was to provide a
model for public conduct.

To embrace means to huge, to hold tight, to accept, to include.

[Deismo : Doctrina que reconoce a un dios como autor de la naturaleza, pero sin admitir revelacin ni
culto externo]


His most important work known under the name of Autobiography, but some early
editons called The Life, because the word autobiography did not exist in Franklin
s time. Franklins Autobiography is considered the greatest work of its kind
produced in colonial America, and a classic piece of American Literature, although it
was composed largely in Europe and was first published in Paris in French
translation a year after the authors death.
Franklin worked on it over a period more than 18 years. He stopped composing it at
the age of 84 because of illness. The work is divided into four sections.

The first one, written when the author was Pennsylvanias colonial agent in
London, is divided into 5 chapters and covers the years from his birth to his
marriage (17061730).
The second section only advances the story through one year (1731),
because it is basically a description of the authors efforts to achieve moral
perfection and an analysis of the principles o conduct or precepts necessary
to be successful.
In the third section, he concentrates on the application of such principles; he
also records his promotion of civic causes and the progress of his political
The fourth section centers on the dispute between the Proprietaries adn the
Pennsylvania Assembly, and the evantual resolution of the dispute in favour
of the latter, who succeeded in having the tax exemption of the former 12

He addressed the first section to his son William and the latter sections to the
Public because he felt that his son had betrayed him by remaining loyal to England
during the American Revolution.
3.2 Vocabulary
Extract from the Autobiographys second and most famous section, in which the
78-year-old author looks back at his youthful years and describes his plan for selfimprovement through the practice of virtue.


Clarifying matters-


osado, arrojado
mero, puro, simple
fallar, errar
preparado, listo
planear, tramar
por razones de
bastantes ms
engao, fraude
merecer, ganar

courageous, audacious

for the sake of
rather more


to slip, make a mistake

constant, not move
to contrive, contrived

ftil, trivial
deception, dishonesty
refrain from, avoid
to deserve

Former means [previo, anterior]

Misma numeracin de lneas que en la Unidad Didctica. Ignorando el error que tiene en el cmputo
de las lneas sexta a dcima, se salta una.
En el fragmento de la Unidad Didctica se respetan los apstrofes originales sustituyendo a la e.



kept up

relacin sexual

hunting (archaic)


to gain

adquirir, ganar

perpetual, unending



juego de palabras
iniciativa, esfuerzo
asignar, distribuir
malas hierbas

to keep up
chatter, babble, speak
to pun
to allot
to weed
area for growing plants


His personality embodied the eighteenth-century American Enlightenment, a
movement characterized by an emphasis on rationality. Franklins symbolic
importance in American culture gradually increased as his compatriots considered
that his personal success had helped to foster their nations collective destiny for
greatness. He was the first famous self-made man.
His first essay was printed in The New England Courant and it was an article
called Silence Doggod. It was the first of a series of fourteen satirical articles
Franklin secretly published under a pseudonym, a name that was supposed to be
that of a widow, extremely critical of Boston manners.
Franklin was a self-taught young man who achieved the kind of education of
only the upper classes could afford. He read the works of the most important
English Enlightenment writers, such as Locke, Shaftesbury and Addison.
In spite of his Deism, he developed some typical Puritan habits: constant
self-scrutiny, an unfailing devotion to hard work and public duty, and a strong
desire to better himself and his community. He initiated an American genre-the selfhelp book-with Poor Richards Almanac which he published for twenty-five years
and it contained factual information and advice for being socially successful and
achieving wealth in a series of memorable sayings collected from various sources or
invented by himself. Some of these aphorisms, revised and refined have become
standard American proverbs or sayings.
Franklin also started a lucrative career as a printer and tradesman by
reprinting the works of the classics and of great Europeans, which helped to
educate the American public. He helped to found many of the citys public
institutions and conducted important experiments with electricity. His political
achievements included his leadership of the American Revolution, his help writing
the Declaration of Independence, his participation in the 1787 convention at which
the U.S. Constitution was drafted, his presidency of an anti-slavery association and
his promotion of humanity free.
Among his many writings, his mayor work is the one referred by Franklin as
Memoirs, which is commonly known as Autobiography (a term that did not exist in
that time). He started writing it when he was 65 and stopped it at 84. The work is
divided in four parts: the first one is divided in five chapters and covers the years
from birth to his marriage (1706-1730). The second section only advances the story
one year, because it is basically a description of the authors efforts to achieve
moral perfection and an analysis of the principles of conduct or precepts necessary
to be successful. In the third part, the adult Franklin concentrates on the application
of such principles; he also records his promotion of civic causes and the progress of
his political career. The fourth section centres on the dispute between the
Proprietaries and the Pennsylvania Assembly, and the eventual resolution of the
dispute in favour of the latter, who succeeded in having a tax exemption of the
former abolished.


Franklins primary motive for writing the story of his life was to provide a
model for public conduct, and he translated his personal experiences into general
propositions which could be usefully applied to other people.
According to J. A. Leo Lemay, Franklin gave us the definitive formulation of
the American Dream. Some of the important aspects of the American Dream are:
the rise from poverty to wealth, from dependence to independence, and from
helplessness to power. This means that there is hope for each person to change
ones life, shaping it into whatever form one may choose.
The Autobiography is written in a neoclassical version of the Puritan plain
style, without formal beauty or pretensions to emotional force (K. Silverman).
Franklins mastery of style-that pure, pithy, racy and delightful diction-[] makes
him still one of the great exemplars of English prose (M. C. Tyler). Franklin
developed his supple prose style as a tool of communicate his ideas clearly, since
his stylistic creed was one cannot be too clear.


Slavery as a social, economic and political institution flourished in the 18th Century,
when a series of laws defined it by race. Slavery dehumanized its victims: not
regarding blacks as human beings made it easier for people of the Age of Reason to
deprive them of full human rights. Among the many rights denied to slaves was
The slave narrative as a successful new literary genre began in the 18th
Century and was developed in the 19th, when it began to have an influence upon
the American novel. It was rediscovered in the 1960s because of its intense appeal
for African-Americans fighting for Civil Rights.
Most American critics would agree that the father of African-American
literature was Olaudah Equiano, whose autobiography became the prototype of the
numerous slave narratives of the 19th Century.
Equiano spent most of his time at sea, and thus enjoyed many more
opportunities for development than if he had been confined on a plantation. His first
master did not honour his promise to allow Equiano to purchase his freedom and
sold him to Captain James Doran, who made Equiano sink into particularly cruel
West Indian slave trade. He went from master to master till Robert King bought
him. He allowed Equiano to purchase his own freedom for forty pounds. He went to
England, where he expected to encounter less racial discrimination, and spent much
of the rest of his life in London supporting himself with different jobs.
Always restless for adventure, he travelled to Turkey and Italy as personal
servant to an English gentleman, and sailed on exploratory expeditions to the Arctic
and Central America. Like many other abolitionists of that time, he began rejecting
the slave trade; only later did he envision the gradual abolition of slavery itself.
He had recommended racial intermarriage as a means of dissolving racial
barriers, and he married a white Englishwoman. He began to contribute to the
abolitionist cause. He brought to the public the case of the slave ship Zong, whose
captain ordered 132 sick slaves to be chained together and thrown overboard so
that the Liverpool owners could claim insurance money for their loss. Equiano was
already well known in London newspapers when his two volume autobiography
came out. He wrote it in 1788, 22 years after he had bought his freedom, and
published it during the height of the antislavery controversy in England (1789). He
addressed his narrative to the members of the Parliament of Great Britain and
sent them copies of it. The author stated in the introduction that its main purpose
was to excite in august assemblies a sense of compassion of the miseries which
the slave-trade has entailed on my unfortunate countrymen.
The widespread popularity which Equianos narrative enjoyed, rivalled only
by Daniel Defoes Robinson Crusoe, was not solely attributed to the support it
received from the antislavery movement. Both are examples of travel literature, in
which the protagonist is a successful self-made man who discovers strange objects
and people in exotic lands. In both works the physical journey is paralleled by a
journey of spiritual progress (from ignorance to knowledge, and ultimately to
salvation through the experience of conversion).


The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa,

the African, Written by Himself: the author emphasized in the title of his
autobiography that he had written it himself, and this was a way of asserting his
authorship and an expression of his desire to refute claims that blacks had no
ability to write. The fact that he used his two names, both the African ad the one
imposed upon him n the Western World, supports the thesis that his double identity
was an extremely serious concern for the author. Still commenting on the title, it
should be noted that, when referred to himself using the epithet the African,
Equiano used the definite article (the) instead of the indefinite which other writers
of African descent were currently using. Apart from the title, the portrait used as
the frontispiece of Equianos autobiography also merits attention. It displays an
African elegantly dressed as an English gentleman and holding and open Bible.
He refreshed and supplemented his own memories with information he
acquired from conversations with other Africans and he felt free to borrow
extensively from other texts, notably from historical sources and the abolitionist
literature of his time.
Equiano used the doctrines of both Christianity and the Enlightenment to
argue for the abolition of slavery. In his book he emphasized his astonishment at
the immorality of the first whites he encountered, and later depicted himself as an
honest and worthy individual.
Apart from Christianity, Equiano immersed himself in other literary traditions
prevalent in Western culture, such as the picaresque novel. He is a picaresque hero
or anti-hero, who travels from place to place and rises in society as he learns from
different sources of experience.
Equiano narrative has a three-part structure, each one with a distinctive
form, style and tone. It begins with a sympathetic survey of Ibo culture, continues
with an account of his capture in Africa and then focuses on his life as a slave. The
first part of the narrative includes terrible scenes, but it also filled with comic
anecdotes of the picaresque behaviour that the young slave was forced to practise
for survival purposes. In the second part of the narrative, from the moment the
author gains freedom the character changes and, since he is no longer slave, he
takes full responsibility for his life as a mature religious man, not a picaresque hero
any more. In the third part of the narrative, the tone of work becomes even more
pious, and the style is characteristic of the spiritual biographies.
He often resisted the impulse to indulge in the slave trades most gruesome
scene perhaps so as not to shock the public and probably to avoid the accusation of
exaggerating or fabricating events.
18th century, slavery was a social, economic and political institution, it was promoted in the
name of prosperity for the new
America nation, supported by those who proclaimed the ideals of liberty and equality.
Such ideological contradiction originated a virulent racism which declared white supremacy
and denied the human condition
to the black, thus was easier to deprive them of their rights: reading and writing. SLAVE
NARRATIVE was a new literary
genre developed in the 18th century, many times recorded by whites because the real
protagonists couldnt write.
In the 18th and 19th century, that sort of literature was the chief vehicle for antislavery
propaganda and also very popular
texts, then neglected for years until the re-discovery in the 1960s.
Nowadays, this is recognized as the foundation upon which most of modern African-American


literature is based.
At 11, kidnapped with his sister, captive in Africa for 7 months, sold to British traders who
shipped him to Barbados and
then (non sold), to Virginia, there he was sold and put to work on a plantation.
A month later, sold to a British naval officer, Michael Henry Pascal, went to England, baptized
into the Anglican church in 1759, spent most of his time at sea, more opportunities than in a
Served Pascal for 10 years, failed him not letting him buy his freedom and sold him to Captain
James Doran (very cruel).
Then new master Robert King who lent Equiano services to benevolent Captain Thomas
In 1766, Kong allowed him to buy his own freedom for 40 pounds, he kept working for him for
a while and then left America
in 1767, because he felt black were badly treated in there.
He went to London and worked as a free servant, a barber and a musician. Travelled to Turkey
and Italy as personal servant to an English gentleman and went to the Arctic and Central
First he rejected only slave trade, but worked as an overseer. Never back to Africa. 1792,
married a white woman, had 2
daughters, got quite rich.
In his will, he identified himself as Gustavus Vassa, Gentleman.
In England, contribute to the abolitionist cause by writing letters to papers and officials,
brought to public the case of the
slave vessel Zong, 132 slaves chained together and killed, for getting and insurance.
Then he wrote his 2-volume autobiography, in 1788, suscribbed by many people, like the
Prince of Wales, aristocrats,
artists and preachers, engaged in abolitionist campaigns, who encouraged ex -slaves to write,
to counter that blacks were
intellectually inferior.
He addressed his narrative to the "Parliament of Great Britain", because they didnt want to
listen directly to him, and said
he wanted to let them now how slaves suffered.
The job was reprinted (36 editions) many times and translated into several
languages, its success is only comparable to that of Robinson Crusoe, travel
literature, successful self-made man, discovers, the physical journey is
paralleled to the spiritual progress.
Title: "The interesting narrative of the life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African,
written by himself", saying in
the title he had written it, so black were able. Double identity, African and occidental one,
because it was very important for
him. Portrait, himself, refined and devout (with a bible)
In his narrative, tries to offer an honest recollection of his childhood in Africa, refreshed his
memories talking to other
Africans and reading.
Borrowed from other texts, historical sources and abolitionist literature of the time, like the
trope of the Talking Book
In slave narratives, conversion to Christianity was assimilation into the dominant culture and
equal access to the hope
of eternal salvation.
They made parallels between Israelits and slaves and slaves as biblical figures who were
Equiano used the doctrines of Christianity and of Enlightment to argue for the abolition of
slavery, he extolled Christianity
without denigrating his African heritage.
Also, other literary traditions as the picaresque novel, in 1st part of the novel, he depicts
himself as a picaresque hero,
travelling from place to place and learning from everywhere he could.


He laughs at himself and at his misfortunes.

Narrative: 3 part structure, each with a different form, style and tone.
1: sympathetic survey of Ibo culture, his capture and his life as a slave.
2: Gains freedom in 1766, his character changes and full responsible of his life as a mature
Christian man, not a
picaresque hero anymore.
3: Tone more pious, style like the spiritual biographies of John Wesley
Equianos vivid narrative reached an international audience and made the horrifying facts of
slavery known worldwide,
though he took care in not over-impressed his public, not to be blamed of exaggerating from
the supporters of slavery,
he talked to both supporters and abolitionists.


She was assigned only very housekeeping tasks on account of her frail health.
Phillips was raised almost as a member of the family along with the Wealtleys 8
year old twin children. John and Susanna Wheatley would encourage her to read
her poems at their social gatherings, where she would impress their guests with her
uncommon intelligence.
She first published On Messrs, Hussey and Coffin. The first poem she
published in Boston, and one which made her famous, was an elegy on the death of
the evangelical preacher George Whitefield.
One of the Wheatleys children took Phillis to London for health reasons and
also to seek support for her book. Before her departure, she wrote Farewell to
America, anticipating her sea journey. It was considered as a sentimental piece but
this poem was also her most direct expression of resistance to enslavement. She
stayed in England where she prepared her book for the press and met a number of
notables such as the Earl of Dartmouth, Benjamin Franklin and the Lord Mayor of
Phillis was granted freedom by her master a few weeks after her return to
Boston If the poet celebrated how her much admired satirical playwright Terence
(who had been taken to Rome as a slave) broke his iron bands by means of the
power of his pen, she must have been aware of the fact that she had achieved the
same goal in a rather similar way, by her own writing ability.
Phillis Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773) was her first
collection of poems published in English by a black person. The poems that
appeared in London were not exactly the same that appeared in Boston; her
American patriotic poems had to be left out, two religious poems were omitted,
other were altered and some new were added.
In the Preface the collection was presented as the work of a native of
Africa whose genius had unanimously impressed the many members of the English
nobility and gentry she had met in London. This promotion as strongly determined
how her work has been read from that time, as she was cast aside as an oddity as
literary history and her poetry was relegated to a marginal status. Phillis case was
used by abolitionists as a challenge to the assumption of African inferiority based on
supposed lack of artistic ability.
This book was a slim volume written in a style much like that of Alexander
Pope. She followed the neoclassical conventions of dominant English verse in the
18th Century: the use of innovation, hyperbole, inflated ornamentation and an
overemphasis on personification. Her fusion of pagan and Christian traditions is
characteristic of English neoclassical literature. Freedom was a recurrent theme
which she articulated throughout her work: political, artistic and spiritual freedom
through religion and ultimately death. Although Phillis considered sin a much worse
bondage than enslavement, she did not refrain from explicitly voicing her
vindication of the blacks natural right to freedom from slavery.
On Being Brought from Africa to America
This short poem has sometimes been cited as an instance of Wheatleys
denigration of her native African homeland and of her alleged full acceptance of
dominant discourses in colonial Boston. However readers will perceive how
Wheatley used certain stylistic strategies to undermine such discourses by
conveying her message subversively.


In the first quatrain, the poet expresses her gratitude for being introduced to
Christianity. Although the attitude expressed in the first quatrain may sound
subservient, she basically deplores the paganism of her homeland.
In the second quatrain the author suddenly adopts and accusatory tone that
abruptly reverses the movement of the poem. She makes a direct challenge to
racial prejudice through and allusion to injustice in line 5 some view our sable race
with scornful eye which is morally censorious of those who show contempt for
blacks because of the colour of their skins.
The lasts two lines contain a radical refutation of some 18th Century racist
notions according to which the souls of black people were everlastingly doomed.
The poet explicitly denies any connection between spiritual darkness and skin
By italicizing the terms Christians, Negroes and Cain, the poet links them
rhetorically so as to tell her readers that both Christians and Negroes, like Cain are
the descendants of Adam and Eve, and thus not only inheritors of the original sin,
but also equally able to be redeemed or saved by God. The biblical allusion
reinforces their common suffering under bondage (in Egypt then and in America
now). This last part of the poem also contains a pun on the name of Cain,
pronounced cane, both susceptible to be refind or purified; Cain by being
turned into a saved soul and cane by being transformed into sugar.
It is written in heroic couplets that are iambic pentameters which rhyme on
consecutive lines, in pairs. We should note how each metrical line has ten syllables,
that is, five feet of two syllables each: the first syllable is unaccented or unstressed,
and the second one is accented or stressed. In regard to form, Phillis did not try to
be original, but made efforts to master her models (Pope).
To the University of Cambridge, New England
Although a superficial reading of this poem would suggest that she was
ashamed of her blackness, a more thoughtful analysis of its third stanza might
reveal how subtly she expressed that she took pride of it. The use of the term
Ethiop in a very effective disclosure near the end of the poem is a positive allusion
to her racial identification because within a biblical context, it brings to mind Moses
Ethiopian wife Zipporah, the Queen of Sheba.
Lines 3-6 if taken out from their context, could suggest that the author
accepted the view that slavery was a positive institution since she professes
gratitude for having been rescued from the dark abodes, but there are
ambiguities in lines 12 and 17-20. She is persuasively telling the young Harvard
men to avoid sin and sloth, and to make the most of their fortunate positions.
It is written in black verse: unrhymed iambic pentameters. With the black
verse she tried to emulate John Milton.
To His Excellency General Washington
After reading it, Washington invited her to visit him. The author seems to
wholly embrace classicism by her choice of pagan themes and speaks in a
hyperbolic neoclassical voice that both echoed and contributed to the rhetoric of the
rebels in the Revolutionary War, an aspect which won her considerable popularity
during that historical period.
Here again, while evoking the suggestive decorative neoclassical imagery,
she subtly subverts the grandiose aims of her explicit praise by resorting to irony
when referring to America, the country that had enslaved her and still kept under
bondage so many people of African descent, as the land of freedoms heavendefended race
Kidnapped when 7 or 8, arrived at Boston, purchased by John Wheatley, Christian merchant
and sailor. Although brought
as a personal servant, she was assigned very little housekeeping because of her
frail health. Almost a member of family.


Received a better education than many white girls, in 1771 she was baptized in the "old South
Congregational Church".
She learned Latin and Greek and read Horace, Virgil, Ovid, Terence and other classics in the
original. Studied too:
Theology, philosophy, astronomy, geography and history. Influenced by the Bible, the classics,
English writers as Milton,
Pope and Gray.
At 14, her 1st published poem " On Messrs. Hussey and Coffin", religious piece about 2 men
who almost died, in a
newspaper in 1767.
1sr poem published in Boston, elegy on the death of preacher George Whitefield, made her
1772, John Wheatley tries to help her publish a book of 30 poems, but found no enough
suscribers for that, she had to go
through an examination to prove she wrote them.
They signed an attestation in which they certified she was qualified to write the poems. That
was published afterwards in
the 1st edition of her book, below its preface.
1773, the son took her to London, because of her health and for seeking support for her book,
before she wrote "Farewell
to America", partly lamenting her parting from Susana, partly expressing resistance to
Published in New England newspapers and also in London. There was a part containing an
apostrophe to Temptation,
could be interpreted as seeking asylum in London.
June-July 1773, she stayed in London, prepared the book for the press and met notables (not
Selina Hastings, who
sponsored her book and to whom she dedicated it)
She received a copy of Miltons "Paradise Lost", translation of "Don Quijote" and she
purchased complete works of
Alexander Pope.
She had to go back to Boston, before the book was published, to take care of Susana, very ill.
Granted freedom in 1773, 6 months before Susanas death. She rejected going back to Africa,
neither African nor American. Married a free black man, had 3 children, all dead very young,
and tried to publish a second book of poems but failed.
Worked as and instructor in a school and as a servant to support her family. Last years, bad
health and financial difficulties.
Died at 31 in complete poverty.
Her "Poems on various subjects, religious and moral", London 1773 was the first collection of
poems published in English
by a black person. 39 poems, not exactly the ones she had tried before (American patriotic
poems left out, two religious
poems omitted, others altered and some new ones added)
The way in which Wheatley was 1st promoted has determined the way she is remembered
ever since, it was more
important the historical significance of her work rather than on the intrinsic merits of her erse.
Her book has a style like the one of Alexander Pope, his Neoclassical verse translation of the
Iliad of Homer was her
favourite English book.
She followed the Neoclassical conventions of the verse in the 18th century, but not blindly:
use of invocation, hyperbole,
inflated ornamentation and an overemphasis on personification.
Fusion of pagan and Christian traditions, characteristic of English neoclassical literature.
Dealt primarily with religious and moral themes.
Elegy, most recurrent poetic form, concentrated more on exhorting to the living than on
portraying the deceased.
Her recurrent theme was FREEDOM: political (independence from England), artistic (using


poetry to escape from an

unsatisfactory world) and spiritual (death not destruction but release)
She considered sin much worse bondage than enslavement, but explicitly voiced her
vindication of blacks natural
right to freedom from slavery.
Made a parallel between Israelists and blacks.
He is the first American literary artist to earn his living through his writings and the
father of the American fiction, because he was the first to create masterpieces in a
narrative genre which is very prominent in the canon of American literature: the
short story. He wrote famous short stories as Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of
Sleepy Hollow.
His father was a strict Scottish Presbyterian (wealthy merchant) and his
mother was an English Episcopalian. Travels would constitute an essential stimulus
to his cosmopolitan imagination throughout his existence.
His first book was A History of New York (1908), whose authorship he
ascribed to a curious old historian called Dietrich Knickerboxer. This book was a
parody of KA Picture of New York, a guidebook which had just appeared.
Irving moved to London intending to earn his living by his pen only. He was
encouraged personally to do so by Sir Walter Scott, and partly through Scott
influence, he was attracted to romanticism. Irvings work displays the transition
from neoclassicism to romanticism and combines elements from both movements.
He displayed a very careful control of technical skill. Among other residual features
of the 18th Century culture to be found in Irvings work is his lack of concern about
individuality and originality. Sentimentalism prevails over rationalism, and moral
exhortation tends to give way to a purely aesthetic appreciation, though didactic
purpose is not completely absent. In order to arouse intense and uncommon
emotions, the artists imagination dwells in remote settings, far away in time and
space, often even escaping from its material environment into a world of fantasy. In
that way Irving shares with most European romantics their enthusiasm for exotic
landscapes and their keen interest in the past, particularly their predilection for the
medieval era. Adapting German folk and recasting legends became one of the most
important trends of his literary pursuit: The Sketch Book (1819-20), Bracebridge
Hall (1822) and Tales of the Traveller (1824).
When he returned to New York he wrote The Western Journals (1944) so as
to renew his acquaintance with his homeland. He also wrote Life of Washington
(1855-59), a monumental biography of the General after whom he had been
After returning to America, Irving read Caldern de la Barca, Lope de Vega
and books on Spanish history, and he had a great interest in the history of
Columbus. He wrote many books about him. In Seville he met Cecilia Bhl von
Faber (Fernn Caballero), who enjoyed telling him folk tales and anecdotes about
the Spanish peasantry. In his stay in the Alhambra he took notes of stories and
legends from both oral and written sources. In 1832 he published The Alhambra in
two volumes. While love and death are the predominant themes of the book, it
relies almost exclusively on the marvellous, primarily through the use of magic
spells, incantations, charms, talking animals and other weird phenomena. He
wanted illusion and mystery to be easily seen through, not to mix them up with the
factual realities of the present. For this, Irving resorted to the well-known method
of telling a story by presenting it as second-hand. One of his favourite narrative
devices was to introduce an intermediary who allowed the real author to justify and
distance himself from the tale by presenting himself as a mere editor of an old
manuscript or some enigmatic papers found by accident.


To a certain extend, the use of a fictitious intermediary narrator is linked to

the practice of publishing anonymously or under a pseudonym, but as a narrative
technique it involves the creation of a frame story, in which the author becomes a
mediator between the original storyteller and the reader. The artist feels free to
adapt legends while dispensing with historical accuracy, and to turn into serious
literature his skilfully crafted elaborations of folklore materials.

Sentimentality: is an excessive reliance on emotional effect or pathos.

Pathos: is the quality in a work of art which evokes deep feelings of
tenderness, pity, or sorrow.
- Diction: choice of vocabulary and arrangement of words.
- Imagery: the use of a consistent pattern of related images.
- Pace: the rate at which an action progresses, by compressing or expanding the
Atmosphere: refers to the intangible quality evoked by a work of art through its
appeals to both extra-sensory and sensory perception.


Once political independence from the British had been won, Americans wished for
an independent national literature as a way of asserting their new cultural freedom.
Such a role was played by James Fenimore Cooper, the first to succeed in the field
of long fiction by using typically American materials, motifs and settings and a
distinct powerful narrative voice which no longer sounded like a mere colonial echo
of the Old World discourse. His folk epic of the settlement of America has exerted a
long-lasting influence even upon those who have actually never read his writings
and many of the popular myths he helped to shape still haunt the American
imagination. Today Cooper is considered of the utmost importance as the profound
thinker and social critic who raised key issues of political theory in works addressed
to the general public.
In Coopers mind, America nationhood was intimately connected to the
Westward Movement, that is, to the myth of the American West.
Coopers first novel, Precaution (1820) had been a clumsy imitation of Jane
Austens novels of English gentry manners. In The Spy (1981) he consciously tried
to adapt Sir Walter Scotts historical romance to the American scene.
The Pioneers (1823) is one of the most influential portraits of frontier life in
American literature. The traditional nomadic economies based on hunting and
gathering had to be abandoned in order to make room for the new cultivators of
the soil. Throughout The Pioneers, the novelist seems to express an ambivalent
attitude towards the Westward Movement, trying to reconcile his contradictory
ideas and mixed feelings about the conflict over possession of land. On the one
hand he defends the settlers legal right to own it exclusively. But on the other
hand, he deplores the irreparable damage they are causing to the natural
resources. This book shows the influence exerted by the tales about Daniel Boone,
the tough and self-reliant white man who spent his whole life in the wood as a
hunter, trapped and scout. Natty Bumpo, Coopers most famous character and one
of the best known in American fiction, shares many traits with Daniel Boone, who
had become a legendary hero even before his death. Both of them stand basically
in the same position, halfway between civilization and savagery. Natty Bumpo
appears for the first time in The Pioneers but he will also appear in all of The
Leatherstocking Tales which is formed by five novels: The Deerslayer, The last of
the Mohicans, The Pathfinder, The Pioneers and The Prairie.
Many critics have attributed the defects of Coopers literary style to the fact
that he wrote rapidly and spontaneously. He started by adopting the form of the
English novel of manners, but shifted away from the sentimental novel when he
initiated the American romance. Then, he moved from romanticism into early
realism. At that time the term romance meant the exact opposite to the
sentimental novel. Romance includes the picturesque, the heroic, a tendency
towards melodrama and a formal abstractness, but has an assumed freedom from
the verisimilitude or plausibility which is expected from the realistic novel because
its prevailing elements are adventure, fantasy, improbability, extravagance and
myth. The Leaderstocking Tales is neither a sentimental novel nor a realistic one,
but a romance, where any social criticism is expressed through the allegorical
The Last of the Mohicans is an example of the romance, even though the
author wanted it to be read as a historical narrative, as its subtitle A Narrative of


1757- implies. It represents a curious blending of factual history with romantic

fiction. In addition to the variety of written and oral historical sources, the author of
this book reveals an unmistakable indebtedness to the conventions of several
literary genres, such as captivity narrative, the historical romance and the epic
Some of the charges levelled against Coopers frontier novels focus on the
issue of his literary treatment of Native Americans. In the introduction added to the
1831 edition of The Last of the Mohicans, the author established the stereotyped
image of the Indian warrior, which he supposed completely true to live. The Indian
allies of the English are depicted as noble savages, whereas the Indian allies of the
French are called demons of hell, risky devils
Both good and bad Indians have something in common: they are
perceived as unable to become acculturated or civilized because they are seem as
radically different from Euro-Americans and hopelessly (not temporarily) unequal.
This is nowadays called the ideology of savagism, whose emphasis on the radical
otherness of Indians leads to the conclusion that indigenous people cannot become
assimilated or integrated into American society.
Cooper does not leave his audience undisturbed about any moral
responsibility concerning the destruction of the race, for in his novels the alcohol
introduced by the colonists is the symbol of the corroding and degrading effects of
This book formulates a theory of racial difference which is linked to the
ideology of savagism. Through the novel, racial purity or purity of blood is an
important value. Natty recurrently boasting that there is no cross in his blood is a
genuine white raised by the Mohicans after the death of his English parents. The
fact that he is the prototypical White Indian, that is, a man of European descent
who has all the skills of the Indian and partakes the virtues of both groups, does
not affect his racial purity at all. The miscegenation issue is raised in the novel by
the presence of Cora Munro, who is of black-white mixed ancestry, having been
born to Colonel Munros first wife, the crossbred daughter of a West Indian
gentleman and a slave. The duality of a dark heroin (Cora) and a fair one (Alice,
born to Munros Scottish second wife) has become an issue of debate. Among the
reasons suggested by critics to explain Coras death, there seems to be a consensus
about the politics of racial separatism. The potential marriage between the dark
heroin and Uncas would have harmoniously united three main racial strands of
colonial America, but their deaths eliminate that possibility.
Cooper had a great concern for visual accuracy and intensity in his narrative
description and he skilfully unified vivid descriptions with the report of fast-paced
actions in order to achieve colour and suspense. Since report, which is the essential
mode of fiction, is chiefly marked by the use of action verbs.
In the early Puritan narratives all the events were not the result of
unexplained chaos but part of the divine plan, and their publication was an act of
Christian duty. But the 19th Century, however, what basically remained was a total
and almost incomprehensible violence (often depicted for commercial purposes)
which filled readers with a burning hatred of the Native Peoples.
Echoes of Miltons Paradise Lost have been perceived in the satanic Magua,
who is compared to the Prince of Darkness, brooding on his own fancied wrongs
and plotting evil. Coopers extensive use of Miltonic allusion proves that the English
poet provided him with a model to depict Magua with the grandeur of the Fallen
Irving has often been contrasted with Cooper, whose narrative voice conveys a
more powerful self-assurance and whose writings have always been considered
more combative. Although both writers were for a time expatriate American
celebrities in Europe, and both were influenced by Sir Walter Scott, in many ways
Cooper appears as the antithesis of Irving.


He is one of the great writers of the American Renaissance. The Immense
popularity he already enjoyed in his lifetime was mainly due to the attraction that
many of his fellow citizens felt for the liberal ideas he passionately propounded. Still
concerned about their intellectual dependence upon the European past, they
welcomed his proposal to construct a new culture based upon direct contact with
nature, hoping that an unmediated approach to the beautiful scenery of their own
country would set them free from any oppressive foreign domination. He actively
helped a number of his contemporary writers through practical advice, personal
connections, financial support and editorial efforts. He always represented himself
as an experimenter, a questioner and a seeker, rather than a guide signalling the
path for everyone to follow.
He was a proponent of the philosophical and literary movement called
Transcendentalism. He gradually developed scepticism toward Christianity and had
increasing trouble accepting the authority of the Bible. Having analysed his own
emotions, he reached the conclusion that the individual religious experiences of
each person were much more important than the dogma and ritual of religious
Nature (1836), showed the influence of idealistic philosophies and
manifested a way of thinking which would be labelled Transcendentalism. Emerson
himself credited Kant with the invention of the term to describe the idealism of his
time, in opposition to the empiricism of Locke, who regarded the mind of a person
at birth as a tabula rassa, whereas Kant believed that there were ideas or forms
which did not come by experience, but were intuitions of the mind itself, and he
called them transcendental forms.
Nature became the founding document or manifesto for the symposium of
friends who would be known by the name of the Transcendental Club. The members
of the Club were dissatisfied with the contemporary American establishment and
considered themselves as the renewers of spiritual life, whereas most conservatives
regarded Transcendentalism as dangerous to the church, to all forms of organized
religion and even to society in general. The members wanted to transcend the limits
imposed by tradition, by placing each persons trust in ones own inner voice, rather
than in society.
In 1837 Emerson delivered the lecture entitled The American Scholar, in
which he expressed some practical aspects of Transcendentalism. He encouraged
young Americans to free themselves from dependency on old European models, and
to be confident in their abilities to experiment and create their own civilization
rather than to rely on European traditions and values.
In Divinity School Address the major thesis was that truth cannot be
presented as a group of conventional doctrines or creeds because it cannot be
received at second hand.
Emerson wrote poetry throughout his life. He rebelled against the
conventions of traditional poetry by using awkward rhythms and changing metre. In
his search for a new flexible style, he struggled to break out of the rigid forms that
had characterized poetry, and liked to experiment with irregularities in rhythm,
rhyme and line length. As a result, his poetry displays a considerable range:
quatrains and long poems; rhymed, blank and experimental verse; elegies, lyrics
and hymns. The themes of his poetry were a fusion of the everyday and what he


considered to be universal truths. He gave priority to content over formal aspects;

he often sacrificed music to meaning.
Composed in 1845 and first published in Poems (1847). It was inspired by
his reading of one of the late Hindu scriptures, Vishnu Purana. Emerson transforms
the name of Maitreya into Hamatreya, and uses him as the speaker of his poem,
which deals with the issue of ownership. The landlords see their crops as a result of
their work, rather than as a result of natures processes.
The Earth-Song, a poem within Hamatreya, is Natures answer to the
landlords assertions of ownership: it is actually Nature that has the ownership of
man. There is a change in line, stanza and diction. The lines are shortened and are
broken into stanzas; the language becomes more formal. This change brings
attention to the contrast between the landlords and Natures viewpoint.
In the last stanza of the poem, Hamatreya speaks about himself. He is so
completely converted to Natures way of thinking that he adopts Natures language
structure. Natures though corresponds to Emersons and the Transcendentalists
view of nature, it does not correspond to the Hindu way of thinking.



1. Introduction

Although Henry Thoreau was considered a minor literary figure for quite a long
time, he has recently become one of the major American authors of the nineteenth
century. His mastery of the English language has been acclaimed by some critics.
His higly allusive prose, often dismissed in the past for being too difficult, now is
admired for being "beatiful, vigorous and supple15". Nowadays, his fame rests
almost entirely on Walden and the essay "Civil Disobedience".

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), American writer, philosopher, and

naturalist who believed in the importance of individualism.
He attended Harvard University, where he studied the Classics and foreign
languages such as Italian, French, German and Spanish.
He became one of most influential writers and thinkers of the
Transcendentalist Movement, together with Emerson and Margaret Fuller.
Thoreaus best-known work is Walden; or, Life in the Woods (1854), which
embodies his philosophy and reflects his independent character. The book
records Thoreaus experiences in a hand-built cabin, where he spent two
years in partial seclusion, at Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts.
He was committed to the abolitionist cause, and was sent to jail for refusing
to pay poll tax. Resistance to Civil Government (or Civil Disobedience,
1849), was the result of that gesture, and in it Thoreau expressed the
superiority of moral law over social law.

2. Henry David Thoreau

2.1 About Thoreau and his mind

In his own lifetime Henry Thoreau published only a hanful of essays and poems in
several magazines and two volumes, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers
(1849) and Walden (1854), both examples of nature writing.
Nature Writing : This genre, which started in the final decades of the 18th
century, became popular precisely thanks to Thoreau, a pioneer in the battle to
save natural resources, the father of the nodern conservationist movements.


Easy to bend; limber, able to move and bend with ease; compliant, adaptable, soft.


[]16 Nature has played a central role in poems and stories spanning all of
human history. Nature was an intrinsic part of ancient Chinese, Japanese,
and Indian literature, as well as Western classics such as Homer's Iliad and
Odyssey, oral epics first written down in the 8th century B.C.
But none of these works is considered "nature writing" today. That genre
developed in the last couple of centuries in Europe and the United States -an
unintended by- product of the Industrial Age. Only when mechanization
began to sever our ties with nature did writers invent new forms to try to
repair the damage.
After Henry David Thoreau graduated from Harvard, he decided to spend a
couple of years in a cabin he built on the outskirts of Concord,
Massachusetts: "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,
to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it
had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
He once said, "What in othe men is religion is in me the love of nature."
Contemporary readers : Two of the features that attracts people to Henry
Thoreau today are his ideas and his moral integrity. His determination to put in
practise tje idealistic theories he learnt from Emerson. Invariably paired with
Emerson as two leading American Transcedentalists, Thoreau was the one who
most closely applied the Trascendentalist principles to his own life.
Thoreau read Nature (Emerson) in the spring if 1837, at the age of nineteen, and
was profundly impressed by this book, which propounded the novel idea that each
individual should seek the divine in the nature world.
2.2 Biography17
Henry Thoreau was born in Concord, Massachusetts, where his father established a
pencil-making business after failing at several shopkeeping ventures. His mother
was a strond dynamic person, member of the Bible Society, and a founder of the
Concord Womens Anti-Slavery Society. Both parents had a love of nature which
they fostered in all their children.
In 1828, after a few years in Concord's grammar school, Thoreau began attending
the Concord Academy. From 1833 to 1837 he attended Harvard College, studying
Latin, Greek, Maths, Philosophy, Theolofy, History and English. He also went beyond
the required curriculum by attending voluntary lectures on natural history and other
sciences. During his years of formal education he was not considered exceptional,
and he always remained critical of the teaching methods used at Harvard.
After graduating from Harvard Thoreau secured a teaching position at the Concord
Center School (public), but he resigned after just two weeks because he refused to
use corporal punishment on his charges. From 1838 until 1841 he and his older
brother John, taught a private school in Concord, using progressive methods, but
not quite three years because of Johns tuberculosis. In 1838 the two brothers
went on a two week boating excursion that Thoreau later memorialized in his first

Natura Magazine Article by Jonh Hamilton: It's the second week of environmental studies class at
the University of California at Berkeley. In this brief venture outdoors, Professor Robert Hass is trying to
get these brainy kids away from abstractions so they can really look at their surroundings.

Reading at "America Literature to 1900" by Teresa Gisbert and "Thoreau:The Man" by Bradley P. Dean


book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, published in 1849. After the
closing of the school, Thoreau never went back to school teaching again.
In 1840 Thoreau published poems and essays in the transcendentalist periodical,
The Dial, and from 1841 to 1843 he lived with the famous author and lecturer Ralph
Waldo Emerson and Emerson's family (Waldo's wife, Lidian, and two children) in
Concord. In 1842 John, Jr., died a painful death of lockjaw in Thoreau's arms, and
the following year Thoreau moved to Staten Island, New York, to tutor William
Emerson's children and to attempt to break into the New York literary market.
In 1845 Emerson gave him permission to build a cabin on his parcel of land on the
shores of Walden Pond, a mile and a half south of Concord Center. Thoreau moved
into this self-crafted cabin and stayed there for two years, two months and two
days, in order to live deliberately, to front only the essencial facts of the life. He
grew his own food, plating his bean field, potatoes and peas. He purposely insolated
himself so as to have time to meditate, read, write, and make friends with animals.
He was no hermita, he received visitors and walked into town frecuently.
In 1846, while still at the pond, he climbed to the summit of Mt. Katahdin while on
a visit to the Maine woods and spent one night in jail for refusing to pay his poll
tax. He later worked these experiences into lectures that were later still published
as the "Ktaadn" chapter of The Maine Woods and the famous, influential essay "Civil
Disobedience." Although the essay was almost ignored in ones Thoreaus lifetime,
it was to become onte of the best-known political tracts in history. It made a deep
impression on Mahatma Gandhi, who used its theory of civil disobedience for his
campaign of passive resistance to oppressive state power. Thoreaus thoughts also
inspires the Reverend Martin Luther King and other civil rigths activists fighting
racial segregation in the United States.
After leaving the house at the pond Thoreau stayed with the Emerson family again
while Ralph Waldo Emerson lectured in England. Thoreau returned to his parents's
home in 1848 and continued living with them as a boarder for the remainder of his
life. At about this time he began the routine of morning and evening study and
writing, and afternoon walks that were the foundation upon which he may be said
to have built his creative life.
Thoreau made the first of four trips to Cape Cod in 1849, and he later delivered
lectures about his experiences that were posthumously published as Cape Cod. The
following year he traveled to Quebec and wrote up that experience in a lecture
titled "An Excursion to Canada," partially published in 1853 as A Yankee in Canada.
His famous book Walden; or, Life in the Woods (later shortened at his request to
Walden) was published in 1854, and in that same year he delivered his lectureessay "Slavery in Massachusetts" at an Independence Day meeting of the American
Anti-Slavery Society.
In 1856 Thoreau traveled to Perth Amboy, New Jersey, to survey a large estate and
deliver three lectures. While there he visited Walt Whitman in nearby Brooklyn. In
1857 and 1858 he visited Cape Cod, the woods of Maine, and the White Mountains
of New Hampshire; and in the latter year he published what was to become the
second chapter of The Maine Woods, his essay "Chesuncook." In 1859 his father
died, and as a result he had to begin assuming more responsibility of the family's
plumbago business. The following year Thoreau lectured to his townsmen on "The
Succession of Forest Trees," and his lecture was shortly afterward published and
republished, receiving wider circulation than any of Thoreau's other writings during
his lifetime and cementing his reputation as a naturalist.
While counting tree rings on 3 December 1860 Thoreau contracted a cold that
quickly worsened into bronchitis. His lungs had long been tubercular, and Thoreau


was housebound for many weeks. During the summer of 1861 he traveled to
Minnesota in a vain effort to recover his health. Arriving back home he began
putting his affairs in order and began preparing for publication many of his late
lectures. He died of tuberculosis at his mother's home on Main Street in Concord on
6 May 1862, aged 44 years. He is buried in his family's plot near the graves of his
friends Hawthorne, Alcott, Emerson, and Channing on Author's Ridge in Concord's
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

3. Thoreau Works

3.1 Primary Works

Thoreau was particulary attracted to the Greek and Roman classics, English
literatura of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and the ancient Hindu scriptures.
He read the Dharma Shastra in 1841, when he was twenty-four, and the Bhagavad
Gita when he was twenty-eight.
One of the most interesting aspects of Thoreaus work is his social criticism, in
which he showed how deeply he cared about the problems of his contemporary
society. He believed that all reforms must begin with the individual, not with
society, but at the same time he realised that the reform of the individuals could
only occur if personal freedom was guaranteed by society.
A Week on the Concord And Merrimac Rivers (1849 )
This is a beautiful account of Thoreau's boat trip with his brother, John, from August
31 to September 13, 1839. The book is carefully organized with one chapter given
to each day of a week - experiences of two weeks condensed in one. It is an
excellent celebration of nature.
"Resistance to Civil Government" or "Civil Disobedience" (1849)
For failing to pay poll tax, Thoreau was sent to jail. The famous and influential
essay is the result of that gesture. Its message is simple and daring - he advocates
"actions through principles." If the demands of a government or a society are
contrary to an individual's conscience, it is his duty to reject them. Upholding moral
law as opposed to social law "divides the individual, separating the diabolical in him
from the divine." Inspired by Thoreau's message, Mahatma Gandhi organized a
massive resistance of Indians against the British occupation of India. Thoreau's
words have also inspired the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., the peace marchers and
the numerous conscientious-objectors to the Vietnam war.
Walden (1854)
Considered one of the all-time great books, Walden is a record of Thoreau's two
year experiment of living at Walden Pond. The writer's chief emphasis is on the
simplifications and enjoyment of life now. In one of the most useful studies of the
book, Walter Harding ("Five Ways of Looking at Walden," in Thoreau in Our Season,
edited by John Hicks, 1962, 44-57) discusses the broad appeal of this masterpiece
in terms of at least the following five approaches:
As a nature book.
As a do-it-yourself guide to simple life.
As a satirical criticism of modern life and living.
As a belletristic achievement.
As a spiritual book.


Thoreaus Poetry
Although Thoreau wrote a considerable number of poems, very few are regarded as
excellent. Among those which are well-known are "Light-Winged Smoke, Icarian
Bird," "I am a parcel of Vain Strivings Tied," "The Virgin," "A Winter and Spring
Scene," and "Low in the Eastern Sky." The common themes of Thoreau's poetry are
nature, impressions of life, and transcendental philosophy. It appears that
Thoreau's temperament was more suited to writing prose or, more appropriately,
poetic prose.
3.2 Walden
Walden is a complex and elusive text because it touches on a variety os subjects
and can be read at different levels. It is, among other things, the record of the
authors personal experience. Its long passages on political theory and moral
philosophy, however, turn it into much more than an authors autobiographical
Containig the history of the authors own relationship with nature, Walden shows
the characteristic precision of a natural history treatise written by a scientist. It
encompasses18 some of the typical features of pastoral poetry, and old literary
form which had evolved into a mode of thought that acquired an especially poignant
meaning when romanticism confronted the forces of the industrial revolution.
The book is also a parody of the popular success manuals, for it mimics their
language while offering a different concept of true wealth, not based upon the
accumulation of goods, but upon time to enjoy life.
Walden can be read as a travel narrative which is in fact an inward journey of
exploration to better know and improve oneself, since the goal of the authors
pilgrimage is spiritual progress.
In short, Walden had been defined as a celebration of a simple life in harmony with
nature. He condensed his narrative within the frame of one year, progressing in a
circular pattern through the four seasons and ending in spring, thus involving
readers in the cycle of nature.
3.3 Vocabulary
From Walden, or Life in the Woods (1854).
First chapters extracts, Economy, cited in American Literature to 1900.





mayor parte de
orilla, costa, ribera
estrechez de miras
estirar, poner a prueba


Surrond, enclose, hem in, circumscribe .


Clarifying words___

offer or force upon others

to strech


rid of


blundering oracle


deshacerse de
tierra de cultivo
tierra labrada
cultivo de rboles

area of land for growing

obstculo, molestia
carne, cuerpo
to plow
desde antao
orculo/profeta que comete
errores estpidos, graves
arrancados, tirados
to pluck
ratas de agua, almizcleras
escondido, oculto
to conceal
acto hazaa
traer, coger
to a great extent en mayor o menor medida
perspicaz, sutil


His emergence as a great writer, beyond his previous and still current
celebration as a cultural hero of radical dissent, is mainly due to the fact that late
20th Century scholarship has drawn attention to his artistic achievement, in
particular to his development of a distinctive literary voice. Nowadays his fame
rests almost entirely on Walden and the essay Civil Disobedience both of them
widely translated and extremely influential in the whole world.
A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers and Walden are examples of
nature writing. This genre, which started in the final decades of the 18th Century,
became popular precisely thanks to Thoreau, a pioneer in the battle to save natural
resources, the acknowledged father of modern conservationist movements.
He put in practice the idealistic theories that he learnt from Emerson, who
played for him the role of friend and of a kind of surrogate father. He worked for the
Emersons as a handyman and in 1845 he moved into his self-crafted cabin and
stayed there for two years, two months and two days (a so-called sojourn of twos)
in order to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life. In that peaceful
area he purposely isolated himself so as to have time to meditate, read, write, and
make friends with animals, but he was no hermit.
In 1846, as Thoreau walked into Concord to have one of his shoes repaired,
he was arrested and put in jail overnight for refusing to pay the poll tax, in protest
against slavery and the Mexican War. To explain his position, Thoreau delivered a
lecture before the Concord Lyceum. This initial piece of oratory led to the
publication of Civil Disobedience. His main thesis is that if the demands of a
government are contrary to an individuals conscience, it is ones duty to reject
Walden is a complex and elusive text because it touches on a variety of
subjects and can be read at different levels. Its long passages on political theory


and moral philosophy turn it into much more than an autobiographical piece. While
containing the history of the authors own relationship with nature, Walden shows
the characteristic precision of a natural history treatise written by a scientist. The
book is also a parody of the popular success manuals for it mimics their language
while offering a different concept of true wealth, not based upon the accumulation
of goods, but upon time to enjoy life. Walden can be read as a travel narrative
which is in fact an inward journey of exploration to better know and improve
oneself, since the goal of the authors pilgrimage is spiritual progress. Although he
spent over two years at Walden Pond, he condensed his narrative within the frame
of one year, progressing in a circular pattern through the four seasons and ending
in spring, thus involving readers in the cycle of nature. He used quotations of Greek
and Rome classics, English literature of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and
the ancient Hindu scriptures.
One of the most interesting aspects of Thoreaus work is his social criticism.
He believed that all reforms must begin with the individual, not with society, but at
the same time he realised that the reform of individuals could only occur if personal
freedom was guaranteed by society. He identified with Native Americans, for he felt
a special affinity with their attitude to nature.
When Thoreau died of tuberculosis, Emerson preached the eulogy at his
funeral. This funeral oration has become the most famous essay on Thoreau.
Emerson honestly came to think that Thoreau had wasted his talents in his solitary
observation of natural phenomena. Much of the rebellion that Thoreau gradually
developed against Emerson was due to his need to free himself from an imposing
intellectual father and master figure.
Emersons expression tends towards abstraction, whereas Thoreau presents
experience through concrete images. Emersons outbursts are in sharp contrast
with the matter-of-fact voice with which Thoreau turns the commonplace into the
Thoreaus writings are highly allusive, his allusions not being restricted to
literary works, but extended to many features of his contemporary world. In
particular, as a witness to the industrial revolution, he felt both fascinated by
technology and threatened by an excessive dependence upon it.
Some parts of Walden can be read as a satirical criticism of modern life
written by a radical moral reformer.


Romance: a fictitious narrative in prose or in verse, the interest of which turns
upon marvelous and uncommon incidents. (Sir Walter Scott)
Novel: is presumed to aim at a very minute fidelity, not merely to the possible,
but to the probable and ordinary course of mans experience. (N. Hawthorne).
Also called realistic novel.
Allegory: there is a double meaning that allows a story to be interpreted on two
levels: a primary or surface level and a secondary or deep level, which is
understood through the first. Points to a referent which stands outside itself and
demands a strict correspondence between the concrete and the abstract idea it
represents. Often used to convey moral messages or teach ethical principles.
Closely related to fable and parable.
Allegory: is apt to spoil two good things a story and a moral, a meaning and a
form. (Henry James).
is able to embody abstract realities and allows for multiple
possibilities of meaning, e.g. the symbolic function of the pink ribbons, as the
colour pink is a mixture of white (associated with purity and innocence) and red
(linked with passion and the scarlet of depravity), it may symbolize the inevitable
coexistence of good and evil in human nature.
Impartial omniscience: does not allow the narrator any evaluation of the
characters or judgment about the reported events, which are supposed to be
treated objectively.
Meaning: what a work means for its author.
Significance: what a work signifies for its readers.
Short Stories
Aside from his importance as a novelist, Hawthorne is justly celebrated as a shortstory writer. He helped to establish the American short story as a significant art
form with his haunting tales of human loneliness, frustration, hypocrisy,
eccentricity, and frailty. Among his most brilliant stories are The Ministers Black
Veil, Roger Malvins Burial, Young Goodman Brown, Rappaccinis Daughter,
The Great Stone Face, and Ethan Brand.
The fiction of Hawthorne is of an individual and rare distinction. He had a great
curiosity as to exceptional and even morbid types of character; he loved to explore
the more mysterious influences that play upon the human spirit; and he was
especially devoted to the study of the workings of conscience. His most powerful
work, The Scarlet Letter, presents the classic picture of Puritan New England, but
its fundamental truth to human nature and its profound analysis of emotion give it


a value far beyond that of an interpretation of a bygone epoch. Rappaccinis

Daughter, which here represents his short stories, is a characteristic instance of his
treatment of the weird and mysterious. Both stories exemplify a quality which, as
much as his reading of character, have given him a place among the greater English
novelistshis almost perfect style. No American writer and few English have
attained such a mastery of prose.
This marked love of cases of conscience, says M. Montgut, this taciturn, scornful
cast of mind, this habit of seeing sin everywhere and hell always gaping open, this
dusky gaze bent always upon a damned world and a nature draped in mourning,
these lonely conversations of the imagination with the conscience, this pitiless
analysis resulting from a perpetual examination of ones self, and from the tortures
of a heart closed before men and open to Godall these elements of the Puritan
character have passed into Mr. Hawthorne, or to speak more justly, have filtered
into him, through a long succession of generations. This is a very pretty and very
vivid account of Hawthorne, superficially considered; and it is just such a view of
the case as would commend itself most easily and most naturally to a hasty critic.
It is all true indeed, with a difference; Hawthorne was all that M. Montgut says,
minus the conviction. The old Puritan moral sense, the consciousness of sin and
hell, of the fearful nature of our responsibilities and the savage character of our
Taskmasterthese things had been lodged in the mind of a man of fancy whose
fancy had straightway begun to take liberties and play tricks with themto judge
them (Heaven forgive him!) from the poetic and sthetic point of view, the point of
view of entertainment and irony. This absence of conviction makes the difference;
but the difference is great.From Nathaniel Hawthorne (1879).
ALL Hawthornes work is one form or another of handling sin. He had the
Puritan sense of it in the blood, and the power to use it artistically in the brain. With
Tolstoi, he is the only novelist of the soul, and he is haunted by what is obscure,
dangerous, and on the confines of good and evil; by what is abnormal,
indeed, if we are to accept human nature as a thing set within responsible
limits, and conscious of social relations. Of one of his women he says that she
was plucked up out of a mystery, and had its roots still clinging to her. It is what is
mysterious, really, in the soul that attracts him. When we find ourselves fading into
shadows and unrealities: that is when he cares to concern himself with humanity.
And, finding the soul, in its essence, so intangible, so mistlike, so unfamiliar with
the earth, he lays hold of what to him is the one great reality, sin, in order that he
may find out something definite about the soul, in its most active, its most
interesting, manifestations
To Hawthorne what we call real life was never very real, and he has given, as no
other novelist has given, a picture of life as a dream, in which the dreamers
themselves are, at intervals, conscious that they are dreaming. At a moment
of spiritual crisis, as at that moment when Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale
meet in the forest, he can render their mental state only through one of his ghostly
images: It was no wonder that they thus questioned one anothers actual bodily
existence, and even doubted of their own. So strangely did they meet, in the dim
wood, that it was like the first encounter, in the world beyond the grave, of two
spirits, who had been intimately connected in their former life, but now stood coldly
shuddering in mutual dread, as not wonted to this companionship of disembodied
spirits. To Hawthorne, by a strange caprice or farsightedness of temperament,
the supreme emotion comes only under the aspect of an illusion, for the
first time recognized as being real, that is, really an illusion. He himself, as
was perceptible by many symptoms, he says of Clifford, lay darkly behind his
pleasure and knew it to be a baby-play, which he was to toy and trifle with, instead
of thoroughly believing. To Clifford, it is mental ruin, a kind of exquisite imbecility,
which brings this consciousness; to Hester Prynne, to Arthur Dimmesdale, to


Donatello, to Miriam, it is sin. Each, through sin, becomes real, and perceives
something of the truth.
In this strange pilgrims progress, the first step is a step outside the bounds of
some moral or social law, by which the soul is isolated, for its own torture and
benefit, from the rest of the world. All Hawthornes stories are those of
persons whom some crime, or misunderstood virtue, or misfortune, has set
by themselves, or in a worse companionship of solitude. Hester Prynne
stood apart from moral interests, yet close beside them, like a ghost that revisits
the familiar fireside, and can no longer make itself seen or felt. The link between
Hester and Arthur Dimmesdale, between Miriam and Donatello, was the iron link of
mutual crime, which neither he nor she could break. Like all other sins, it brought
along with it its obligations. Note how curious the obsession by which Hawthorne
can express the force of the moral law, the souls bond with itself, only through the
consequences of the breaking of that law! And note, also, with how perfect a
sympathy he can render the sensation itself, what is exultant, liberating, in a strong
sin, not yet become ones companion and accuser. For, guilt has its rapture, too.
The foremost result of a broken law is ever an ecstatic sense of freedom.From
Studies in Prose and Verse (1904).
Young Goodman Brown" was influenced by this Puritan heritage; by Hawthorne's
personality which had acquired a skeptical, dual-outlook on life; and by
Hawthorne's mental and moral beliefs that he revealed. Hawthorne struggles with
his own morality within his own biographical framework in "Young Goodman
Brown." Brown chose to see that all were evil and lost his chance at
redemption when he chose to isolate himself and to "shrink from his Faith"
and fellow man.
Hawthorne used Young Goodman Brown to create an awareness similar to that of
the Journey of Justification. Hawthorne intended for the reader to become
aware of the depravity accompanied by sin. He intended for the reader to
view the reality of sin and the terror of the human hell that was revealed to Brown.
However, Hawthorne also intended for his reader to take that awareness and use it
to better deal with life. Isolation from society and complete rejection of all
who have sinned could only lead to a miserable and desperate end.
Hawthorne poses the dangerous question of the relations of Good and Evil in man
but withholds his answer. Nor does he permit himself to determine whether the
events . . . are real (Fogle 16). That way the complete interpretation of Young
Goodman Brown is left up to the reader, according to his/her own life, mind, forms
of Justification, beliefs, fears and of course, hell.
Using Jungian ideas, Benoit provides a psychoanalytic reading of Young
Goodman Brown. Benoit focuses on Jungs Psychology and Religion to
achievement . . . Young Goodman Browns dream in the tale, represents
the struggle of his conscious and unconscious ideals of marriage. In
Browns unconscious dream he uncovers sexual feelings in which he refers
to as gotten him into trouble. Browns submission during the forest
scene erases his marriage, which is annulled at least psychologically in
the revelation of his deep feelings . . . because he is repelled by
Some students find Hawthorne too gloomy, too dense, and too complex. And few
understand Puritan beliefs about self, sin, and America's moral mission as they
evolved into the antithetical beliefs of transcendentalism. Even fewer recognize
how persistently Hawthorne involves the reader in his own efforts to probe such


Significant Form, Style, or Artistic Conventions

1. Sketch versus tale and short story.
2. Romance versus novel.
3. Characters: recurrent "types" and interrelationships; authorial intrusion or
objective display; heroism, villainy, and what Hawthorne seems to condemn,
admire, or sadly accept.
4. Image clusters and patterns (for example, dark versus light, natural versus
unnatural, sunshine and firelight versus moonlight and reflections, labyrinths).
5. Subjective vision (including fantasies, reveries, dreams, and narrator's questions
about objective "reality.")
6. Narrative antecedents, including biblical parable, Spenserian romance, allegory
(Dante, Bunyan, and others), Gothic horror tales, sentimental love stories, old
wives' tales, fairy tales, and so on.
7. Reworking of notebook entries into fiction, and the relationship between earlier
works and later ones.
8. Hawthorne's open-ended endings.
9. The relation of prefaces and expository introductions to Hawthorne's plots.
Reasons for Hawthorne's Current Popularity
1. One of the most modern of writers, Hawthorne is relevant in theme and
attitude. According to H. H. Waggoner, Hawthorne's attitudes use irony,
ambiguity, and paradox.
Hawthorne rounds off the puritan cycle in American writing belief in the existence of an active evil (the devil) and in a
sense of determinism (the concept of predestination).
Hawthorne's use of psychological analysis (pre-Freudian) is of interest
In themes and style, Hawthorne's writings look ahead to Henry James,
William Faulkner, and Robert Penn Warren.
Major Themes in Hawthorne's Fiction
Alienation - a character is in a state of isolation because of self-cause,
or societal cause, or a combination of both.
Initiation - involves the attempts of an alienated character to get rid of
his isolated condition.
Problem of Guilt -a character's sense of guilt forced by the puritanical
heritage or by society; also guilt vs. innocence.
Pride - Hawthorne treats pride as evil. He illustrates the following
aspects of pride in various characters: physical pride (Robin), spiritual
pride (Goodman Brown, Ethan Brand), and intellectual pride
Puritan New England - used as a background and setting in many tales.
Italian background - especially in The Marble Faun.
Allegory - Hawthorne's writing is allegorical, didactic and
8. Other themes include individual vs. society, self-fulfilment vs.
accommodation or frustration, hypocrisy vs. integrity, love vs. hate,
exploitation vs. hurting, and fate vs. free will.
Influences on Hawthorne
Salem - early childhood, later work at the Custom House.
Puritan family background - one of his forefathers was Judge Hathorne,
who presided over the Salem witchcraft trials, 1692.
Belief in the existence of the devil.
Belief in determinism.



He is one of the major writers of the American Renaissance, the richest
period in the literary history of the United States. Our age values irony, paradox,
symbolic complexity, psychological depth, subtlety, density of composition and the
clever use of deliberate ambiguities that allow readers to speculate about divergent
meanings. As a result, these are the qualities most commonly appreciated in
Hawthornes writings today. At present, there is a tendency to view his work as a
revolt against the sentimentalized literary culture of his time, particularly against
the damned mob of scribbling women, as he scornfully called the female writers
who were responding to a vast new readership of middle-class women.
He is known by his purity of style. Later scholars have analyzed his use of a
grammatically complex and rhetorically subtle mode of literary discourse. He
deliberately employed archaisms.
One of his ancestors served as a magistrate in the Salem witchcraft trials of
1692, and Nathaniel was clearly ashamed of this heritage.
He wrote over a hundred short stories, essays and sketches, and four long
works of fiction: The Scarlet letter, The House of the Seven Gables, The Blithedale
Romance and The Marble Faun. He insisted that they should be judged as
romances, that is, as examples of a genre he would eventually call psychological
romance. Sir Walter Scott had defined romance as a fictitious narrative in prose or
in verse, the interest of which turns upon marvellous and uncommon incidents. In
the preface to The House of the Seven Gables Hawthorne remarked that a novel is
presumed to aim at a very minute fidelity, not merely to the possible, but to the
probable and ordinary course of mans experience. This is basically how the
realistic novel is defined today. Rather than strive for verisimilitude, he wished to be
able to incorporate mysterious or supernatural elements.
Hawthornes fiction deals with intricate moral problems whose resolution is
often ambiguous. He found many of his literary materials in the colonial history of
New England and its Puritan past, which he carefully studied and frequently mined
for his writings.
Since Hawthorne always expressed his clearest convictions through allegory,
it is not surprising that his real stand on Puritanism was revealed through his
innovative used of this mode. In allegory there is a double meaning that allows a
story to be interpreted on two levels: a primary or surface level and a secondary or
deep level, which is understood through the first. Allegory is often used to convey
moral messages or teach ethical principles. Hawthorne appropriated the allegorical
rhetoric of Puritan culture for his own subversive purposes, that is, he turned the
Puritan allegorical method against the Puritans themselves. There is a basic
difference between allegory and symbolism. Allegory points to a referent which
stands outside itself, and it demands a strict correspondence between the concrete
and the abstract idea it represents. In contrast, symbolism is able to embody
abstract realities and allows for multiple possibilities of meaning.
Young Goodman Brown (1835)
The author allegorizes evil and what the characters represent is manifest from their
names. The meaning of the journey is evident, because it has been a typical motif
in allegorical writings since ancient times, but that of the forest has been the
subject of much speculation. It has even been contended that, when Brown enters
the forest, he is really entering his own evil mind.
Witchcraft stories were popular among the magazine audiences and he may have
drawn some details from them. His most important debt was to the historical
background of the witchcraft delusion of 1692. Hawthorne viewed the whole
episode and other incidents of the same nature as the direct tragic result of the
intolerance of the New England Puritans.


There is one aspect of the Salem witchcraft trials that is particularly relevant in
Hawthornes tale: spectral evidence (through some kind of satanic intervention, the
mysterious simulacra of certain humans could suddenly appear in places remote
from the locations of their actual being).
Its protagonist does not represent orthodox Calvinism as exemplified by firstgeneration Puritans, but a declining form of religion held by a troubled and
confused third generation of Puritans who were the historical victims of an altered
relationship with God. Brown proudly felt himself justified, he did not behave as a
genuine saint, but as an extremely nave, immature, over-confident and
presumptuous third-generation Puritan.
The colour pink of the ribbons is a mixture of white (associated with purity and
innocence) and red (linked with passion and the scarlet of depravity), it may
symbolize the inevitable coexistence of good and evil in human nature.
Although recent critics tend to consider this author as a sceptic or an agnostic
whose interest in Puritan conscience was intellectual and whose biblical allusions
were intended to question Providence, there is a strong Calvinistic strain in his
work, particularly evident in his distrust of human nature.
Meaning: what a work means for its author.
Significance: what a work signifies for its readers.


Unit 14
Herman Melville (1819 1891)
(American Renaissance)
Melville could be irreverent sometimes, he was always far from being cheerful.
Ishmaels mocking allusion to Adam and Eve as the two orchard thieves.
The exciting adventures and remote settings of Melvilles sea novels. I am
tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote.
Both Hawthorne and Melville knew each other will and held their works in high
mutual esteem. Although Melville was a prolific writer who also published other
novels, short stories and poetry, he is mainly remembered nowadays as the author
of Moby-Dick, a masterpiece that many consider the greatest American novel of all
Melville originally intended Moby-Dick to be a romance of adventure. Melville
deliberately fashioned Ishmael, the narrator of Moby-Dick, as a projection of
himself in many ways. Through him, he voices his own preoccupation with the
problem of innate depravity and original sin. Melvilles pessimistic spirit made him
particularly aware of the dark side of humanity and led him to consider the white
civilized man as the most ferocious animal on the face of the earth.
Melville was no believer, but a sceptic.
In his romance, he felt absolutely free to mix fact and fancy, and consequently he
used many different kinds of materials.
Some literary critics have pointed out that Melville is Americas most Shakespearian
writer. It was the English dramatist who made him understand the nature of
tragedy and incorporate it into his work. Apart from the influence of Shakespeare
and other literary classics, Moby-Dick presents features derived from subliterary
popular genres such as the sensational yellow novels that were widely read at the
time and the grotesque native humour that so many Americans enjoyed, mixed
with scientific discussions and philosophical speculations.
Confluence: literary phenomenon by which writers nurtured in the same cultural
atmosphere may be alike in many respects and develop similar traits not
attributable to the direct impact of one on the other. This concept can be useful
when considering Melvilles use of symbolic allegory, which is related to, but not
derived from Hawthornes.
White whale: may represent the spirit of evil, or it may be an agent for the
justice of heaven to punish Ahabs defiance of God, or the ultimate mystery of the
universe, if it is taken as a symbol of natures creative and destructive powers.
When the narrator anlyses the symbol of whiteness, he makes it stand for


nothingness, an absence of color, a colorless, all-color of atheism, an abstraction

devoid of any concrete meaning.
First-person narrator is a specially-created persona or construct. Ishmael is both
the first-person narrator and a character in the novel.
4 main narrative modes:
Foreshadowing: is a device used in literature to create expectations or to set up
an explanation of later developments. Throughout the book, there is a sense that
people are driving on to their doom although, paradoxically, the character who is
most obsessed with death from the very beginning is the only survivor at the end,
e.g. references to death in Loomings (coffin warehouses, every funeral I meet)
these foreshadowing the final catastrophe.
Main Themes:
Ahab as a Blasphemous Figure: A major assumption that runs through Moby
Dick is that Ahab's quest against the great whale is a blasphemous activity, even
apart from the consequences that it has upon its crew. This blasphemy takes
two major forms: the first type of blasphemy to prevail within Ahab is
hubris, the idea that Ahab thinks himself the equal of God. The second type
of blasphemy is a rejection of God altogether for an alliance with the devil.
Melville makes this point explicit during various episodes of the novel, such as the
instance in which Gabriel warns Ahab to "think of the blasphemer's end" (Chapter
71: The Jeroboam's Story) and the appraisal of Ahab from Peleg in which he
designates him as an ungodly man (Chapter 16: The Ship).
The idea that Ahab's quest for Moby Dick is an act of defiance toward God
assuming that Ahab is omnipotent first occurs before Ahab is even introduced
during Father Mapple's sermon. The lesson of the sermon, which concerns the story
of Jonah and the whale, is to warn against the blasphemous idea that a ship can
carry a man into regions where God does not reign. Ahab parallels this idea when
he compares himself to God as the lord over the Pequod (Chapter 109: Ahab and
Starbuck in the Cabin). Melville furthers this idea through the prophetic dream that
Fedallah tells Ahab that causes Ahab to conclude that he is immortal.
Nevertheless, a more disturbing type of blasphemy also emerges during
the course of the novel in which Ahab does not merely believe himself
omnipotent, but aligns himself with the devil during his quest. Ahab remains
in collaboration with Fedallah, a character rumored by Stubb to be the devil himself,
and when Ahab receives his harpoon he asks that it be baptized in the name of the
devil, not in the name of the father.
The Whale as a Symbol of Unparalleled Greatness: When Melville, through
Ishmael, describes the Sperm Whale during the many non-narrative chapters of
Moby Dick, the idea that the whale has no parallel in excellence recurs as a nearly
labored point. Melville approaches this theme from a variety of standpoints,
whether biological or historical, in order to prove the superiority of the whale
over all other creatures. During a number of occasions Melville relates
whaling to royal activity, as when he notes the strong devotion of Louis
XVI to the whaling industry and considers the whale as a delicacy fit for
only the most civilized. In additional, Melville cites the Indian legends of Vishnoo,
the god who became incarnate in a whale. Even when discussing the whale in mere


aesthetic terms Melville lauds it for its features, devoting an entire chapter (42) to
the whiteness of the whale, while degrading those artists who falsely depict the
The theme of the excellence of the whale serves to place Ahab's quest against Moby
Dick as, at best, a virtually insurmountable task in which he is doomed to failure.
Melville constructs the whale as a figure that cannot be easily vanquished, if it can
be defeated at all.
The Whale as an Undefinable Figure: While Melville uses the whale as a
symbol of excellence, he also resists any literal interpretation of that excellence
by refusing to equate the species with any concrete object or idea. For Melville, the
whale is an indefinite figure, as best shown in "The Whiteness of the Whale"
(Chapter 42). Melville defines the whiteness as absence of color and thus
finds the whale as having an absence of meaning. Melville bolsters this
premise that the whale cannot be defined through the various stories that Ishmael
tells in which scholars, historians and artists misinterpret the whale in their
respective fields. Indeed, the extended discussion of the various aspects of the
whale also serve this purpose; by detailing the various aspects of the whale in their
many forms, Melville makes the whale an even more inscrutable figure whose
essence cannot be described through its history or physiognomy.
The recurring failed attempts to find a concrete definition of the whale leave the
Sperm Whale, and Moby Dick more specifically, as abstract and devoid of any
concrete meaning. By allowing the whale to exist as a mysterious figure, Melville
does not pin the whale down as an easy metaphorical parallel, but instead leaves a
multiplicity of various interpretations for Moby Dick.
A more personalized interpretation for the thematic significance of the inability to
define the whale relates to Ahab's comparison of Moby Dick to a mask that
obscures the unknown reasoning that he seeks. In this interpretation, the inability
to define a whale is significant not in itself, but because it stands in the way of
greater reasoning and understanding.
Moby Dick as a Part of Ahab: Throughout the novel, Melville creates a
relationship between Ahab and Moby Dick despite the latter's absence until the final
three chapters through the recurrence of elements creating a close relationship
between Ahab and the whale. The most significant of these is the actual physical
presence of the Sperm Whale as part of Ahab's body in the form of Ahab's ivory leg.
The whale is a physical part of Ahab in this instance; it is literally a part of Ahab.
Melville also develops this theme through the uncanny sense that Ahab has for the
whale. Ahab has a nearly psychic sense of Moby Dick's presence, and more
tragically, the idea of Moby Dick perpetually haunts the formidable captain. This
theme serves in part to better explain the depth of emotion behind Ahab's quest for
the whale; as a living presence that haunts Ahab's life, he feels that he must
continue on his quest no matter the cost.
The Contrast between Civilized and Pagan Society: The relationship between
Queequeg and Ishmael throughout Moby Dick generally illustrates the prevalent
contrast between civilized, specifically Christian societies and uncivilized, pagan
societies. The continued comparisons and contrasts between these two types of
societies is often favorable for Melville, particularly in the discussion of Queequeg,
the most idealized character in the novel, whose uncivilized and imposing
appearance only obscures his actual honor and civilized demeanor. In this respect,
Melville is fit simply to deconstruct Queequeg and place him in entirely sympathetic
terms, finding the characters from civilized and from uncivilized societies to be
virtually identical. Nevertheless, Melville does not include these thematic elements


simply for a lesson on other cultures; a recurring theme equates non-Christian

societies with diabolical behavior, particularly when in reference to Ahab. Ahab
specifically chooses the three pagan characters' blood when he wishes to temper his
harpoon in the name of the devil, while the most obviously corrupt character in
Moby Dick is conspicuously the Persian Fedallah, whom the other characters believe
to be Satan in disguise. With the exception of Queequeg, equating the pagan
characters with Satan does align with the general religious overtones of the novel,
one which presumes Christianity as its basis and moral ground.
The Sea as a Place of Transition: In Moby Dick, the sea represents a
transitional place between two distinct states. Melville shows this early on in
the case of Queequeg and the other Isolatoes (Daggoo and Tashtego), who
represents the transition from uncivilized to civilized society unbound by any
specific nationality, but in an overwhelming amount of cases this transitional theme
relates to the precarious line between life and death. There are a number of
characters who teeter at the brink between life and death, whether literally or
metaphorically, throughout Moby Dick. Queequeg again proves to be an example:
during his illness he prepares for death and in fact remains in his own coffin waiting
for illness to overtake him, but it never does (Chapter 110: Queequeg in his coffin).
The coffin itself becomes a transitional element several chapters later when the
carpenter converts it into a life-buoy and it thus comes to symbolize both the
saving of a life and the end of one (Chapter 126: The Life-Buoy).
Several of the minor characters in Moby Dick also exist in highly transitional states
between life and death. After Pippin jumps to his death from the whaling boat and
is saved only by chance, he loses his sanity and behaves as if a part of him, the
"infinite of his soul" had already died; essentially, the character becomes a shell of
a person waiting for death. Melville further elaborates this theme through the
blacksmith, who works on the sea primarily as a means to escape life. He came on
his journey to escape from the trappings of life after his family had died, and exists
on sea primarily as a passage before his eventual death.
Harbingers and Superstition: A recurring theme throughout Moby Dick is the
appearance of harbingers, superstitious and prophecies that foreshadow a tragic
end to the story. Even before Ishmael boards the Pequod, the Nantucket strangers
Elijah warns Ishmael and Queequeg against traveling with Captain Ahab. The
Parsee Fedallah also has a prophetic dream concerning Ahab's quest against Moby
Dick, dreaming of hearses (although he misinterprets the dream to mean that Ahab
will certainly kill Moby Dick). Indeed, the characters are bound by superstition and
myth: the only reason that the Pequod kills a Right Whale is the legend that a ship
will have good luck if it has the head of a Right Whale and the head of a Sperm
Whale on its opposing sides. An additional harbinger of doom found in Moby Dick
occurs when a hawk takes Ahab's hat, thus recalling the story of Tarquin and how
his wife Tanaquil predicted that it was a sign that he would become king of Rome.
The purpose of these omens throughout Moby Dick is to create a sense of
inevitability. Even from the beginning of the journey the Pequod's mission is
doomed by Captain Ahab, and the invocation of various omens serves to endow this
mission with a sense of grandeur and destiny. It is no suicide mission that Ahab
undertakes, but a grand folly of hubris.
Character List:
Captain Ahab: Ahab is the Captain of the Pequod, a grave older man reaching his
sixties who has spent nearly forty years as a sailor, only three of which he has
spent on dry land (Melville alludes to Ahab as having a wife and son, but their
existence seems of little significance to Ahab). The novel is essentially the story


of Ahab and his quest to defeat the legendary Sperm Whale Moby Dick, for
this whale took Ahab's leg, causing him to use an ivory leg to walk and
stand. Ahab is a dour, imposing man who frightens his crew through his
unwavering obsession with defeating Moby Dick and his grand hubris. In many
respects Melville portrays Ahab as barely human, barely governed by human mores
and conventions and nearly entirely subject to his own obsession with Moby Dick.
Melville describes him in mostly alien terms: Ahab is a spectral figure haunting
Stubbss dreams and existing in a place away from the living. He is in some ways a
machine, unaffected by human appetites and without recognizable emotion. And
most importantly, he claims himself a God over the Pequod, but instead he may be
a Satanic figure through his somewhat blasphemous quest against the white whale.
Ishmael: Ishmael is the narrator of the novel, a simple sailor on the Pequod who
undertakes the journey because of his affection for the ocean and his need to go
sea whenever he feels "hazy about the eyes." As the narrator Ishmael establishes
him as somewhat of a cipher and an everyman, and in fact his role in the plot of the
novel is inconsequential; his primary task is to observe the conflicts around him.
Nevertheless, Melville does give his narrator several significant character traits, the
most important of which is his idealization of the Sperm Whale and his belief in its
majesty. Also, it is Ishmael who has the only significant personal relationship in the
novel; he becomes a close friend with the pagan harpooner Queequeg and
comes to cherish and adore Queequeg to a somewhat improbable level
open to great interpretation; Melville even describes their relationship in
terms of a marriage. Ishmael is the only survivor of the Pequod's voyage, living
to tell the tale of Moby Dick only because he is by chance on a whaling boat when
Moby Dick sinks the Pequod and is rescued by a nearby ship.
Starbuck: Starbuck is the chief mate of the Pequod, a Nantucket native and a
Quaker with a thin build and a pragmatic manner. In appearance, Starbuck is quite
thin and seems condensed into his most essential characteristics, and his
streamlined appearance well suits his attitudes and behavior. Melville portrays
Starbuck as both a strong believer in human fallibility and an idealist who believes
that these failings may be contained. Among the characters in Moby Dick, it is
only Starbuck who openly opposes Captain Ahab, believing his quest
against the great whale to be an impulsive and suicidal folly. However,
despite his open misgivings about Ahab and the open hostility between these two
characters that culminates when Ahab points his musket at Starbuck, the conflicted
Starbuck remains loyal to his captain even when he has the possibility of
vanquishing Ahab. If Ahab serves as the protagonist of the novel and Ahab the
narrator, Ishmael is the character whom Melville intends as the proxy for
the reader: the only character given a gamut of emotions ranging from pity
and fear to contempt, Starbuck is Melville's surrogate for an emotional response
from his audience.
Queequeg: Queequeg is a harpooner from New Zealand, the son of a king who
renounces the throne in order to travel the world on whaling ships and learn about
Christian society. Ishmael meets Queequeg when the two must share a bed at the
Spouter Inn in New Bedford before journeying to Nantucket to undertake the
journey on the Pequod. Melville portrays Queequeg as a blend of civilized
behavior and savagery. Certainly in his appearance and upbringing he is
uncivilized by the standards of the main characters of the novel, yet Melville
(through his narrator Ishmael) finds Queequeg to be incredibly noble,
courteous and brave. Melville uses Queequeg as a character in perpetual transition:
from savagery to civilization, and in the final chapters after he suffers from an
illness from which he wills himself recovered, in an uneasy stasis between life and
death. The relationship between Queequeg and Ishmael is the most intimate of the
novel, as the two become close companions.


Stubb: The second mate on the Pequod, Stubb is a Cape Cod native with a happygo-lucky, carefree nature that tends to mask his true opinions and beliefs. Stubb
remains comical even in the face of the imperious Ahab, and he even dares to make
a joke at the captain's expense. Although never serious, Stubb is nevertheless a
more than competent whaleman: his easygoing manner allows Stubb to prompt his
crew to work without seeming imposing or dictatorial, and it is Stubb who kills the
first whale on the Pequod's voyage. Nevertheless, Melville does not portray Stubb
as an idealized character; although competent and carefree, Stubb is also the
character who suggests that the Pequod robs the Rosebud of its whales to secure
their ambergris.
Flask: The third mate on the ship, Flask plays a much less prominent role than
either Starbuck or Stubb. He is a native of Martha's Vineyard with a pugnacious
attitude concerning whales. Melville portrays Stubb as a man whose appetites
cannot be sated, and in fact in attempting to sate these appetites Flask becomes
even more hungry.
Pippin: He is a young black man and a member of the Pequod crew who replaces
one of Stubb's oarsman but becomes incredibly frightened while lowering after a
whale and jumps from the boat. Although Stubb saves him the first time, he warns
him that he will not do so if he tries it again, and when he does Pip only survives
when another boat saves him. After realizing that the others would allow his death,
Pip becomes nearly insane. However, Ahab takes pity on him for his madness and
allows him use of his cabin.
Fedallah: He is one of the "dusky phantoms" that compose Ahab's special whaling
crew. The Asiatic and Oriental Fedallah, also called the Parsee, remains a "muffled
mystery" to the other characters and represents a sinister figure for the crew of the
Pequod; there are even rumors that he is the devil in disguise and wishes to kidnap
Ahab. Fedallah has a prophetic dream of hearses twice during the course of the
novel, yet both he and Ahab conceive that this means a certain end to Moby Dick.
Fedallah dies during the second day of the chase against Moby Dick, when he
becomes entangled in the whale line.
Peter Coffin: He is the innkeeper at the Spouter Inn where Ishmael stays on his
way to Nantucket.
Father Mapple: He is the famous preacher and a former harpooner who has left
sailing for the ministry. Renowned for his sincerity and sanctity, Father Mapple
enjoys a considerable reputation. Before leaving for the voyage on the Pequod,
Ishmael attends a service in which Father Mapple gives a sermon that considers the
tale of Jonah and the Whale.
Hosea Hussey: She is the owner of the Try Pots Inn and the cousin of Peter Coffin.
Ishmael and Queequeg stay at the Try Pots while in Nantucket before departing on
the Pequod.
Peleg: A retired sailor and former captain of the Pequod, he is a "fighting Quaker"
who owns the ship along with Bildad. Peleg is the character who first indicates the
dark conflict within Ahab by comparing him to the legendary vile king of the same
Bildad: The owner of the Pequod along with Peleg, Bildad is also a "fighting
Quaker" who scolds the crew of the Pequod for profanity and regrets having to
leave the Pequod on its long voyage.


Elijah: He is a stranger that Ishmael and Queequeg pass while staying in

Nantucket who asks if they have met Old Thunder (Captain Ahab), and later asks
the two if they have sold their souls to the devil by agreeing to undertake a voyage
on the Pequod.
Bulkington: A sailor on the Pequod and a dangerous man just returned from a
voyage that lasted four years, he returns to the sea almost immediately because of
his affinity for life on the ocean.
Tashtego: He is an Indian from Martha's Vineyard who becomes the harpooner for
Daggoo: He is a gigantic African man who becomes the harpooner for Flask.
Dough-Boy: The steward of the Pequod, he serves dinner to the crew of the ship
but remains nervous whenever dealing with Queequeg and Tashtego.
Perth: He is the blacksmith on the Pequod who fashions the harpoon for Ahab.
Captain Mayhew: The captain of the Jeroboam, a Nantucket ship, his ship fell prey
to a mutiny by a shaker and now suffers from a contagious epidemic.
Gabriel: He is a Shaker on the Jeroboam who had been a great prophet before
leaving for Nantucket. While on the Jeroboam, he announces himself as the
archangel Gabriel and sparks a mutiny.
Macey: He is a member of the Jeroboam's crew that was killed by Moby Dick.
Derick De Deer: The captain of the German ship Jungfrau, he begs the Pequod for
oil and then engages in a competition with the Pequod for a Sperm Whale.
Dr. Bunger: The surgeon on the Samuel Enderby, a British ship, he warns Ahab
that Moby Dick would be best left alone and wonders whether Ahab is in fact
Captain Gardiner: The captain of the Rachel, he begs Ahab for assistance finding
a lost boat that contains his son and gives Ahab a substantial sighting of Moby Dick.
It is his ship that finds Ishmael after the sinking of the Pequod
Quotations from Moby-Dick
Unless otherwise noted, the speaker is the narrator
Chapter 1
The Loomings
Call me Ishmael.
Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp,
drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before
coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially
whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral
principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically
knocking people's hats off--then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I
can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish, Cato
throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. ...and so the universal
thump is passed round, and all hands should rub each other's shoulder-blades, and
be content.
Chapter 2

The Carpet-Bag


But it's too late to make any improvements now. The universe is finished; the
copestone is on, and the chips were carted off a million years ago.
Chapter 7
The Chapel it is that we still refuse to be comforted for those who we nevertheless
maintain are dwelling in unspeakeable bliss; why all the living so strive to hush all
the dead; wherefore but the rumor of a knocking in a tomb will terrify a whole city.
All these things are not without their meanings. But Faith like a jackal, feeds among
the tombs, and even from these dead doubts she gathers her most vital hope.
Methinks we have hugely mistaken this matter of Life and Death. Methinks that
what they call my shadow here on earth is my true substance...Methinks my body
is but the lees of my better being. In fact take my body who will take it I say, it is
not me.
Chapter 8
The Pulpit
...for the pulpit is ever this earth's foremost part; all the rest comes in its rear; the
pulpit leads the world.
Chapter 9
The Sermon
...if we obey God, we must disobey ourselves; and it is in this disobeying
ourselves, wherein the hardness of obeying God consists.
Chapter 13 Wheelbarrow
It's a mutual, joint-stock world, in all meridians. We cannibals must help these
Chapter 16 The Ship
For all men tragically great are made so through a certain morbidness. Be sure of
this, O young ambition, all mortal greatness is but disease.
He's a grand, ungodly, god-like man, Captain Ahab ...Ahab has his humanities.
Chapter 17 The Ramadan
...Heaven have mercy on us all--Presbyterians and Pagans alike--for we are all
somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.
Chapter 20 All Astir
...when a man suspects any wrong, it sometimes happens that if he be already
involved in the matter, he insensibly strives to cover up his suspicions even from
Chapter 23 The Lee Shore
...all deep, earnest thinking is but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open
independence of her sea....
Chapter 24 The Advocate
For what are the comprehensible terrors of man compared with the interlinked
terrors and wonders of God?
Chapter 26 Knights and Squires utterly fearless man is a far more dangerous comrade than a coward.
Chapter 28 Ahab
...moody stricken Ahab stood before them with a crucifixion in his face; in all the
nameless regal overbearing dignity of some mighty woe.
Chapter 29 Enter Ahab; to Him, Stubb


Old age is always wakeful; as if, the longer linked with life, the less man has to do
with aught that looks like death.
Chapter 33 The Speksynder
For be a man's intellectual superiority what it will, it can never assume the
practical, available supremacy over other men, without the aid of some sort of
external arts and entrenchments....
Oh, Ahab! what shall be grand in thee, it must needs be plucked at from the skies,
and dived for in the deep, and featured in the unbodied air!

Chapter 34 The Cabin Table

...Ahab's soul, shut up in the caved trunk of his body, there fed upon the sullen
paws of its gloom!
Chapter 35 The Masthead
... lulled into such an opium-like listlessness of vacant, unconscious reverie is this
absent-minded youth by the blending cadence of waves with thoughts, that at last
he loses his identity; takes the mystic ocean at his feet for the visible image of that
deep, blue, bottomless soul, pervading mankind and nature; and every strange,
half-seen, gliding, beautiful thing that eludes him; every dimly-discovered, uprising
fin of some undiscernible form, seems to him the embodiment of those elusive
thoughts that only people the soul by continually flitting through it. In this
enchanted mood, thy spirit ebbs away to whence it came; becomes diffused
through time and space; like Cranmer's sprinkled Pantheistic ashes, forming at last
a part of every shore the round globe over. There is no life in thee, now, except that
rocking life imparted by a gently rolling ship; by her, borrowed from the sea; by the
sea, from the inscrutable tides of God. But while this sleep, this dream is on ye,
move your foot or hand an inch; slip your hold at all; and your identity comes back
in horror. Over Descartian vortices you hover. And perhaps, at mid-day, in the
fairest weather, with one half-throttled shriek you drop through that transparent air
into the summer sea, no more to rise for ever. Heed it well, ye Pantheists
Chapter 36 The Quarter-Deck
"D'ye mark him, Flask?" whispered Stubb; "the chick that's in him pecks the shell.
T'will soon be out."
"Vengeance on a dumb brute!" cried Starbuck, "that simply smote thee from
blindest instinct! Madness! To be enraged with a dumb thing, Captain Ahab, seems
blasphemous. "All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks...If a man will
strike, strike through the mask! (Ahab).
Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me (Ahab).
Who's over me? Truth hath no confines (Ahab).
Chapter 37 Sunset
Gifted with high perception, I lack the low, enjoying power; damned, most subtly
and most malignantly! damned in the midst of Paradise! (Ahab).
Oh, hard! that to fire others, the match itself must needs be wasting! (Ahab).
What I've dared, I've willed; and what I've willed, I'll do! (Ahab).
Chapter 38 Dusk
Oh, life! 'tis in an hour like this, with soul beat down and held to knowledge, -as
wild, untutored things are forced to feed-Oh, life! 'tis now that I do feel the latent
horror in thee! (Starbuck).


Chapter 39 First Night-Watch

HA! ha! ha! ha! hem! clear my throat!--I've been thinking over it ever since, and
that ha, HA's the final consequence. Why so? Because a laugh's the wisest, easiest
answer to all that's queer; and come what will, one comfort's always left--that
unfailing comfort is, it's all predestinated (Stubbs).
I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I'll go to it laughing
Chapter 40 Midnight, Forecastle
Oh, thou big white God aloft there somewhere in yon darkness, have mercy on this
small black boy down here; preserve him from all men that have no bowels to feel
fear! (Pip).
Chapter41 Moby Dick
I, Ishmael, was one of that crew; my shouts had gone up with the rest; my oath
had been welded with theirs; and stronger I shouted, and more did I hammer and
clinch my oath, because of the dread in my soul. A wild, mystical, sympathetical
feeling was in me; Ahab's quenchless feud seemed mine.
...immortality is but ubiquity in time...
...all this to explain, would be to dive deeper than Ishmael can go. The
subterranean miner that works in us all, how can one tell whither leads his shaft by
the ever shifting, muffled sound of his pick? Who does not feel the irresistible arm
drag? What skiff in tow of a seventy-four can stand still? For one, I gave myself up
to the abandonment of the time and the place; but while yet all a-rush to encounter
the whale, could see naught in that brute but the deadliest ill
Chapter 42 The Whiteness of the Whale
Though in many of its aspects this visible world seems formed in love, the invisible
spheres were formed in fright.
...all deified Nature absolutely paints like the harlot, whose allurements cover
nothing but the charnel-house within...
Chapter 44 The Chart
God help thee, old man, thy thoughts have created a creature in thee; and he
whose intense thinking thus makes him a Prometheus; a vulture feeds upon that
heart for ever; that vulture the very creature he creates
Chapter 49 The Hyena
There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life
when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit
thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody's
expense but his own.
Chapter 53 The Albatross
But in pursuit of those far mysteries we dream of, or in tormented chase of that
demon phantom that, some time or other, swims before all human hearts; while
chasing such over this round globe, they either lead us on in barren mazes or
midway leave us whelmed
Chapter 54 The Town Ho's Story
Now, as you well know, it is not seldom the case in this conventional world of ours-watery or otherwise; that when a person placed in command over his fellow-men


finds one of them to be very significantly his superior in general pride of manhood,
straightway against that man he conceives an unconquerable dislike and bitterness;
and if he have a chance he will pull down and pulverize that subaltern's tower, and
make a little heap of dust of it.
Chapter 59 Brit this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there
lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of
the half known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never
Chapter 61 The Line
All men live enveloped in whale-lines. All are born with halters round their necks;
but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals realize
the silent, subtle, ever-present perils of life.
Chapter 63 The Dart
To insure the greatest efficiency in the dart, the harpooneers of this world must
start to their feet from out of idleness, and not from out of toil
Chapter 68 The Blanket
Oh, man! admire and model thyself after the whale! Do thou, too, remain warm
among ice. Do thou, too, live in this world without being of it. Be cool at the
equator; keep thy blood fluid at the Pole. Like the great dome of St. Peter's, and
like the great whale, retain, O man! in all seasons a temperature of thine own.
Chapter 72 The Monkey-Rope
...I seemed distinctly to perceive that my own individuality was now merged in a
joint stock company of two: that my free will had received a mortal wound; and
that another's mistake or misfortune might plunge innocent me into unmerited
disaster and death.
Chapter 73 Stubb and Flask Kill a Right Whale; and Then Have a Talk Over
So, when on one side you hoist in Locke's head, you go over that way; but now, on
the other side, hoist in Kant's and you come back again; but in very poor plight.
Thus, some minds for ever keep trimming boat. Oh, ye foolish! throw all these
thunderheads overboard, and then you will float light and right
Chapter 74 The Sperm Whale's Head--Contrasted View
The whale, therefore, must see one distinct picture on this side, and another
distinct picture on that side; while all between must be profound darkness and
nothingness to him. Is it not curious, that so vast a being as the whale should see
the world through so small an eye, and hear the thunder through an ear which is
smaller than a hare's? But if his eyes were broad as the lens of Herschel's great
telescope; and his ears capacious as the porches of cathedrals; would that make
him any longer of sight, or sharper of hearing? Not at all.--Why then do you try to
"enlarge" your mind? Subtilize it.
Chapter 79 The Prairie
I try all things; I achieve what I can.
Chapter 80 The Nut
The whale, like all things that are mighty, wears a false brow to the common world.
For I believe that much of a man's character will be found betokened in his
backbone. I would rather feel your spine than your skull, whoever you are. A thin
joist of a spine never yet upheld a full and noble soul.


Chapter 85 The Fountain

Doubts of all things earthly, and intuitions of some things heavenly; this
combination makes neither believer nor infidel, but makes a man who regards them
both with equal eye
Chapter 86 The Tail
Real strength never impairs beauty or harmony, but it often bestows it; and in
everything imposingly beautiful, strength had much to do with the magic.
Chapter 87 The Grand Armada
...withhold any amazement at the strangely galled whales before us, for there is no
folly of the beasts of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of
men...amid the tornadoed Atlantic of my being, do I myself still for ever centrally
disport in mute calm; and while ponderous planets of unwaning woe revolve round
me, deep down and deep inland there I still bathe me in eternal mildness of joy.
Chapter 89 Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish I.
A Fast-Fish belongs to the party fast to it...... What are the sinews and souls of
Russian serfs and Republican slaves but Fast-Fish, whereof possession is the whole
of the law?......
..... II. A Loose-Fish is fair game for anybody who can soonest catch it...... What
was America in 1492 but a Loose-Fish...? What are the Rights of Man and the
Liberties of the World but Loose-Fish? What all men's minds and opinions but
And what are you, reader, but a Loose-Fish and a Fast-Fish, too?
Chapter 96 The Try-Works
Look not too long in the face of the fire, O man! Never dream with thy hand on the
helm! There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. And there
is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges,
and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if
he for ever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his
lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than other birds upon the plain,
even though they soar.
Chapter 99 The Doubloon
And some certain significance lurks in all things, else all things are little worth...
Born in throes, 't is fit that man should live in pains and die in pangs! So be it,
then! Here's stout stuff for we to work on. So be it, then.
Chapter 104
The Fossil Whale
Such, and so magnifying, is the virtue of a large and liberal theme! We expand to
its bulk. To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme.
No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there
be who have tried it.
Chapter 106
Ahab's Leg
...all miserable events do naturally beget their like.. Yea, more than equally...since
both the ancestry and posterity of Grief go further than the ancestry and posterity
of Joy. the face of all the glad, hay-making suns, and soft-cymballing, round
harvest-moons, we must needs give in to this: that the gods themselves are not for
ever glad. The ineffaceable, sad birth-mark in the brow of man, is but the stamp of
sorrow in the signers.
Chapter 107

The Carpenter


Seat thy self sultanically among the moons of Saturn, and take high abstracted
man alone; and he seems a wonder, a grandeur, and a woe. But from the same
point, take mankind in mass, and for the most part, they seem a mob of
unnecessary duplicates, both contemporary and hereditary.
Chapter 109
Ahab and Starbuck in the Cabin
...let Ahab beware of Ahab; beware of thyself, old man (Starbuck).

Chapter 110
Queequeq in His Coffin
Top-heavy was the ship as a dinnerless student with all Aristotle in his head.
...whatever is truly wondrous and fearful in man, never yet was put into words or
Chapter 113
The Forge
In no Paradise myself, I am impatient of all misery in others that is not mad. Thou
should'st go mad, blacksmith; say why dost thou not go mad? How can'st thou
endure without being mad? Do the heavens yet hate thee, that thou can'st not go
mad? .. (Ahab).
Oh, Pip! thy wretched laugh;, thy idle but unresting eye; all thy strange mummeries
not unmeaningly blended with the black tragedy of the melancholy ship, and
mocked it!
Chapter 114 The Gilder
...the mingled, mingling threads of life are woven by warp and woof; calms crossed
by storms, a storm for every calm.
There is no steady unretracing progress in this life; we do not advance through
fixed gradations, and at the last one pause:--through infancy's unconscious spell,
boyhood's thoughtless faith, adolescence' doubt..., then scepticism, then disbelief,
resting at last in manhood's pondering repose of If.
Where lies the final harbor whence we unmoor no more?
...Our souls are like those orphans whose unwedded mothers die in bearing them:
the secret of our paternity lies in their grave, and we must there to learn it. Let
faith oust fact; let fancy oust memory; I look deep down and do believe (Ahab).
Chapter 125
The Log and Line
Lo! ye believers in gods all goodness, and in man all ill, lo you! see the omniscient
gods oblivious of suffering man; and man, though idiotic, and knowing not what he
does, yet full of the sweet things of love and gratitude (Ahab).
Chapter 127
The Life-Buoy
Now, then, Pip, we'll talk this over; I do suck most wondrous philosophies from
thee! Some unknown conduits from the unknown worlds must empty into thee!
Chapter 128
The Pequod Meets the Rachel
Hast seen the White Whale? (Ahab to Captain of Rachel).
Chapter 132
The Symphony
From beneath his slouched hat Ahab dropped a tear into the sea; nor did all the
Pacific contain such wealth as that one wee drop.
Chapter 134
The Chase the Second Day
Aye, aye, Starbuck, 'tis sweet to lean sometimes, be the leaner who he will; and
would old Ahab had leaned oftener than he has (Ahab to Starbuck).


Ahab is for ever Ahab, man. this whole act's immutably decreed. 'Twas rehearsed
by thee and me a billion years before this ocean rolled. Fool! I am the Fates'
lieutenant; I act under orders (Ahab to Starbuck).
Chapter 135 The Chase the Third Day
The ship? Great God, where is the ship?" (unidentified crew member).


Allusions in Moby-Dick
Chapter 1
1) Biblical--son of Abraham; an exile.
2) Ishmael ben Elisha--2nd century A.D. Jewish teacher of Galilee; outstanding
Talmudic teacher; compiled the 13 hermeneutical rules for interpreting the Torah;
founded a school which produced the legal commentary, Mekhilta.
A Shakespearean character in Julius Caesar; committed suicide by falling on his
Seneca and the Stoics
Seneca--among Rome's leading intellectual figures in the mid-1st century AD. He
and Epictetus were leading voices of Stoicism.
Stoics--1) Greek school of philosophy holding that human beings should be free
from passion and calmly accept all occurrences as the unavoidable result of divine
Greek mythology--young man who fell in love with his own image in a pool of water
and either wasted away or fell into the pool and drowned.
1) Greek mythology--the three goddesses who govern human destiny. While one
sister dictates the events of an individual's life, another sister weaves them into a
tapestry on the Loom of Life, and the third sister stands ready with a pair of shears
to cut the thread, thus ending the life.
2) Predestination.
Tyre of Carthage
A principal port founded by the Phoenicians, among the greatest seafarers of the
ancient world.
Biblical (Acts 27:14)--the tempestuous east wind that shipwrecked Paul off the
coast of Malta.
Spice Islands between Celebes and New Guinea.
Chapter 2
Black Parliament sitting in Tophet
1) Biblical (Jer. 7:31)--Tophet was a shrine in the valley of Hinnom south of ancient
Jerusalem where human sacrifices, especially those of children, were performed to
2) Hell.
Biblical (Luke 16: 19-31)--the diseased beggar in the parable of the rich man and
the beggar.
The second largest island of Indonesia lying in the Indian Ocean west of Malaysia
and Borneo by Sunda Strait.


Chapter 3
1) Greek--Hyperboa was one known to the ancient Greeks from the earliest times.
He lived in an unidentified country in the far north and was renowned as a pious
and divinely favored adherent of the cult of Apollo.
2) very cold; frigid; north wind.
Biblical (Book of Jonah)--an intolerant, unwilling servant of God. He was called by
God to go to Nineveh and prophesy disaster because of the city's wickedness. He
did not want to go and took passage in a ship at Joppa going in the opposite
direction, thus escaping God's command. At sea, Jonah admits to the crew that it is
his fault that a storm is about to destroy the ship. They throw him overboard. Jonah
is swallowed by a great fish and stays inside it for three days and three nights. He
prays for deliverance. He is vomited onto land and goes to Ninevah, as God had
commanded. .
Chapter 4
Cretan labyrinth
Greek--the building containing a maze which Daedalus constructed for King Minos
of Crete as a place in which to confine the Minotaur. Those put in the maze could
not find their way out and were destroyed by the Minotaur. Theseus was the only
one to escape.
Chapter 6
Biblical--Canaan was the land promised to Moses and his people by God after they
fled from Egypt. It was an opulent land of milk and honey.
Herr Alexander
Alexander the great, the military mastermind who conquered the majority of the
known world during the years 336-330 B.C. Because of his tactical genius, he was
able to accomplish his conquest without superiority of numbers.
Chapter 7
The Pequod--also spelled Pequot and Pequoit--was an American Indian tribe which,
as Melville briefly mentions, was destroyed by the Puritans. Read Captain John
Mason's account of the Puritan attack of the Pequot fort.
cave of Elephanta
Elephanta is an isle off the western coast of India in Bombay Harbor famous for its
8th century temple caves carved out of rock, its walls sculpted with figures of Hindu
Chapter 8
Victory's plank where Nelson fell
Horatio Nelson (1758-1805) was a British naval officer and national hero. His ship,
Victory, was involved in a battle with the French. Someone on the French ship,
Redoutalde, shot Nelson and broke his spine. Nelson died as the British won by
annihilating the French.


Chapter 16
Inhabitants of ancient Media, a country northwest of Persia and south of Caspian
Sea; an independent country and an empire at its height; conquered Babylon and
Assyria; overthrown by Persian Cyprus.
Canterbury Cathedral where Beckett died
British--Thomas Beckett was named archbishop of Canterbury by Henry and
became an uncompromising defender of the rights of the church against lay
powers; refused to seal the constitution of Clarendon and fled to France. Persuaded
Pope Alexander III to suspend bishops who crowned Prince Henry and force the
king to reconciliation. Beckett was murdered in the cathedral by four knights of
Henry's court. He was later canonized.
Chapter 18
1) Biblical--a people who held the coastal area of southern Palestine and were
frequently at war with the Israelites in the period of the judges and the early years
of the monarchy.
2) A smug, ignorant, especially middle class, person, who is held to be indifferent or
antagonistic to artistic and cultural values; boorish; barbarous.
Chapter 19
Elijah the prophet
Biblical (I Kings)--Hebrew prophet of the 9th century B.C.; lived during the time of
Ahab, king of Israel. In his first recorded act, Elijah appeared before the evil King
Ahab and predicted a severe drought. The drought occurred. After more than three
years, the prophet came once more to Ahab and placed the blame for the famine
on the king's sinful policies. Later, Elijah came in the vineyard of Naboth after the
king had secured the land through the wickedness of his wife, Jezebel. Elijah placed
a terrible curse on King Ahab and his descendants, promising that the entire house
of Ahab would be exterminated. This prophecy was brutally fulfilled.
Chapter 24
Job (pronounced Jobe)
Biblical (Book of Job)--the upright, God-fearing and good man of Uz, who was made
to suffer greatly when God tested his faith and loyalty by allowing Satan to have his
way with him. Despite his undeserving misfortunes, Job remained steadfast and
faithful. In the end, God restored his substance to him and granted him happiness
and prosperity. Job's patience in the face of suffering is proverbial.
Alfred the Great
Ruler of Wessex, 870's, who drove the Norse out of England. He is famous for his
cleverness, as he paid the Vikings to leave England for a certain period of time,
during which he raised the proper military to defeat them.
Edmund Burke
English politician in the time of King George III; famous for defending liberty and
Chapter 26
John Bunyan


1628-1688; English preacher; author of Pilgrim's Progress; one of the greatest

literary geniuses of the Puritan movement in England.
A soldier until his hand was maimed by gunshot wounds and he was unable to
fight; afterward, over his next twenty years, he became a brilliant author of novels,
plays, and tales.
Andrew Jackson
Seventh President of the U.S.A. (1829-1837); the first poor man to rise to become
President; known as the "people's President."
Chapter 32
book formed by folding a sheet of paper once; size of book is usually about 11
Chapter 35
1) One who accepts and adheres to the philosophical thought of Plato.
2) Abstractionist .
Descartian vortices
1) Descartes the philosopher believed that everything had to be proven rationally;
he based his proof of identity on the theory, "I think; therefore, I am."
2) vortice--situation drawing into its center all that surrounds it (i.e. whirlpool
One who believes that God is all forces and powers of the universe; God in Nature,
or God is Nature.
Chapter 38
Iron Cross of Lombardy
An ancient crown, supposedly made from one of the nails from the True Cross, used
notably at the coronation of Holy Roman Emperors and at the coronation of
Napoleon in 1805.
Chapter 40 Pirohitee's peak
Melville gives this descriptive reference to Pirohitee's peak in Omoo, Chapter 18:
"Tahiti is by far the most famous island in the South Seas; indeed, a variety of
causes has made it almost classic. Its natural features alone distinguish it from the
surrounding groups. Two round and lofty promontories, whose mountains rise nine
thousand feet above the level of the ocean, are connected by a low, narrow
isthmus; the whole being some one hundred miles in circuit.
From the great central peaks of the larger peninsulaOrohena, Aorai, and
Pirohiteethe land radiates on all sides to the sea in sloping green ridges.
Between these are broad and shadowy valleysin aspect, each a Tempewatered
with fine streams, and thickly wooded. Unlike many of the other islands, there
extends nearly all round Tahiti a belt of low, alluvial soil, teeming with the richest
vegetation. Here, chiefly, the natives dwell."


Chapter 47
Loom of Time
Greek mythology (see Fates in Chapter 1).
Chapter 54
Mark Antony and Cleopatra
One of the most famous romances in history. It is said that the marriage ruined
Mark Antony's life and ultimately caused him to take it.
Chapter 58
terra incognita
Latin--unknown land.
Chapter 70
the giant Holofernes and Judith
Judith is the title of a book in the Apochrypha as well as the name of a Jewess from
Bethulia. Holofernes was a general of the Assyrian king Nebuchadnezzar. To save
her city, Judith killed Holofernes in his drunken slumber and showed his head to her
countrymen. They then drove off the Assyrians.
Chapter 71
Neskyeuna Shakers
In 1776, Mother Anne Lee established the first settlement of American "Shakers"
(the Millennial Church or United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing)
at Niskayuna, a village in New York, on the Hudson River near Schenectady. The
shakers observed celibacy, held all property in common, and believed that Mother
Lee was Christ reincarnated. Their nickname, Shakers, derived from their peculiar
bodily movements during religious meetings. (Information found in editor's note
Moby Dick, edited by Charles Feidelson, Jr., MacMillan 1985, ISBN 0-02-336720-2,
p. 409.)
Biblical--masculine given name meaning "man of God"; an archangel who acts as
the messenger of God.
Chapter 73
Immanuel Kant vs. John Locke
Kant and Locke both expressed agreement with the idea that the State is formed by
a social contract--Individuals must give up some of their rights to enter into a social
contract in society. However, they differed on the application of the idea.
Kant does not recognize the right of individuals to revoke the contract.
Locke maintained that the state formed by the social contract was guided by the
natural law, which guarantees inalienable rights. He formulated the doctrine that
revolution in some circumstances is not only a right but an obligation. If the State
fails to protect the individuals' inalienable rights, then revolution is a duty.


Chapter 80
1) Egyptian mythology--a figure having the body of a lion and the head of a man,
ram, or hawk.
2) Greek mythology--a winged monster having the head of a woman and the body
of a lion that destroyed all who could not answer its riddle.
Chapter 82
Greek--Andromeda, the daughter of a king, was tied to a rock on the sea coast and
a whale came to carry her away. Perseus killed the whale and married Andromeda.
St. George and his Dragon
Probably third century A.D. Christian martyr. Nothing definite is known about his
life. In time of Edward II adopted as patron saint of England. Among legends
developed about him was that of his conquest of a dragon to rescue the king's
daughter, Sabra.
Ezekiel 32:2
Biblical--"Son of man, take up a lamentation for Pharaoh king of Egypt, and say
unto him, Thou art like a young lion of the nations, and thou art as a whale in the
seas: and thou camest forth with thy rivers, and troubledst the waters with thy
feet, and fouledst their rivers."
I Samuel 5:2-4
Biblical--"Then they carried the ark into Dagon's temple and set it beside Dagon.
When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his
face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! They took Dagon and put him back
in his place. But the following morning when they rose, there was Dagon fallen on
his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! His head and hands had been
broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained."
He was a seaman and he used his experiences in his works: Typee, Omoo,
Mardi, Redburn, White-Jacket
After reading Hawthornes short stories and also under his personal
influence, Melville entirely recast the book he had started under the working title of
The Whale, which would eventually become Moby Dick (1851). It took him another
year to labour to transform a light-hearted narrative of whaling adventures into a
deep exploration of human nature and evil. This book encompassed romance,
drama and epic as well as features typical of a number of lesser genres, such as
sermons, treatises on natural history, tall tales and technical manuals. Its sections
are differently structured.
Like Melville, Ishmael is a Presbyterian who speculates about basic issues of
Calvinist thinking, such as free will, predestination and damnation. Through his
narrator, Melville voices his own preoccupation with the problem of innate depravity
and original sin.
One of his sources was a magazine article entitled Mocha Dick: or the White
Whale of the Pacific, with details about the capture of a giant sperm whale which
had become legendary for its attacks on ships. Another important source was Owen
Chases Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the
Whale-Ship Essex, of Nantucket, an account of events that happened in 1820.
Melville first read the story when the son of the Essexs first mate lent him a copy


of his fathers published record of the catastrophe; ten years later, the author of
Moby Dick obtained another copy of the book, which he annotated.
Some critics have pointed out that Melville is Americas most Shakespearian
writer. Indeed, it was the English dramatist who made him understand the nature of
tragedy and incorporate it into his work.
Hawthorne and Melvilles similarities may be due to the literary phenomenon
known as confluence, by which writers nurtured in the same cultural atmosphere
may be alike in many respects and develop similar traits not attributable to the
direct impact of one on the other. This concept can be useful when considering
Melvilles use of symbolic allegory, which is related to, but not derived from
On the surface, Moby Dick is simply the story of Captain Ahabs obsessive
pursuit of a huge white whale, which had torn off his leg in a first encounter on a
previous voyage, and in the final chapter kills him and the whole crew of the
Pequod, except for Ishmael. Apart form this literal reading; Ahabs vengeful
search could also be interpreted at a deeper level, just like any allegory. The
Pequod, with its polyglot crew, would represent the Ship of the World navigating
on the Sea of Unpredictability, where Good and Evil are permanently confronted.
Whereas old allegories were intended to facilitate the reaching of moral
principles by establishing clear connections or simple parallels between the spiritual
and the material worlds, Melville deliberately used the allegorical mode in an
ambiguous and complex manner in order to focus on the impossibility of finding any
interpretative clues leading to objective truths.
At the beginning of the story, Ishmael keeps asking questions for which he
seeks categorical answers, but gradually discovers how every sign he wants to
understand generates a number of different meanings he feels unable to reconcile.
By contrasting his novel around the mysterious figure of the white whale,
Melville intended the metaphysical value of Moby Dick to remain enigmatic. And this
is precisely the final proof of the superiority of the white whale over all the other
creatures for, by being inscrutable, it can neither be defeated physically nor even
apprehended by any human mind.
Ishmael operates in a lyrical and comic mode, which will later be set in
contrast with Ahabs dramatic and tragic mode. Foreshadowing is a device used in
literature to create expectation or to set up an explanation of later developments.
Throughout Moby Dick there is a sense that people are driving on to their doom
although, paradoxically, the character who is most obsessed with death from the
very beginning is the only survivor at the end.
Nowadays Hawthorne and Melville are often compared and their similarities
tend to be emphasized, but in their own time they stood in sharp contrast. Their
contemporary critics pointed out the stylistic differences between the clear prose of
Hawthorne, which was accessible to the general public, and the extravagances,
neologisms and recondite allusions that made Melvilles work very difficult to read.
At present, the contrast between these two authors is no longer perceived in the
same manner because we tend to read only Hawthornes more complex works
rather than the easily intelligible ones that nineteenth-century critics admires.


He contributed to the so-called flowering of New England both by writing
about the American scene and by dealing with general themes which appealed to a
very wide audience all over the world.
He came to be known as one of the Fireside Poets of the nineteenth century.
It has been argued that Longfellows advocacy of a sentimental masculinity, which
once was a key source of his broad appeal, eventually became the grounds for
decanonizing him. With the advent of Modernism, a movement which rejected the
scale of literary values he had held, starting with the sentimental.
This learned academic poet, praised in the past for his dexterous commando of
metre and rhyme has been turned against him in an age which prefers unrhymed
None of the exoticism, eccentricity, iconoclasm, nonconformity, spontaneity,
obliqueness and ambiguity that we appreciate nowadays is to be found in
Longfellows poetry. Partly because our age does not like didactic moralizing,
nowadays Longfellow is under attack.
Longfellows life had none of the dramatic excitement or thrilling adventure which
characterized so many of his contemporary fellow writers.
Though deeply
religious, he was not interested in theological debates. He disliked extremes, and
was fond of harmony and concord in all his relations. There was nothing in his
conventional behavior and peaceful career which would have provided suitable
materials for a sensational biography.
Evangeline: a Tale of Acadie, although Evangeline Bellafontaine did not actually
exist, the poet made her standout as a symbol of the expulsion of 14,000 Frenchspeaking Protestants from what is now the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. Both
the melodramatic plot and the easy to memorize dactylic hexameters in
which this long narrative poem was written accounted for much of its popular
The Song of Hiawatha has appeared in forty-five languages and in more than
eighty translations. Longfellow honestly viewed The Song of Hiawatha as a
faithful rendering of tribal legends, which he tried to honour. He could hardly
imagine the attacks it would receive by the end of the twentieth century, essentially
on the grounds that it has contributed to fostering stereotypes and romanticizing
the Native People.
A Psalm of life is Longfellows best-known short poem. It has often been derided,
burlesqued and ridiculed in modern times. It has been recently analysed as an
instance of how Longfellow tried to develop a domestic style of masculinity. The
choice of imagery has been deemed faulty, for cattle are not prone to participate in
battle, nor are battles fought in bivouacs. Critic Eric Haralson said that the
psychological posture of selfless working and waiting recommended by Longfellow
conformed more to period stereotypes of feminity and owed more to domestic
ideology than to the rugged-male discourse of steam power, commercial enterprise
and action.
Critic E. Wagenknecht argued that A Psalm of Life is one of
Longfellows poorest poems despite being his most famous, that it is more a
rhymed morality than a poem.


When Walt Whitman heard of the poet's death, he wrote that, while Longfellow's
work "brings nothing offensive or new, does not deal hard blows," he was the sort
of bard most needed in a materialistic age: "He comes as the poet of melancholy,
courtesy, deference--poet of all sympathetic gentleness--and universal poet of
women and young people. I should have to think long if I were ask'd to name the
man who has done more and in more valuable directions, for America."
The rhyme of the first stanza is abab.
Aphorism: art is long, and Time is fleeting.
Anaphora: the repetition of a word or a group of words in successive clauses. e.g
Life is real! Life is earnest!
Enjambement: is the running over of the sense and structure of a line of verse
into the following one without a pause. E.g.
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
Caesura: is a pause or break inserted in a metrical line by a mark of punctuation.
Rhythm: useful terms to describe it:
Feeling: Carefree, serious, grave
Physical movement: light, heavy, quick, slow, swaying
Music: smooth, lively, brisk, crescendo, diminuendo
Four general types of diction:
Formal: lofty and dignified
Informal: suitable for the normal conversation of educated people
Colloquial: the everyday speech of ordinary people
It has been argued that Longfellows advocacy of a sentimental
masculinity, which once was a key of source of his broad appeal, eventually became
the grounds for decanonizing him. His fame began to subside with the advent of
Modernism, a movement which rejected the scale of literary values he had held,
starting with the sentimental.
The great technical skill of this learned academic poet, praised in the past for
his dexterous command of metre and rhyme, has been turned against him in an
age which prefers unrhymed verse. None of the exoticism, eccentricity, iconoclasm,
nonconformity, spontaneity, obliqueness and ambiguity that we appreciate
nowadays is to be found in Longfellows poetry.
Longfellows life had none of the dramatic excitement or thrilling adventure
which characterized so many of his contemporary fellow writers. He had only the
feeblest interest in politics and, though deeply religious, was not interested in
theological debates. He disliked extremes, usually avoided controversy, and was
fond of harmony and concord in all his relations.
His first collection of poems, Voices of the Night (1839), was a best-seller.
Poems on Slavery (1842) were a set of eight antislavery poems prompted by the
African slave revolt aboard the Amistad and the subsequent momentous trial,
whose details the author had followed in the newspapers. Evangeline: A Tale of
Acadie caused a sensation when it came out in 1847; almost a century after the
tragic events which inspired the author famous poem had taken place. Although
Evangeline Bellafontaine did not actually exist, the poem made her stand out as a
symbol of the expulsion of 14,000 French-speaking Protestants from what is now
the Canadian province of Nova Scotia.
Longfellow honestly viewed The Song of Hiawatha as a faithful rendering of
tribal legends, which he tried to honour.
He also translated the Coplas de Don Jorge Manrique and Dantes Divine



Its tone of heroic confidence provoked a good deal of praise in its day has made it
an easy target for parody. This poem has recently been analysed as an instance of
how Longfellow tried to develop a domestic style of masculinity. It contains
references to war and sailing activities which were typically masculine in the
nineteenth century. The world is presented as a broad field of battle and the
reader is encouraged to become a hero in the strife. The phrase shipwrecked
brother suggest the notion that all men are united in brotherhood. Nevertheless,
although the lives of great men are explicitly offered as models of conduct, the
values exalted here are the ones that were instilled into women at that time,
summed up in the concluding line: to labor and to wait.
Modern criticism has censured Longfellow not only for what is now considered a
condescending attitude towards his audience, but also for the platitudes and
generalizations out of which the psalms are made. The choice of imagery has been
deemed faulty. Among the ill-chosen images is that of the sands of time, which
seems to indicate the sand in an hourglass, but since footprints cannot appear
there, such sands must refer to the sea beach, an unsuitable location for great
men to leave a lasting mark.
This poem came to be seen by its author as the first of a series of psalms in which
he planned to go on expressing his ideas about the purpose of life and the
significance of death. He deliberately adopted the stance of an old sage ready to
lead his disciples by offering them the ethical guidance that was so much in
- Formal: lofty and dignified
- Informal: suitable for the normal conversation of educated people
- Colloquial: everyday speech of ordinary people
- Slang.
- Anaphora: repetition of a word or group of words in successive clauses.
- Caesura: a pause or break inserted in a metrical line by a mark of
- Enjambement: the running over of the sense of structure of a line of verse
into the following one without a pause.
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave


EDGAR ALLAN POE (1809 1849)
In the unit dedicated to Washington Irving (number nine), we mentioned the
importance of Gothic narratives in the creation and evolution of American literature.
In his critical study Gothic, Fred Botting assigns a chapter to the figures of Charles
Brockden Brown, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe. In it, it is explained
how these authors adapted the Gothic form to genuine American obsessions:
"The development of the American novel owes much to the reception and
transformation of European romantic literature. Significant differences appear in
the use of Gothic images in writing that was predominantly realist. Hackneyed
Gothic machinery was abandoned, but contrasts of light and dark, good and evil,
were inflected in texts in which the mysteries of the mind or of family pasts were
the central interest: the human and social world completely replaced the grand
Gothic terrors of a supernatural kind. In the American context a different
geography and history were available to writers: romantic adventures could take
place in the wilds of an uncharted continent or horrors could be found in the
Puritan witch trials of Salem in the seventeenth century. Gothic psychology and the
questions narrative raise of the reality of strange incidents are framed with
different issues: of rationalism, democracy and religious organisation, and their
relationship to individual freedom and social control." (F. Botting, Gothic, London:
Routledge, 1996, p. 114)
"The external world could take care of itself." These words from "The Masque of the
Red Death" epitomizes the tendency in Poe's texts to condense life indoors.
Knowing his attempts to create an effect in any of his writings, think how the
atmosphere of seclusion affects the texts you have read, and how it could have
affected Poe's contemporaries, used as they were to outdoors heroes and naturelovers.
Poe is one of Americas most original, disturbing and powerful writers. He did not
rely primarily on local history and customs, but preferred to deal with eccentric and
sometimes even extravagant subject matter. According to his theory of taste,
simplicity was not synonymous with good taste, and excess was not invariable proof
of bad taste. In his mind didactic poetry was illegitimate. He explicitly condemned
the heresy of didacticism.
Poes profound impact upon fiction is one of the most commonly known and widely
studied aspects of his work. He has been credited with the invention of the modern
detective story, with five tales of detection he wrote at the age of thirty-two. He
has been hailed as the inventor of the science fiction tale. Poes interest in criminal
psychology inspired Dostoevsky. Poes enduring popularity as a short story writer
and the deep influence he has exerted on twentieth-century culture are
unquestionable. Recent critics however, agree that he was a tortured genius and a
master of fictional technique who understood the nature of narrative and worked
with great concentration and intent to achieve certain effects. His literary work was
undoubtedly rooted in his suffering, for he wrote about what he felt intensely. Poes
conception of the writer as artist implies the consideration of art as an end in itself,
not as a means to convey any kind of political or moral message. He contended
that literary works must be judged exclusively by aesthetic criteria. As a literary
critic, he was the first to evaluate the poem per se in all its complexity,
disregarding the circumstances that gave rise to its composition.


He secretly married his cousin shortly before her 14th birthday. His professional
anxieties, combined with the problems of his private life, made him sink into a state
of severe depression.
Poe poked fun at the typical exaggerations of the American West and burlesqued
the genre. He classified his own fiction into the categories of grotesque and
arabesque, two terms borrowed from Sir Walter Scott.
Grotesque: were tales drawn upon a northern European tradition in which one
aspect of the character is heightened for a marked comic effect its essential
element is disharmony, a clash of opposites.
Arabesque: everything contributes to the single effect ot terror: setting,
characterization, plot, theme and style.
The Gothic tradition, characterized by the use of the fantastic, against the
rationality and order that dominated the Age of Reason. They were set amid the
dark atmosphere of haunted castles and wild picturesque landscapes (including
graveyards and ruins) during the medieval period. By the 19 th century, Gothic no
longer implied medieval but simply referred to works intended to inspire terror
with macabre plots full of horror, violence, mystery and suspense, even though they
were not necessarily set in the Middle Ages.
The Masque of the Red Death:
The bubonic plague of the Middle Ages. The plague takes the unusual form of a red
rather than a black death, because the idea of mortality is linked with blood. It can
be read as an original aesthetic fable on the relationship between art and nature, a
thought-provoking theme for artists over the centuries. Prince Prospero represents
Poes ideal artist-hero. One month before the tale was published, Poe defined the
poet as a man of taste rather than of pure intellect or moral sense.
Biographical Background
Kenneth Silverman argues that Poe's work is shadowed by the deaths of three
women he loved intensely (in addition to Poe's best-known inspiration, his beloved
young wife Virginia):
1. his mother (when he was about 2 years old)
2. Jane Stanard (idealized mother of a school friend), who died insane at age
28 ("To Helen")
3. Frances Allan (his foster mother)
II. Major Phases of Poe's Career
A. 1827-1831. 3 slim volumes of poetry expressed a strong attachment to the
romantic myth of a pastoral and poetic ideal, made up of dreams and memories of
B. 1831 marked a transition year: moved to Baltimore (1831-1835); wrote
"Israfel," "Romance," "To Helen"
1. His work during this period expressed a new commitment to a poetry of heartfelt
conviction in the face of life's burdens and sorrows.
2. From 1831-41 Poe experienced a radical change; his works involved the theme
of death as a finality in a cosmic void of darkness and silence.
a. "Ligeia" appeared Baltimore American Museum in September 1838
b. "The Fall of the House of Usher" appeared in September, 1839 in Burton's
Gentleman's Magazine
c. December 1839: Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque


C. 1841-1849: A return to poetry and essays and fiction on theme of psychic

transcendentalism. 1845 was his most successful year. Feb: The Raven appeared in
the February American Review after advance publication in the New York Evening
III. Types of Works
Through all these phases, Poe wrote

Satiric tales.
Parodies and burlesques.
Grotesques: tales where one aspect of the character is heightened for a
marked effect (note that this same concept was later used by Sherwood
Anderson in Winesburg, Ohio).

"Grotesque" in Poe also implies a clash of opposites, a world in which the

reader's certainties are undercut. Its fundamental element is disharmony, what
Philip Thomson has called "the unresolved clash of incompatibles in work and
response" (27).

Wolfgang Kayser, The Grotesque in Art and Literature: "The various forms of
the grotesque are the most obvious and pronounced contradictions of any
kind of rationalism and any systematic use of thought" (185).

Arabesques: tales involving the supernatural; according to Paul Reubens,

"symbolic fantasies of the human condition."
Tales of ratiocination ("The Purloined Letter") that allow rational
deduction and logic to counter the irrationality of grotesques and

III. Themes (from Floyd Stovall)

Stovall called Coleridge the guiding spirit of Poe's intellectual life
A. Parallels with Coleridge
1. poetry gives pleasure by being indefinite
2. music is an essential element in poetry
3. beauty is the sole province of the poem
4. poetic beauty has the quality of strangeness
5. poem must have unity of effect
6. true poem must be brief
7. passion and poetry are discordant
8. tone of the poem must be melancholy
B. Parallels with Wordsworth
1. Visionary dreariness (from The Prelude [published in 1850 and unknown to Poe]:
Wordsworth writes of "spots of time" that stand as memorials permitting the
restoration of our minds when they are "depressed." The power of these moments
comes from their revelation that "the mind is lord and master--outward sense/the
obedient servant of her will."
2. "The Fall of the House of Usher" hinges on questions of self-identity and the
powers of the mind for restoration" (Cambridge Literary History 659). In German
Romantic theory, the sublime derived precisely from the power of the mind over


nature; one of its essential qualities is the presence not only of appreciation of
nature's beauty but awe in its presence. The true sublime contains an element of
fear, of the possibility of danger that resides in nature.
In "Usher," the narrator's utter depression allows no sense of the "visionary"
qualities of dreariness that so powerfully moved Wordsworth . . . In this story the
pattern of differentiated repetition shows the power of things, the consciousness of
urban fragmentation against which Wordsworth was writing, but from within which
Poe writes."
3. Poe: "As to Wordsworth, I have no faith in him."
C. Themes
1. victimization, power and powerlessness
2. confrontations with mysterious presences
3. extreme states of being
4. dehumanization and its cure
5. relation of body and soul
6. memory of and mourning for the dead
7. need for spiritual transcendence and affirmation.
D. Beliefs
1. That the dead are not entirely dead to consciousness
2. That it is best to live in hopes that love can transcend death.
3. That one must apprehend the possibility of beauty beyond the grave.
IV. Poe and Plagiarism
A. p. 1527 "Letter to Mr. ---": "A poem, in my opinion, is opposed to a work of
science by having for its immediate object, pleasure, not truth; to romance, by
having for its object and indefinite instead of a definite pleasure, being a poem only
so far as this object is attained; romance presenting perceptible images with
definite, poetry with indefinite sensations, to which end music is an essential, since
the comprehension of sweet sound is our most indefinite conception."
Coleridge, Biographia Literaria (1817): p. 172. "A poem is that species of
composition which is opposed to works of science by proposing for its immediate
object pleasure, not truth; and from all species (having this object in common with
it) it is discriminated by proposing to itself such delight from the whole as is
compatible with a distinct gratification from each component part."
B. A fierce opponent of literary plagiarism, Poe claims originality for his stanza form
in "The Raven": trochaic rhythm; octameter acatalectic alternating with heptameter
catalectic repeated in refrain of fifth verse.
This form was used by Elizabeth Barrett in "Lady Geraldine's Curse"; Poe had
dedicated "The Raven" to her because he had admired "Lady Geraldine's Courtship"
for its "fierce passion" and "delicate imagination."
Of Poe, Barrett said, "There is poetry in the man, though, now and then seen
between the great gaps of bathos. . . the "raven" made me laugh, though with
something in it which accounts for the hold it took upon people."

V. "The Raven"
A. To Poe, Barrett wrote: "Your 'Raven' has produced a sensation, a "fit horror" here
in England. Some of my friends are taken by the fear of it and some by the music. I
hear of persons haunted by the "Nevermore," and one acquaintance of mine who
has the misfortune of possessing a "bust of Pallas" can never bear to look at it in
the twilight."


B. Symbolic raven parallels Coleridge's albatross, Shelley's skylark, Keats's

C. From a spectator's account: Poe wore black, and, adjusting the atmosphere to
suit the mood of his work, "would turn down the lamps till the room was almost
dark. Standing in the center of the apartment he would recite those wonderful lines
in the most melodious of voices. So marvelous was his power as a reader that the
auditors would be afraid to draw breath lest the enchanted spell be broken." Elmira
Royster Shelton: "When Edgar read 'The Raven,' he became so wildly excited that
he frightened me, and when I remonstrated with him he replied he could not help
it--that it set his brain on fire."
"The Raven" - a grotesque narrative poem.
During a cold, dark evening in December, a man is attempting to find some solace
from the remembrance of his lost love, Lenore, by reading volumes of "forgotten
lore." As he is nearly overcome by slumber, a knock comes at his door. Having first
believed the knock to be only a result of his dreaming, he finally opens the door
apologetically, but is greeted only by darkness. A thrill of half-wonder, half-fear
overcomes the speaker, and as he peers into the deep darkness, he can only say
the word "Lenore." Upon closing the door, another knock is immediately heard from
the chamber's window. The narrator throws open the shutter and window, and in
steps a large, beautiful raven, which immediately posts itself on the bust of Pallas
Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, above the entrance of the room. Amused by
the animal, the speaker asks it its name, to which the bird replies "Nevermore."
Believing "Nevermore" to be the raven's name, the narrator's curiosity is piqued,
but the speaker believes the name to have little relevancy to his question, for he
had never before heard of any man or beast called by that name. Although the bird
is peaceful, the narrator mutters to himself that it, like all other blessings of his life,
will soon leave him. Again the bird replies "Nevermore." Intrigued, the speaker pulls
a chair up directly before the bird to more readily direct his attention on the
wondrous beast, and to figure out the meaning of the bird's single monotonous
reply. While in contemplation in the chair, the speaker's mind turns to Lenore, and
how her frame will never again bless the chair in which he now reposes. Suddenly
overcome with grief, the persona believes that the raven is a godsend, intended to
deliver him from his anguish, but again comes the bird's laconic reply. The speaker
then viciously rebukes the bird, calling it now to be a "thing of evil," and asks it
whether there is "balm in Gilead," a biblical reference to respite in a land riven with
suffering. Again, the word "nevermore" is the only answer. Shouting maniacally
now, demanding that the bird take its leave, the narrator attempts to dispatch the
bird back to the "Plutonian shore" of Hell from whence it came. The bird, "the
emblem of Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance," replies again "nevermore,"
and sits there on the bust of Pallas to this day, ever a torment to the speaker's soul,
and a reminder of his lost love.


Importance of the Work:

"The Raven" is without a doubt the work for which Poe is best known. Through this
poem, Poe has taken his favorite theme, that of the untimely death of a beautiful
woman, and made that theme universally understandable and fascinating, earning
himself literary immortality in the process. There is no doubt that "The Raven"
takes direct influence from Poe's life experiences. Poe was a moody bookworm, and
Virginia Poe's health had been declining since 1842. Poe's friend, R. H. Horne, wrote
of "The Raven," "the poet intends to represent a very painful condition of mind, as
of an imagination that was liable to topple over into some delirium or an abyss of
melancholy, from the continuity of one unvaried emotion." Poe's life was varied in
experience, but, as Horne's letter said of Poe's poetry, static in outlook, and his
life's entire tone is perfectly encapsulated in "The Raven." Poe, like the persona,
sought "balm in Gilead," but was, according to Hammond, "doomed to be frustrated
in his quest for a perfect emotional response." Through "The Raven," Poe makes his
personal, introverted hell strangely mesmerizing and attractive to all, and as a
result, "The Raven" is more well known than any of Poe's other poems, and even
more well known than some of his greatest short stories.
Reviews and Critical Opinions of the Work During Poe's Lifetime:
"The Raven" owes its genesis to Charles Dickens' novel Barnaby Rudge, in which
there is a speaking raven. The purple curtains and pallid bust of Athena may have
been influenced by the actual home in which Poe, Virginia Poe, and Maria Clemm
occupied on the Bloomingdale Road, New York. According to Hammond, this pallid
bust is as "inseparably associated with Poe and as immortal as Holmes's Persian
slipper or Alice's looking glass." Not surprisingly, Poe was accused of plagiarism in
the composition of the poem, supposedly having stolen "purple curtains" from
Elizabeth Barrett Browning and, of course, the speaking bird itself from Dickens.
In discussing the work himself, Poe gives little reference to the artistry or tone of
the poem, focusing instead only on the form and rhyme scheme of the work.
Speaking of the composition of "The Raven," Poe wrote "that no one point in its
composition is referable either to accident or intuition -- that the work proceeded,
step by step, to its completion with the precision and rigid consequence of a
mathematical problem."
"The Masque of the Red Death" is an arabesque. It "... represents Poe at the height
in that form of the arabesques in which he let his fancy create a mood of terror
wrought out of the symbolism of color"(Quinn 331).
"The Masque of the Red Death" tells the story of a Prince Prospero who along with
his one thousand friends sought a haven from the plague that was ravishing their
country. They lived together in the prince's luxurious abbey with all the amenities
and securities imaginable. "There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there
were ballet dancers, there were musicians, there was beauty, there was wine. All
these and security were within. Without was the 'Red Death.'" (Poe 269). At a
masquerader's party a tall gaunt figure dressed in "grave cerements and [a]
corpse-like mask" enters. (Poe 273) Everyone is offended, but too frightened to
apprehend the figure. "When the revellers find courage to attack him, there is
nothing tangible within the ghastly cerements" (Quinn 331). This is symbolic of the
plague that kills without its presence being felt or seen - a specter, an angel of
death, with "illimitable dominion over all" (Poe 373).


An arabesque masterpiece that Poe wanted to include in a selection of his best
works. The work was overlooked by others.
Critical Opinions:
It is said about "The Masque of the Red Death" that "the resources of rhetoric have
rarely been so marvelously employed...With a restraint that is one of the surest
marks of genius, Poe gives no hint of the great moral the tale tells to those that can
think. For the others, he had no message" ( 331).
EDGAR ALLAN POE (1809-1849)
Unlike most of his contemporaries, he was more interested in aesthetics
than in ethics. He did not rely primarily on local history and customs, but preferred
to deal with eccentric and sometimes even extravagant subject matter. Poe
explicitly condemned the heresy of didacticism. He was the most famous exponent
of the movement in America of the Art for Arts sake.
By borrowing themes from the popular culture of his time, by experimenting
with new techniques and by making very innovative use of the narrative
conventions he inherited, he created several fictional genres that would become
immensely successful. He has been hailed as the inventor of the science fiction tale.
Poe always had difficulty in holding a steady job. His virulent reviewing,
which made him popularly known as the tomahawk man, increased sales, but also
alienated friends, created enemies and often put the journals in a difficult position.
In 1842 his wife had a violent haemorrhage, the first sign of the tuberculosis
which would kill her five years later. Until Virginias death in 1847, Poe suffered
constant fear of losing her, and he was driven to alcohol and drugs in his most
painful moments. In fact, it was in this Philadelphia period that he wrote his best
short stories, such as The Masque of the Red Death.
In 1844 Poe moved to New York and joined the staff of the Evening Mirror,
which published The Raven, the poem that made him famous.
Although Poes stories display a rich diversity, the strong Gothic strain that
prevails in many of them explains why he is commonly associated with that
tradition. The Gothic tradition, characterized by the use of the fantastic, irrational
and supernatural, emerged in the eighteenth century as a reaction against
rationality and order that dominated the Age of Reason. The term Gothic was first
applied to the novels by English writers such as Walpole and Radcliffe because they
were set amid the dark atmosphere of haunted castles and wild picturesque
landscapes during the medieval period. By the nineteenth century Gothic no longer
implied medieval but simply referred to works intended to suspense, even though
they were not necessarily set in the Middle Ages. Since Poe both ridiculed and
admired nineteenth century Gothic tales, his own Gothic pieces were to certain
extent satires on the German and British examples of the genre.
Poe had in mind the Black Death. In this story, however, the plague takes the
unusual form of a red rather than black death, because the idea of mortality is
linked to blood. This relationship between blood and death points to Poes obsession
with Virginias illness at the time that he was writing the tale. Poe may also been
inspired by an incident reported to have happened ten years before. In 1832,
shortly after a cholera epidemic in Paris, one of the dancers appeared disguised as
the personification of the disease at a masked ball. Among the various sources for
Poes depiction of the appearance of the masked figure, it has been suggested that
he drew some details from the presence of Banquos ghost and the banquet scene
in Shakespeares Macbeth.


Prince Prospero represents Poes ideal artist-hero. He wants to control the natural
cycle of life with his imaginative powers by creating an artificial setting he
confidently feels able to manipulate at his will. The seven connected rooms of
Prosperos bizarre architectural scheme represent the seven stages of ones life,
from birth to death, and they are laid out from east to west, thus evoking the daily
course of the sun. In this deliberate pattern, the symbolism of the colours is an
important aspect, starting with blue and ending with black, the fourth or middle
room being orange, analogous to midday. Only in the seventh room does the colour
of the red windows not correspond with that of the black decorations, thus links the
symbols of blood and death, in direct relation with the Red Death.
Although Poe himself did not provide any clues, we may conclude that the Red
Death was not a mere plague, but death itself, inseparable from life and shared but
all humanity.
There is a great emphasis on the principle of brevity, based upon his already
formulated belief that a true poem must be brief so as not to lose its unity of effect
or impression, that is, the impact made upon the reader.
The death of a beautiful woman was for the author unquestionably, the most
poetical topic in the world. Although there is no direct reference to any particular
women in the essay, most analyses of The Raven do not fail to mention that it
shows the impact of the deaths of three women that the poet loved: his mother,
Jane Stith Stanard (the idealized mother) and Mrs. Allan, Poes foster mother.
Virginia was still alive, but by the time he began to write The Raven she had
already filled him with the sense that at any moment he would lose her as well.
The stanzas are formed by five rather lengthy lines of 16, 15, 16, 15 and 15
syllables, that is, an alternation of octameters (lines of 8 feet) and heptameters (7
feet). Then it follows a very short line of only 7 syllables, that is, the 4 feet that
form a tetrameter. The octameter is rare in Classical verse, is rarer still in English
verse. The rhyme scheme is also unusual, abcbbb, the b being identical throughout
the whole poem. The Raven has got a trochaic rhythm, consisting of a stressed
syllable followed by an unstressed one, which is the reverse of the iambic rhyme.
Poe uses many sound devices: alliteration, assonance (repetition of vowel sounds),
internal rhyme (once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary).
Also we can see the use of onomatopoeia.


Slave Narrative- the literary genre inaugurated in the 18 th century had its period
of greatest production between 1820 and 1860. They became immensely popular
because such thrilling accounts of heroic journeys into freedom captivated the
imagination of readers immersed in the atmosphere of romanticism that was
pervading American culture.
The book Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written
by Himself has become a classic in African American Literature.
He returned to America with funds provided by British admirers to purchase his
manumission and to start his own antislavery newspaper. Douglasss dedication to
promote abolitionism occupied him full-time and made him increasingly famous. He
was said to stand on the abolitionist platform like an African prince, majestic in his
wrath with the port and the countenance, and heroic assurance and almost
stature of the Roman Coriolanus.
All of Douglasss writings were linked to his political concerns. The place Douglass
holds now in American literature was earned with his contributions to non-fiction,
which are currently studied as examples of the autobiographical and the slave
narrative genres. The author intended his Narrative to be a literary work of art and
deliberately tried to embellish his style in the two following versions, although he
did so in a way that did not always suit modern taste. That is probably the main
reason why readers today invariable prefer the original version, where the writer
demonstrated his superb command of many rhetorical figures:

Metaphor - a figure of speech in which one class of things is referred to as if it

belonged to another class. Whereas a simile states that A is like B, a
metaphor states that A is B or substitutes B for A. Some metaphors are
explicit, like Shakespeare's line from As You Like It : All the world's a stage.

Irony - figure of speech in which what is stated is not what is meant. The user
of irony assumes that his reader or listener understands the concealed
meaning of his statement. Perhaps the simplest form of irony is rhetorical
irony, when, for effect, a speaker says the direct opposite of what she means.
Thus, in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, when Mark Antony refers in his funeral
oration to Brutus and his fellow assassins as honorable men he is really
saying that they are totally dishonorable and not to be trusted. Dramatic irony
occurs in a play when the audience knows facts of which the characters in the
play are ignorant. The most sustained example of dramatic irony is
undoubtedly Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, in which Oedipus searches to find the
murderer of the former king of Thebes, only to discover that it is himself, a
fact the audience has known all along.

Synecdoche: Figure of speech that uses either the part to represent the whole
('There were some new faces at the meeting', rather than new people), or the
whole to stand for the part ('The West Indies beat England at cricket', rather
than naming the national

Apostrophe - figure of speech in which an absent person, a personified

inanimate being, or an abstraction is addressed as though present. The term
is derived from a Greek word meaning a turning away, and this sense is
maintained when a narrative or dramatic thread is broken in order to digress
by speaking directly to someone not there, e.g., Envy, be silent and attend!
Alexander Pope, On a Certain Lady at Court.

Paradox - statement that appears self-contradictory but actually has a basis in

truth, e.g., Oscar Wilde's Ignorance is like a delicate fruit; touch it and the
bloom is gone. Many New Critics maintained that paradox is not just a
rhetorical or illustrative device but a basic aspect of all poetic language


Chiasmus (the inversion of the second of two parallel phrases) e.g. You have
seen how a man was made a slave, you shall see how a slave was made a

The author did not know the exact date of his birth just as most
slaves, children and adults alike, ignored theirs in his time.
Regarding his fathers identity, the author only knew that he was a white man and
heard rumors that he was his own master.
The author was separated form his mother when he was an infant following a
custom that often resulted in severing family ties.
For the author the pathway from slavery to freedom was the acquisition of
The sight of the ships on Chesapeake Bay made the author feel sad ad frightened at
first, but later increasingly hopeful.
The Chesapeake Bay monologue does not express his fear of the risks involved in
any attempt to escape.
Mr. Coveys attempt to tie the author with a rope was unexpected because Frederick
was working diligently.
When the author seized Mr. Covey by his throat, the master was startled and
While Hughes was trying to tie the authors right hand, Frederick gave Hughes a
strong kick.
When Mr. Covey called Bill for help, Bill refused to intervene.
In the six months following the hand-to-hand fight, Mr. Covey would sometimes
threaten Frederick, but never tried to whip him again.
The struggle with Mr. Covey infused him with self-assurance, and he resolved to
fight for his freedom at all costs.
The author felt happy with his first job because her was glad to keep his just
reward, instead of having to share his wages with a slaveholder.
The author was unable to find a job as a caulker because white caulkers objected to
having a black co-worker.
When the author first spoke at an antislavery convention held at Nantucket, he
began by feeling intimidated by his white audience, but soon felt comfortable
enough to express everything he wanted to say.
Douglass addressed northern readers as innocent people who needed to be
enlightened about the evils of slavery because they lacked direct knowledge of how
slaves were being treated in the South.
Ishmael Reed observed that the slave who was the first to read was the first to run
away. Antiliteracy state laws were often justified on the grounds that slaves would
misunderstand or misuse the power given to them by the ability to read and
Monologue is a long speech given by a single person who is alone. This literary
device is generally used to reveal the private thoughts and emotions of an
individual character.
There is a clear reference to the dehumanizing effects of slavery in the phrase By
far the larger part of the slaves know as little of their ages as horses know of
Douglass often elaborated n the negative effects of slavery upon slaveholders who
were led to moral degradation because they were continually tempted to exercise
harshness and cruelty.


Douglasss well-intentioned patrons worried that the young orator be charged with
fraud because he seemed too articulate, and advised him to speak in the
substandard English that audiences expected from a recently escaped plantation
Douglass did not want his readers to remain distanced and uncommitted while
merely satisfying their curiosity with a narrative full of exciting or pathetic events.
As a first-person narrator, her tried to engage his readers to enter into empathy
with them and established a discursive relationship with this public by building a
bridge of sympathetic identification between the northern white reader and the
southern black fugitive.
Douglass acknowledged that parts of his autobiography were formal revisions of his
Douglass wrote the first version of his autobiography when the Romantic Movement
was dominating the American literary scene. The author builds up his image as
that of a heroic loner when he poses as a Byronic figure apostrophizing the
Chesapeake Bay ships and when he presents himself valiantly overcoming Edward
Covey in an unequal physical struggle.
He constructed a slave narrative that is concerned with the formation of identity, a
process in which gender plays a significant role.
Douglasss narrative of 1845 shares some features with Equianos (1789) as both
authors place a great deal of importance on individual achievement and the work
ethic as a means of success, they locate their quest for freedom within a Christian
context. And they stress the value of freedom for personal and spiritual
development. The two writers had to counter the notions that blacks were only fit
to be slaves and that ex slaves were incompetent to deal with the responsibilities of
freedom. Both had to refute claims that blacks were intrinsically inferior, exposing
how they had been degraded by slavery, but could be morally rehabilitated and
elevated from their inferior condition.
In the 18th century, Equiano had criticized the brutality of slaveowners, not the
institution itself, whereas Douglass wanted to reveal the evils of Americas peculiar
institution to his mid-nineteenth-century audience.
Douglasss work is also an obligatory point of reference in the study of American
autobiographical traditions. Douglass consciously tried to model himself after
Benjamin Franklin, the famous American example of autobiographical genre. As
autobiographers both are willing to share the secret of their success stories for the
benefit of their audiences. Both authors stress their talents when they proudly
present themselves as archetypal self-made men worthy of admiration. Douglasss
autobiography however lacks the self-critical and self-questioning dimension that
makes Franklin admit his mistakes and confess his errata.
Mr. DOUGLASS has very properly chosen to write his own Narrative, in his own
style, and according to the best of his ability, rather than to employ some one else.
It is, therefore, entirely his own production; and, considering how long and dark
was the career he had to run as a slave,--how few have been his opportunities to
improve his mind since he broke his iron fetters,--it is, in my judgment, highly
creditable to his head and heart. He who can peruse it without a tearful eye, a
heaving breast, an afflicted spirit,-- without being filled with an unutterable
abhorrence of slavery and all its abettors, and animated with a determination to
seek the immediate overthrow of that execrable system,--without trembling for the
fate of this country in the hands of a righteous God, who is ever on the side of the


oppressed, and whose arm is not shortened that it cannot save,--must have a flinty
heart, and be qualified to act the part of a trafficker "in slaves and the souls of
men." I am confident that it is essentially true in all its statements; that nothing
has been set down in malice, nothing exaggerated, nothing drawn from the
imagination; that it comes short of the reality, rather than over- states a single fact
in regard to SLAVERY AS IT IS. The experience of FREDERICK DOUGLASS, as a
slave, was not a peculiar one; his lot was not especially a hard one; his case may
be regarded as a very fair specimen of the treatment of slaves in Maryland, in
which State it is conceded that they are better fed and less cruelly treated than in
Georgia, Alabama, or Louisiana. Many have suffered incomparably more, while very
few on the plantations have suffered less, than himself. Yet how deplorable was his
situation! what terrible chastisements were inflicted upon his person! what still
more shocking outrages were perpetrated upon his mind! with all his noble powers
and sublime aspirations, how like a brute was he treated, even by those professing
to have the same mind in them that was in Christ Jesus! to what dreadful liabilities
was he continually subjected! how destitute of friendly counsel and aid, even in his
greatest extremities! how heavy was the midnight of woe which shrouded in
blackness the last ray of hope, and filled the future with terror and gloom! what
longings after freedom took possession of his breast, and how his misery
augmented, in proportion as he grew reflective and intelligent,--thus demonstrating
that a happy slave is an extinct man! how he thought, reasoned, felt, under the
lash of the driver, with the chains upon his limbs! what perils he en- countered in
his endeavors to escape from his horrible doom! and how signal have been his
deliverance and preservation in the midst of a nation of pitiless enemies!
This Narrative contains many affecting incidents, many passages of great eloquence
and power; but I think the most thrilling one of them all is the description
DOUGLASS gives of his feelings, as he stood soliloquizing respecting his fate, and
the chances of his one day being a freeman, on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay-viewing the receding vessels as they flew with their white wings before the breeze,
and apostrophizing them as animated by the living spirit of freedom. Who can read
that passage, and be in- sensible to its pathos and sublimity? Compressed into it is
a whole Alexandrian library of thought, feeling, and sentiment--all that can, all that
need be urged, in the form of expostulation, entreaty, rebuke, against that crime of
crimes,--making man the prop- erty of his fellow-man! O, how accursed is that
system, which entombs the godlike mind of man, defaces the divine image, reduces
those who by creation were crowned with glory and honor to a level with fourfooted beasts, and exalts the dealer in human flesh above all that is called God!
Why should its existence be prolonged one hour? Is it not evil, only evil, and that
continually? What does its presence imply but the absence of all fear of God, all
regard for man, on the part of the people of the United States? Heaven speed its
eternal overthrow!
So profoundly ignorant of the nature of slavery are many persons, that they are
stubbornly incredulous whenever they read or listen to any recital of the cruelties
which are daily inflicted on its victims. They do not deny that the slaves are held as
property; but that terrible fact seems to convey to their minds no idea of injustice,
exposure to outrage, or savage barbarity. Tell them of cruel scourgings, of
mutilations and brandings, of scenes of pollution and blood, of the banishment of all
light and knowledge, and they affect to be greatly indignant at such enormous
exaggerations, such wholesale misstatements, such abominable libels on the
character of the southern planters! As if all these direful outrages were not the
natural results of slavery! As if it were less cruel to reduce a human being to the
condition of a thing, than to give him a severe flagellation, or to deprive him of
necessary food and clothing! As if whips, chains, thumbscrews, paddles, bloodhounds, overseers, drivers, patrols, were not all in- dispensable to keep the slaves
down, and to give protection to their ruthless oppressors! As if, when the marriage
institution is abolished, concubinage, adultery, and incest, must not necessarily


abound; when all the rights of humanity are annihilated, any barrier remains to
protect the victim from the fury of the spoiler; when absolute power is assumed
over life and liberty, it will not be wielded with destructive sway! Skeptics of this
character abound in society. In some few instances, their incredulity arises from a
want of reflection; but, generally, it indicates a hatred of the light, a desire to shield
slavery from the assaults of its foes, a contempt of the colored race, whether bond
or free. Such will try to discredit the shocking tales of slaveholding cruelty which
are recorded in this truthful Narrative; but they will labor in vain. Mr. DOUGLASS
has frankly disclosed the place of his birth, the names of those who claimed
ownership in his body and soul, and the names also of those who committed the
crimes which he has alleged against them. His statements, there- fore, may easily
be disproved, if they are untrue.
In the course of his Narrative, he relates two in- stances of murderous cruelty,--in
one of which a planter deliberately shot a slave belonging to a neigh- boring
plantation, who had unintentionally gotten within his lordly domain in quest of fish;
and in the other, an overseer blew out the brains of a slave who had fled to a
stream of water to escape a bloody scourging. Mr. DOUGLASS states that in neither
of these instances was any thing done by way of legal arrest or judicial
investigation. The Baltimore American, of March 17, 1845, relates a similar case of
atrocity, perpetrated with similar impunity--as fol- lows:--""Shooting a slave."--We
learn, upon the authority of a letter from Charles county, Maryland, received by a
gentleman of this city, that a young man, named Matthews, a nephew of General
Matthews, and whose father, it is believed, holds an of- fice at Washington, killed
one of the slaves upon his father's farm by shooting him. The letter states that
young Matthews had been left in charge of the farm; that he gave an order to the
servant, which was disobeyed, when he proceeded to the house, "obtained a gun,
and, returning, shot the servant." He immediately, the letter continues, fled to his
father's residence, where he still remains unmolested."--Let it never be forgotten,
that no slaveholder or overseer can be convicted of any outrage perpetrated on the
person of a slave, however diabolical it may be, on the testimony of colored
witnesses, whether bond or free. By the slave code, they are adjudged to be as
incompetent to testify against a white man, as though they were indeed a part of
the brute creation. Hence, there is no legal protection in fact, whatever there may
be in form, for the slave population; and any amount of cruelty may be inflicted on
them with impunity. Is it possible for the human mind to conceive of a more
horrible state of society?
The effect of a religious profession on the conduct of southern masters is vividly
described in the following Narrative, and shown to be any thing but salutary. In the
nature of the case, it must be in the highest degree pernicious. The testimony of
Mr. DOUGLASS, on this point, is sustained by a cloud of witnesses, whose veracity
is unimpeachable. "A slave- holder's profession of Christianity is a palpable
imposture. He is a felon of the highest grade. He is a man-stealer. It is of no
importance what you put in the other scale."
Reader! are you with the man-stealers in sympathy and purpose, or on the side of
their down-trodden victims? If with the former, then are you the foe of God and
man. If with the latter, what are you pre- pared to do and dare in their behalf? Be
faithful, be vigilant, be untiring in your efforts to break every yoke, and let the
oppressed go free. Come what may --cost what it may--inscribe on the banner
which you unfurl to the breeze, as your religious and political motto--"NO
Of course, it was impossible to get any white man to volunteer his testimony in my
behalf, and against the white young men. Even those who may have sympathized
with me were not prepared to do this. It required a degree of courage unknown to
them to do so; for just at that time, the slightest manifestation of humanity toward


a colored person was denounced as abolitionism, and that name subjected its
bearer to frightful liabilities. The watch words of the bloody-minded in that region,
and in those days, were, "Damn the abolitionists!" and "Damn the niggers!" There
was nothing done, and probably nothing would have been done if I had been killed.
Such was, and such remains, the state of things in the Christian city of Baltimore.
I conclude these remarks by copying the following portrait of the religion of the
south, (which is, by communion and fellowship, the religion of the north,) which I
soberly affirm is "true to the life," and without caricature or the slightest
exaggeration. It is said to have been drawn, several years before the present antislavery agitation began, by a northern Methodist preacher, who, while residing at
the south, had an opportunity to see slave holding morals, manners, and piety, with
his own eyes. "Shall I not visit for these things? saith the Lord. Shall not my soul be
avenged on such a nation as this?"
"Come, saints and sinners, hear me tell
How pious priests whip Jack and Nell,
And women buy and children sell,
And preach all sinners down to hell,
And sing of heavenly union.
"They'll bleat and baa, dona like goats,
Gorge down black sheep, and strain at motes,
Array their backs in fine black coats,
Then seize their negroes by their throats,
And choke, for heavenly union.
"They'll church you if you sip a dram,
And damn you if you steal a lamb;
Yet rob old Tony, Doll, and Sam,
Of human rights, and bread and ham;
Kidnapper's heavenly union.
"They'll loudly talk of Christ's reward,
And bind his image with a cord,
And scold, and swing the lash abhorred,
And sell their brother in the Lord
To handcuffed heavenly union.
"They'll read and sing a sacred song,
And make a prayer both loud and long,
And teach the right and do the wrong,
Hailing the brother, sister throng,
With words of heavenly union.
"We wonder how such saints can sing,
Or praise the Lord upon the wing,
Who roar, and scold, and whip, and sting,
And to their slaves and mammon cling,
In guilty conscience union.
"They'll raise tobacco, corn, and rye,
And drive, and thieve, and cheat, and lie,
And lay up treasures in the sky,
By making switch and cowskin fly,
In hope of heavenly union.
"They'll crack old Tony on the skull,
And preach and roar like Bashan bull,
Or braying ass, of mischief full,
Then seize old Jacob by the wool,
And pull for heavenly union.
"A roaring, ranting, sleek man-thief,


Who lived on mutton, veal, and beef,

Yet never would afford relief
To needy, sable sons of grief,
Was big with heavenly union.
"'Love not the world,' the preacher said,
And winked his eye, and shook his head;
He seized on Tom, and Dick, and Ned,
Cut short their meat, and clothes, and bread,
Yet still loved heavenly union.
"Another preacher whining spoke
Of One whose heart for sinners broke:
He tied old Nanny to an oak,
And drew the blood at every stroke,
And prayed for heavenly union.
"Two others oped their iron jaws,
And waved their children-stealing paws;
There sat their children in gewgaws;
By stinting negroes' backs and maws,
They kept up heavenly union.
"All good from Jack another takes,
And entertains their flirts and rakes,
Who dress as sleek as glossy snakes,
And cram their mouths with sweetened cakes;
And this goes down for union."
Sincerely and earnestly hoping that this little book may do something toward
throwing light on the American slave system, and hastening the glad day of
deliverance to the millions of my brethren in bonds--faithfully relying upon the
power of truth, love, and justice, for success in my humble efforts --and solemnly
pledging my self anew to the sacred cause,--I subscribe myself,
The literary genre known as the slave narrative, inaugurated in the 18th
Century, had its period of greatest production between 1820 and 1860. During the
five decades immediately preceding the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861
and Lincolns subsequent Emancipation Proclamation, the system of slavery was
ideologically assailed in a great number of first-person narratives in which former
slaves provided ready evidence for the abolitionist cause. In their own time they
became immensely popular because such thrilling accounts of heroic journeys into
freedom captivated the imagination of readers immersed in the atmosphere of
romanticism that was pervading in American Culture.
The Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Written
by Himself (1845) has become a classic in African American literature. Unlike
Olaudah Equiano in the previous century, Douglas had not been captured in Africa,
but was born as a slave on a Maryland plantation. The identity of his white father
remains uncertain, although it was widely suspected that it was his mothers
master. At the age of eight he was sent to Baltimore and the masters wife kindly
started teaching the boy to read. As his master considered that learning would
make the child unfit for slavery, this woman stopped instructing him. Later,
Douglass pointed out that the acquisition of literacy would be for him, as for many
other fugitives, the pathway from slavery from freedom.
After going from master to master (some good with him and other cruel), he
managed to save enough to envisage a good plan of escape. With the aid of his
future wife, in 1838 he made his way north, first to N.Y and then to New Bedford
(Massachusetts). A skilled craftsman, Douglass found difficulty in obtaining steady
employment in the North because of racial discrimination against blacks. Then, he


began to speak at public meetings and he was unexpectedly launched on a new

career as a salaried lecturer for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society to support
their campaigns in abolitionist gatherings by describing his harsh experiences.
He settled in Rochester, where he edited the North Star, the most influential
of the black journals in the country. In those years, Rochester became an important
terminal on the secret network of abolitionists called the Underground Railroad,
and Douglass as station master played a relevant role in it, saving hundreds in
their flight to freedom to Canada.
During the Civil War he became consultant to President Lincoln, advocating
that former slaves be armed for the North. He helped in recruiting black soldiers for
the Union Army, in which two of his own sons were enlisted. He became the first
black citizen to hold high rank in the United States government and is now
honoured as one of the most important black political leaders in American history.
The author intended his Narrative to be a literary work of art and
deliberately tried to embellish his style in the two following versions of the first
published, although he did so in a way that did not always suit modern taste. That
is probably the main reason why readers today invariably prefer the original
version, where the writer demonstrated his superb command of many rhetorical
figures: metaphor, irony, synecdoche, apostrophe, paradox, chiasmus and other
varieties of antithetical clausal constructions. The chiasmus (inversion of the second
of two parallel phrases) was his favourite. The most quoted statements in African
American literature has got a chiasmus: You have seen how man was made a
slave; you shall see how slave was made a man.
On the one hand, Douglass was striving to counter racist charges of black
inferiority by giving proof of his skills, but on the other hand, he felt the public
pressure to display a certain poverty of expression in order to be accepted as a
reliable witness. Douglass had to explain in his Narrative how he had reached such
a sophisticated degree of accomplishment, of eloquence.
In this book, he avoided some of the conventional features of the slave
narrative genre. For instance, he did not include the typical climax of the escape
and pursuit scenes, allegedly because disclosing information about his procedure
would have alerted slaveholders. Rather than satisfy his readers interest with the
details of the escape, he preferred to finish his Narrative by indicating that arrival
into free states was not the conclusion but only a step in the life of someone who,
having evaded slavery in the South, still had to confront racism in the North under
various forms.
The author thesis is that slavery debases and perverts human nature.
Douglass addresses northern readers as innocent people who needed to be
enlightened about the evils of slavery because they lacked direct knowledge of how
slaves were being treated in the South, the author of the Narrative did not simply
let the facts of his life speak for themselves, but interpreted their meaning from his
own perspective. He also elaborated on the negative effects of slavery upon
slaveholders, who were led to moral degradation because they were continually
tempted to exercise harshness and cruelty, as he explain talking about the woman
that helped him to read: Slavery soon proved its ability to divest her of these
heavenly qualities.
Douglass wrote the first version of his autobiography when the Romantic
Movement was dominating the American literary scene. He gave a romantic focus
on emotion and on the celebration of individual selfhood through his self-portrait as
a heroic fugitive.
Douglass slave narrative of 1845 shares some features with Equianos one
(1789). Both authors place a great deal of importance on individual achievement
and the work ethic as a means of success, they locate their quest for freedom
within a Christian context, and they stress the value of freedom for personal and
spiritual development. The two writers had to counter the notions that blacks were
only fit to be slaves and that ex-slaves were incompetent to deal with the
responsibilities of freedom. Both ex-slaves had to refute claims that blacks were


intrinsically inferior, exposing how they had been degraded by slavery, but could be
morally rehabilitated and elevated from their inferior condition. In the 18th Century,
Equiano had criticized the brutality of slave-owners, not the institution of slavery
itself, whereas Douglass wanted to reveal the evils of Americas peculiar institution
to his mid-nineteenth-century audience.
Also Douglass can be contrasted with Franklin as auto biographers equally
willing to share the secret of their success stories for the benefit of their audiences.
Note that both authors stress their talents when they proudly present themselves
as archetypal self-made men worthy of admiration. Douglasss autobiography,
however, lacks the self-critical and self-questioning dimension that makes Franklin
admit his mistakes and confess his errata.


The novel soon proved to be a highly effective tool for social reform.. When the
author met President A. Lincoln in the White House, he greeted her with the words
So your are the little lady who started this great war! The early loss of her
mother together with her inability to establish a satisfactory relationship with her
stepmother, who entered the household the following year and bore three more
children, deeply affected the perception of motherhood that would so prominent in
her writings. She had an orthodox Calvinist upbringing, which explains why the
Puritan background would always be present in her work. The author has been
considered an excellent writer of dialogue because she had an ear for idiom,
delighted in rendering different styles and made an effort to transcribe black
vernacular accurately.
Hailed as a book that inflamed the North and shook the conscience of the South.
Emerson called it the book that encircled the globe. Among the main characters
of the novel, the protagonist has become the most controversial of al, partly
because he was the origin of the pejorative term Uncle Tom, which refers to a
thoroughly subservient black zealously intent on pleasing whites.
Uncle Toms Cabin has drawn criticism for its alleged racism was published at a time
when almost no one in America wrote about slavery in secular terms.
Romantic realism: added strength to the belief that slavery constituted the
oppression of one of the best races of the human family. Abolitionists contended
that one of the worst evils of slavery was that it led to the degradation of a
naturally virtuous people.
She did not endorse racist claims of black inferiority. In a Key to Uncle Toms
Cabin, she made a typical statement or romantic racialist thinking The Negro race
is confessedly more simple, docile, child-like and affectionate, than other races.
To understand the principal theme of the novel is the problem of evil, including its
theological, moral, economic and political dimensions. The author refers to the
slaves as human property in order to emphasize the idea that they are human
beings who are treated like commodities. She uses an omniscient narrator who
speaks directly to the reader, not only explaining facts and discussing moral and
political issues and establishing an intimacy that allows her to exhort, rebuke,
implore etcShe uses biblical sources in chapter 30 of her novel.
The original subtitle of Uncle Toms Cabin The Man Who was a Thing pointed out
the dehumanization and objectification to which slaves were subjected as if they
were mere objects rather than human beings. Another way to dehumanize slaves
was to treat them as if they were animals. Susan and Emmeline are presented as
paradigms of true womanhood (piety, purity, submissiveness and domesticity).
Slave women, being property of their master, had no legal right to resist their
sexual advances and they are vulnerable to all kinds of sexual abuse. According to
the author, slavery should be eradicated from any true Christian society because its
maintenance s a sin committed not only by slaveholders but also by those who
did not own slaves themselves, but were guilty of perpetuating the system.
The book was published over nine months in forty-one installments. Serialization
is a mode of literary production which implies the writing of a story in sections that
appear over a period of time with interruptions both for the author and for the
reader. In a series, the beginning of each chapter should help the readers to recall


preceding chapters, and the ending secion should arouse their interest so that they
look forward to the next issue.
Sentimental novel: concentrated on the distress of the virtuous and illustrated the
alliance of acute sensibility with true virtue. The term sentimentality became
pejoratively associated with the practice of overemphasizing emotions and with any
attempts on the part o the author to arouse an outpouring of intense feelings in a
sympathetic audience.
Realism sought to portray ordinary life with fidelity, avoiding idealization and any
rendering of fantastic or improbable events.
Plantation novel defended and idealized slavery in the context of a glorified
South, effacing the violence which played such a central role in maintaining the
peculiar institution.
Both slave narrative and antislavery works of fiction are best understood when
considered within their historical context.
1811-96, American novelist and humanitarian, b. Litchfield, Conn. With her novel
Uncle Tom's Cabin, she stirred the conscience of Americans concerning slavery and
thereby influenced the course of American history. The daughter of Lyman
Beecher , pastor of the Congregational Church in Litchfield, and the sister of Henry
Ward Beecher , Harriet grew up in an atmosphere of New England Congregational
piety and, like all the Beechers, early developed an interest in theology and in
schemes for improving humanity. In 1824 she went to Hartford, at first to study,
later to teach in her sister Catherine's school. When her father became head of
Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, she moved to that city with him and there
began teaching again and writing. In 1836 she married Professor Calvin Ellis Stowe.
Cincinnati, a border city, was at the time torn with abolitionist conflicts. Harriet's
brothers were violently opposed to slavery, and she had seen its effects in Kentucky
and had aided a runaway slave. However, it was not until the passage of the
Fugitive Slave Act (1850) that she was moved to write on the subject. Uncle Tom's
Cabin, first published serially (1851-52) in an abolitionist paper, the National Era,
was not intended as abolitionist propaganda, nor was it directed against the South,
although slaveholders condemned the book as unfair; indeed, it presented some of
the favorable aspects of slavery, but it also crystallized the sentiments of the North.
In one year over 300,000 copies were sold, and its dramatization by G. L. Aiken
had a long run. The book was translated into many foreign languages, and when
Mrs. Stowe visited Europe in 1853 numerous honors were bestowed on her.
At her best, Stowe combined literary realism with evangelical fervor. A prolific writer
whose works fill 16 volumes, she was chiefly popular because she so aptly
expressed the sentiments of the 19th-century middle class. Her works reflect the
great issues and events of her century: slavery, women's position in society, the
decline of Calvinism, the rise of industry and consumerism, and the birth of a great
national literature.
US suffragist, abolitionist, and author. Her antislavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin was
first published serially 1851-52. The inspiration came to her in a vision 1848, and
the book brought immediate success.
Section: The Antislavery Movement
Related: United States History


The Tappan brothers and William Lloyd Garrison , who began publishing an
abolitionist journal, The Liberator, in 1831, were the principal organizers in Dec.,
1833, at Philadelphia, of the American Anti-Slavery Society. The primary concern of
the society was the denunciation of slavery as a moral evil; its members called for
immediate action to free the slaves. In 1835 the society launched a massive
propaganda campaign. It flooded the slave states with abolitionist literature, sent
agents throughout the North to organize state and local antislavery societies, and
poured petitions into Congress demanding the abolition of slavery in the District of
The abolitionists were at first widely denounced and abused. Mobs attacked them in
the North; Southerners burned antislavery pamphlets and in some areas excluded
them from the mails; and Congress imposed the gag rule to avoid considering their
petitions. These actions, and the murder of abolitionist editor Elijah P. Lovejoy in
1837, led many to fear for their constitutional rights. Abolitionists shrewdly
exploited these fears and antislavery sentiment spread rapidly in the North. By
1838, more than 1,350 antislavery societies existed with almost 250,000 members,
including many women.
Although abolitionists united in denouncing the African venture of the American
Colonization Society , they disagreed among themselves as to how their goal might
be best reached. Garrison believed in moral suasion as the only weapon; he and his
followers also argued that women be allowed to participate fully in antislavery
societies, thus disturbing more conservative members. When the Garrisonians
passed such a resolution at the society's 1840 convention, a large group led by the
Tappan brothers withdrew and formed the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery
Society. The abolitionists were never again united as a single movement.
Advocates of direct political action founded (1840) the Liberty party; James G.
Birney was its presidential candidate in 1840 and 1844. Writers such as John
Greenleaf Whittier and orators such as Wendell Phillips gave their services to the
cause, while Frederick Douglass and other freed or escaped slaves also took to the
lecture platform.
An antislavery lobby was organized in 1842, and its influence grew under Weld's
able direction. Abolitionists hoped to convert the South through the churches, until
the withdrawal of Southern Methodists (1844) and Baptists (1845) from association
with their Northern brethren. After the demise of the Liberty party, the political
abolitionists supported the Free-Soil party in 1848 and 1852, and in 1856 they
voted with the Republican party.
The passage of more stringent fugitive slave laws in 1850 increased abolitionist
activity on the Underground Railroad . Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe
, became an effective piece of abolitionist propaganda, and the Kansas question
further aroused both North and South. The culminating act of extreme abolitionism
occurred in the raid of John Brown on Harpers Ferry. After the opening of the Civil
War insistent abolitionist demands for immediate freeing of the slaves, supported
by radical Republicans in Congress, pushed President Lincoln in his decision to issue
the Emancipation Proclamation .
The writer acknowledges that the book is a very inadequate representation of
slavery; and it is so, necessarily, for this reason -- that slavery, in some of its
workings, is too dreadful for the purposes of art. A work which should represent it
strictly as it is would be a work which could not be read; and all works which ever
mean to give pleasure must draw a veil somewhere, or they cannot succeed.


Novel (also known as Life Among the Lowly) by Harriet Beecher Stowe, published in
serialized form in 1851-52 and in book form in 1852. While being transported by
boat to a slave auction in New Orleans, the saintly, dignified slave Uncle Tom saves
the life of Little Eva St. Clare, whose grateful father purchases Tom. Little Eva and
Tom become great friends. Eva's health, always frail, declines rapidly, and on her
deathbed she asks her father to free all his slaves. Mr. St. Clare makes plans to do
so but is killed before he can, and Tom's new owner, the brutal Simon Legree, has
Tom whipped to death after he refuses to divulge the whereabouts of some
runaway slaves. The novel, which sold in enormous numbers, is often cited as a
cause of the Civil War.
A dramatic adaptation played to capacity audiences for years and was a staple of
touring companies into the 20th century.
Its author was an ardent abolitionist who wanted to change the course of
events in her country by radically transforming the climate of public opinion over
the issue of slavery. She achieved her goal.
The aestheticism movement, by denying that politics should have any place
in literature, dismissed it as a piece of mere antislavery propaganda. The reaction
against authors traditionally classified as sentimental, combined with a general
prejudice against women writers fostered by the male-dominated establishment of
literary criticism, relegated Stowe to the category of sub-literary.
When the author of Uncle Toms Cabin met President Lincoln in the White
House in 1862m he greeted her with the words: So you are the little lady who
started this Great War!
She wrote in an overworked household, harassed by all kinds of difficulties,
but determined not to be a mere domestic slave.
In May 1850 she moved with her family to Brunswick. It was at this point of
her life that she undertook her first and more successful novel, which stemmed
from her firm determination to contribute to the antislavery cause. She felt it was
her moral duty to react immediately against the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which
made illegal to aid any runaway slaves arriving in the Free States, and required
northerners to assist in the capture and return of fugitives to their southern owners.
Also, the Underground Railroad ran through Cincinnati, where her own house had
been just across the river from Kentucky, and she had witnessed antiabolitionist
riots in the streets of a city divided over the issue of slavery.
Her domestic servant also provided her with sources of literary inspiration,
especially her cook, Eliza Buck, raised in Virginia, sold to a Louisiana plantation
owner, and later to a Kentucky master who became the father of all her children. In
1851, during communion at her parish church in Brunswick, she had a vision of a
bleeding slave being whipped to death, a scene she wrote as soon as she got home
and which would later constitute the basis of her account of Uncle Toms
Frederick Douglass was outraged over the Fugitive Slaves Law, and realizing
that the novel could mobilize citizens against it, defended Stowe through his
newspaper from all who might challenge her reputation. Stowes acknowledge
desire to awaked sympathy and feeling towards the slaves coincided exactly with
Douglass intention in his Narrative. While using different methods, they were
joined in a common cause. Not surprisingly, the southern critics response was
overwhelmingly hostile. Accused of ignorance and inaccuracy, she realized that her
novel could not stand alone and felt obliged to justify what she had written by
producing documentary evidence.
She replied to objectors with A Key to Uncle Toms Cabin: Presenting the
Original Facts and Documents upon which the Story is Founded (1853)


Stowes novel bears the direct influence of the slave narrative tradition, for
she drew on material form African American autobiographies of the 1840s. Among
the main characters of the novel, the protagonist has become the most
controversial of all, partly because he was the origin of the pejorative term Uncle
Tom, which refers to a thoroughly subservient black zealously intent on pleasing
whites. This Uncle Tom stereotype, with all its negative associations, does not
correspond to Stowes characterization, but to the distorted image which arose from
the influential stage versions loosely based on the best-selling book.
Uncle Tom is intelligent, sensible, peaceful, forgiving, stoic and generous in
his response to the human needs that require his assistance, of blacks and whites
alike. There is no servility or passivity in Toms attitude, but what we would now call
non-violent resistance. In Stowes religious mind, it was the sacrificial offering of
the innocent, cast in the role of the perfect Christian, the martyr. She deliberately
presented Tom as a Christ-like figure by emphasizing parallelisms as her novel
progressed and, consequently, no other ending would have fit her plans and her
readers expectations. From her perspective, Tom was the true hero of the story,
although our contemporary readers are more inclined to see the hero in the intrepid
George Harris, who breaks the law like Frederick Douglass in real life in order to
free himself.
Her stated purpose of showing the evils of slavery in order to make
Americans react against it required a particularly careful handling of her subject
matter. There is ample proof that, while writing her novel, Stowe wished to take
into account the slaves own perspectives.
During her lifetime and until the first decades of the twentieth century,
Stowe was honoured among African Americans. Later in the century, however, she
began to be accused of portraying the slaves of her novel condescendingly.
Obviously, 20th Century African Americans, who had never been slaves, were keen
to distance themselves from everything that Uncle Tom had come to represent.
Turning away from the universalism of the Enlightenment, 19th Century
intellectuals embraced a kind of racialist thinking which held the notion that, apart
from distinctive physical features, each racial group had special innate gifts or
particular inbred qualities. Romantic racialism was common in abolitionist circles,
and even added strength to their belief that slavery constituted the oppression of
one of the best races of the human family. Stowe subscribed to the romantic
racialism of her time, not to be confused with modern racism, for she did not
endorse racist claims of black inferiority.
The concept of evangelical Protestantism is essential in order to understand
that the principal theme of the novel is the problem of evil, which Stowe treats on
different levels, including its theological, moral, economic and political dimensions.
She combines notions that we nowadays tend to place in separate spheres and
mixes various modes of discourse that we generally separate. For instance, she
blends theological with political discourse in the jeremiad tradition that runs
through American literature. She denounces the civil laws regulating slavery,
because she thinks that they are in conflict with the higher religious laws that forbid
the system absolutely.
Stowe used the analogy of the nation as a family under threat; she was
establishing a connection between the domestic and the political spheres. If slavery
destroyed the family, that is, the institution upon which human society rests,
slavery was endangering society itself. As she felt that the American domestic
values of her time were complicit in the patriarchal institution of slavery, she
proposed to alter such values so that American society would be reformed in a
genuinely progressive sense. Although Stowes ideas about sacredness of the home
and the sanctity of the family may seem old-fashioned today, her work was
informed by the most advanced cultural feminist ideology of her own time, which
was struggling over the issue of maternal power. Indeed, motherhood plays a
fundamental role in Uncle Toms Cabin.


Stowe uses an omniscient narrator who speaks directly to the reader, not
only explaining facts and discussing moral and political issues, but establishing an
intimacy that allows her to exhort, rebuke, implore, persuade, admonish or
otherwise instruct someone very much like herself, although less knowledgeable
about the multiple evils of slavery. Thus, she develops a sense of immediacy,
proximity and empathy that creates or encourages a sense of personal
responsibility in each individual reader. The original subtitle of the novel was The
Man Who Was a Thing, pointed out the dehumanization and objectification to which
slaves were subjected.
Slave women, being the property of their masters, had no legal right to
resist their sexual advances. Black women in bondage gave birth to mixed-blood
babies fathered by their white masters. These children added to the wealth of their
owners by remaining as part of their estate or by being sold away. According to
Stowes worldview, slavery should be eradicated from any true Christian society
because its maintenance was a sin committed not only by slaveholders but also by
those who did not own slaves themselves, but who were guilty of perpetuating the
The novel was originally published over nine months in forty-one
instalments. Serialization is a mode of literary production which implies the writing
of a story in sections that appear over a period of time with interruptions both for
the author and for the reader. The narrative organization of a serialized story differs
from the linearity of a novel published as a whole text in a single book. In a series,
the beginning of each chapter should help the readers to recall preceding chapters,
and the ending section should arouse their interest so that they look forward to the
next issue. The plot must be developed with a clear system of cross-references to
past events and to characters already well-known to the audience. Minor characters
must be introduced in a striking manner, so that they may leave a lasting
impression on readers.
Uncle Toms Cabin must be placed within the literary traditions of
sentimentalism and realism. The sentimental novel is concentrated on the distress
of the virtuous and illustrated the alliance of acute sensibility with true virtue.
Sentimentality became pejoratively associated with the practice of overemphasizing
emotions with any attempts on the part of the author to arouse an outpouring of
intense feelings in a sympathetic audience. Rejecting Romanticism, nineteenth
century realism sought to portray ordinary life with fidelity, avoiding idealization
and any rendering of fantastic or improbable events.


WALT WHITMAN (1819 1892)
Whitman likened it to a carefully constructed cathedral; critics hail his work as the
cornerstone of modern American poetry.
Whitman broke away from the standard metre and rhyme schemes of English
poetry and explored the possibilities of free verse instead
Free verse: called vers libre in French, has no regular metre and no equal line
length. It has an irregular rhythm does not mean that it has no rhythmic
arrangement. The overall effect has a melodic character because the variable
patterns of sound used by the poet are created by means of alliteration and
assonance, and by the repetition of words and phrases. Verse lines have different
lengths and are fluid because they are structured according to the cadence of
natural speech.
The author saw himself as a bard for his whole nation, speaking with a voice dram
from Americas vernacular, a popular language, made by the masses, people
nearest the concrete, having most to do with actual land and sea. He called for a
literature for the masses, but the great contradiction was that Whitman was never
read by the mass readership of his day.
The first three lines of the first section or canto indicate that the speaker
celebrates in himself the qualities that he has in common with his reader, his own
individuality and that of other people and the feeling of community with other
In line 5, a spear of summer grass stands for a symbol of the individual, a symbol
of the natural world, a symbol of democracy.
In section 6, lines 14-16 is an example of anaphora. Anaphora: the repetition of a
word or a group of words in successive clauses
The handkerchief mentioned in section 6 stands as a symbol of the purity embodied
by the whiteness, a reminder of divinity and a symbol of the new life embodied by
the greenness.
Section 15 presents a lengthy catalogue that emphasizes human diversity, end by
merging human diversity into a harmonious union and presents both individual
portraits and group scenes in rather long lines. The portrayal of people treat them
with dignity and respect, emphasize the importance of the working class and
presents them in a variety of settings, both in the county and in the city. The
people described are identified by their occupations, relationship to other members
of their family and ethnicity.
Section 52 I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world suggests that
the speaker of the poem joyously joins with the hawk mentioned 2 lines above,
rather than merely observe the bird.


I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow form the grass I love suggests that the
speaker perceives existence as a continuum and believes in a kind of rebirth in the
regenerative natural world.
Unlike most nature writers Whitman did not focus on the adversarial relationship
between human beings and the natural world, which in his time were and still are
often treated as irreconcilable entities. He saw humans and their creations,
including their cities as inextricable components of a harmonious natural world.
His grasp of the detail of an event, but not of its ethical quality, is shown in his
description of a sea-fight [pp. 62-63]. Somehow he never shows us the soul of
anything. We may ask even, "Does he believe there is any such thing as a soul?"
American he is, of the ruder and more barbaric type, a prairie cow boy in a buffalo
robe, with a voice of the east wind, shouting prophecies and incantations about
what he thinks he sees and knows. But from civilized speech or melody he seems
strangely remote. Egotism, if a virtue, is certainly an unfragrant one, and Walt
Whitman's egotism, grotesque as it is, is perhaps less grotesque than gigantic. He
describes himself well enough in the lines,
I am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
Milton defines poetry as "thoughts that voluntary move harmonious numbers"; and
Chatfield says, "Poetry is the music of thought, conveyed to us in the music of
language." Joubert happily puts it, "Nothing which does not transport is poetry. The
lyre is a winged instrument." Let us see, then how a few lines from Whitman's
"Song of Myself" come up to the requirements of these authorities:
I celebrate myself, and sing myself, and what I assume
you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer



I celebrate myself, and sing myself,": Celebrate: To perform (a

religious ceremony); to extol or praise; to make widely known,
display. What might be the difference between "celebrate" and "sing"
in this line? Note that Whitman does not say sing of or about myself.
What might the difference be?
And what I assume you shall assume,": Note the assumption that
there will be an intimate connection established between "I" and
"you." As a reader, you may find this assertion rather presumptuous.
However, the full poem works to keep this promise in many creative
ways. Assume: To take upon oneself, to take for granted, suppose.
(Theology: To take up or receive into heaven.)
"For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.": This
can be read in two ways: every good atom belonging to me, or (more
likely) my atoms as good as belong to you.
. "I loafe and invite my soul,": The photograph which Whitman
printed with the first edition shows him leaning with a jaunty flair, with
his shirt partially unbuttoned, a kind of revolutionary statement in
image. Contrast this with most photographs of men at the time,
standing stiffly, with tightly buttoned collars. Note the emphasis of
repetition (intensified by "at my ease") and the sense of passive



"I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer

grass.": This will become a prime symbol in the poem, suggesting
universal equality as well as fertility and life out of death.
. "My tongue, every atom of my blood, form'd from this soil,
Whitman celebrates all of the body, but the tongueand the voice of
the poetis primary because he seeks to speak not just for himself
but universally, for all "selfs." Just as Whitman proposes that he
speaks for all people, so this particular place speaks for all places
"this soil, this air"(a very Transcendental notion, explored by
Henry David Thoreau in Walden). His poems roam the nation, but they
are anchored in Long Island and Manhattan.

7. "I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,": By the time
Whitman wrote this line, he was older than thirty-seven; however, he did first
publish the poem at that age. He had written little poetry (none of note) before this
age. The poem will establish the connection between body and soul, so the "perfect
health" of the poet would be a necessity (although not necessarily factual).
8. "Hoping to cease not till death.": In fact, Whitman continued to expand
Leaves of Grass until he was quite old. This stanza, for example, did not appear in
the 1855 or 1856 editions.
9. "Creeds and schools in abeyance,": Creeds: Formal statements of
religious belief; confessions of faith. Though Whitman temporarily sets aside
formal religion, many people find strong religious overtones and ideas in the
poem, including some from Eastern religions.
10. 10. "I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,":
Permit to speak: What does this word suggest about the intentionality of
Whitman's words? What is the source of his "speaking"? What might be
hazardous or dangerous about the ideas that Whitman presents here?
11. Nature without check with original energy.": Check: Stop or
obstruction. What is the origin of the energy? What kind of energy might it
Source: Norton introduction to literature
Consequently, what matters for both artists is the journey itself, the effort of
consciousness. Like Emerson, Whitman and Dickinson sanctify the creative process
rather than worship the finished form." "Both Whitman and Dickinson . . . posit the
centrality of the artist's consciousness. The difference is that Whitman's projection
is affective and sympathetic. He is Adam naming for himself a whole new world into
being. Dickinson has experienced the intellectual fall. She can but watch herself
create a world of meanings. Constructing analogies, detecting correspondences are
the ways of both human perception and human emotional need while the 'Single
Hound' of consciousness must forever question the truths of its own making."(Walt
Whitman and Emily Dickinson: Poetry of the Central Consciousness [1985]):
The Only Kangaroo among the Beauty: Emily Dickinson and America [1979]):
"They both work against the distinction between the work and the person who
produced it. They both hold writing not as a freestanding achievement but as some
kind of medium in which a unique personality heroically exposes itself. They both
appear to have held that a poem derives its credentials from its place in a special,
lived experience. They both appear to have felt that the poet's effort is successful
when it ruptures the collective voice; and thus we have the incompleteness, the
fragmentary quality in both, the tendency in both toward antigenres. All of this, in
both, leads to the celebration of the quality of one's consciousness as the final


standard." "The usual artificial distinctions between them can be largely accepted
and largely ignored: Whitman's prophet versus Emily Dickinson's recluse; his
certainty versus her doubt; his homosexuality versus her physical denial; and so
on. We understand little as soon as we have made the one poet New English and
the other American, the one intellectual and analytical and the other imaginative
and synthetic, the one intensive and concentrating and the other expansive and
liberating, the one a hothouse-plant and the other wild- luxuriant-natural, the one
contemplative and passionate and the other prophetic and compassionate, or the
one personal and abstract and the other universal and concrete. . . . There is no
use making Emily Dickinson's poetry the epitome of home verse and Whitman's the
epitome of the fringe. We can know we have an incomplete idea if Whitman is given
the circumference and Emily Dickinson the center."
M.L. Rosenthal and Sally M. Gall (The Modern Poetic Sequence [1983]): "Emily
Dickinson professed a reluctance to publish, and certainly she felt no public call in
Whitman's sense. . . . What she did share with Whitman, apart from exquisite
lyrical gifts and sensuous alertness, was the passion that drives their work and the
need to be discreet. The need was hopeless in both cases, because their most
intense work gives the game away. Misunderstood, Whitman's self-exposure
seemed unmanly and suspect to many readers. Dickinson's would have been
thought unbecoming in a lady had she been published and understood. But
Whitman's discretion was a practical expedient, a minimal self-protection in a
hostile environment. Dickinson's was a matter of her essential idiom of style and
personality. As we shall see, much of her greatest writing evokes boldly clear states
of awareness within an indeterminate context. It is both reticent and revealing:
'pure' as Whitman's 'touch' poems are pure. The principle at work in Dickinson, the
pressure to get an extreme emotional complex into focus while repressing its
private source, may account for the unevenness of her work, given her prolificacy
and the absence of reaction from peers. . . ." "A certain affinity with Whitman is
seriously present no matter what their differences were. Emily Dickinson might well
have seen the 1855 and 1860 editions of Leaves of Grass, despite her humorously
suspect, prim denial. . . . Yet the two poets are kindred sensibilities, a fact that
becomes more visible when their reciprocities are seen in the magnifying lenses of
their sequences. Whitman, to be sure, was more direct and explicit about sex, but
no more sensitized to it if we read Dickinson aright. He plunged more ardently, with
strongly sexual overtones, into his intoxicating commerce with nature, and was
relatively untroubled by any sense of division between himself and nature or deity.
In general, he provides external detail and circumstance plentifully, addresses
himself to the reader, and relatively seldom keeps his literal subject hidden from us.
Dickinson, more complex and starkly conscious of the betrayal of manifold hopes,
finds many more shadings and levels and degrees of half-alienated relationship
among self and nature and God, just as she does in her relations with other persons
and her sense of herself. She pushes further, with more psychological precision,
than Whitman does into the subjective realm of self-doubt and of confusions and
agonies of spirit."
WALT WHITMAN (1819-1892)
His fame rests upon Leaves of Grass, the collection which started in 1855 as
a slender volume of twelve poems and grew over the span of a thirty-seven-year
career until it eventually contained 389 poems.
His poetry did not fit in with the genteel standards of the time because he
began to write when the popularly successful Fireside Poets, such as Longfellow,
dominated the American literary scene. Compared to them, both his language and
his subject matter seemed vulgar, while his apparent lack of structure did not suit


the taste of those who expected poetry to follow strictly the rigid patterns of
traditional verse.
Regarding form, Whitman broke away from the standard metre and rhyme
schemes of English poetry, and explores the possibilities of free verse instead. The
overall effect has a melodic character because the variable patterns of sound used
by the poet are created by means of alliteration and assonance, and by the
repetition of words and phrases. Although other poets before him had experimented
with free verse, it was Whitman who developed what would become the
predominant form in modern poetry.
Not only did he reject conventionally poetic English and replace it with the
language of common American speech, but he also introduced subjects that had
been traditionally considered unsuitable for poetry. He captured the rhythms of
urban life and made the city an appropriate setting for poetical work. He paid
attention to the daily lives of ordinary people. In his poetic vision he celebrated an
America large enough to include the multitudes in a mystical imagined Union.
To the end of his life he would be puzzled and saddened by his poetrys lack
of popularity. His innovative style was finally recognized by an educated audience of
artist and scholars, not by the working class he had primarily addressed.
Walt Whitman, like Benjamin Franklin in the previous century, was the
epitome of the self-made man. Mainly self-taught, Whitman compensated for the
little formal education he had received in his early years by reading widely and by
attending the theatre and the opera, which would constitute extremely important
influences upon his artistic development. His personality was also shaped to a great
extent by the Quakerism and Deism that prevailed in his household. The Quakers
Hicksite belief was that ones duty is to enjoy life guided by the intuitions of ones
soul, and this would become the foundation of Whitmans religious thought.
The printing trade he practised both in Brooklyn and in N.Y. introduced him
to the connected worlds of journalism and politics, two professional activities he
preferred to teaching school. When he was 19 he founded his own weekly
newspaper, the Long Islander, which is still in print today.
An important aspect of Whitmans ideology that had direct impact upon his
journalistic and poetic career was his opposition to the extension of slavery into
western territories. Unlike the abolitionists, who opposed slavery on moral grounds,
Whitman supporter free-soilers, who were not against the institution itself, but
simply against the presences of slaves in the new territories.
He returned to Brooklyn by way of the Mississippi, the Great Lakes and the
Hudson River, famous for its diverse surrounding landscapes, also provided him
with a unique chance to absorb the variety of America, a theme that would figure
so prominently in his writings.
Critics have explores how the gloomy climate of economic depression and
social disunion of the pre-Civil War years pervaded Whitmans poems of this period.
Probably the reason why he was so slow to engage emotionally in the was effort
was the despair he had already felt for his country before the actual fighting broke
out, convinced as he was that the causes for the armed conflict lay in the corruption
that had infected both the North and the South. His only contact with the war came
through the hospitals. The experiences nursing wounded soldiers grew his volume
Drum-Taps, a collection of 53 poems he introduced into the 1867 collection of
Leaves of Grass, thus giving the Civil War a central position in his work. It is
commonly believed that the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln at the end
of the war affected Whitman much more deeply than any event in the war itself.
Whitmans explicit celebration of sexual freedom often shocked and offended
his first audience. Although he thought of himself a moral poet trying to cleanse an
immoral society, many of his contemporaries saw him not merely vulgar, bur as
corrupt for his alleged obscenity. Curiously enough, in his lifetime it was his
allusions to heterosexuality that became subjects of controversy, whereas his
handling of homosexuality was largely unnoticed. 20th Century scholarship has paid
a great deal of attention to the Calamus poems. As these pieces celebrated the


beautiful and sane affection of man for man according to its author, they were
initially taken as innocent poems of male comradeship and brotherly love. Recently,
however, the Calamus cluster has come to be interpreted as a group of overtly
homoerotic lyrics. Since Whitman thought that sex was part of human experience,
he was no reason why it should be excluded from his all embracing poetry, whose
material was drawn from the common everyday lives of all kind of people. His
poetry stressed the importance of the physical self, yet did not focus exclusively on
it. In fact, democracy was his most distinctive and central theme, to which many
other were related. He thought that America was the great democracy where each
individual could evolve to spiritual perfection.
On the frontispiece of Leaves of Grass was the portrait of a young man, who
remained unidentified, as no authors name was given on the title page. His
unconventional appearance, however, seemed to link him to the poet who boldly
addressed readers by celebrating himself and his whole nation with him.
The grass, which is the most commonplace plant on earth, appears as a
formal structuring device throughout Song to Myself, starting with the close
attention devoted to a single spear or leaf of grass in line 5 of the first section.
Whitman was fascinated with the power inscribed in visual images and often
thought of his work in relation to painting. With the dexterity of a realist painter he
created extraordinary and exceptional democratic images in the historical context of
antidemocratic feeling that characterized the antebellum period. Indeed, the visual
arts produced in America during the years immediately preceding the Civil War
were associated with and elite tradition rather than with popular values. American
painting at that time did not focus on representations of common people in scenes
of everyday life that were prevalent in France after the French Revolution,
particularly in the works of Millet, with whom Whitman felt an affinity that led him
to observe: the Leaves are really only Miller in another form. After the Civil War
the realist painters Winslow Homer and Thomas Eakins, among other, created visual
counterparts to the literary representations of the democratic ideals that Whitman
had already expressed before the war.
Whitman aesthetic relies heavily on reversals of preceding forms of poetry.
According to him, as poems should be spontaneous and organic rather than present
and regular, they must be divided into sections of varying rhythm and size, rather
than constrictive rhyming stanzas. Everything in poetry verse, form, subject
matter and vernacular language- must be drawn from life and be true to it.
Reduction, simplification and closure (the effect of finality and completeness) must
be avoided.
Song to Myself places great demands on its readers partly because of the
freedom Whitman takes with word order, his frequent use of ellipsis and his
anaphoric frame of reference.


She is often compared with Walt Whitman and placed with him in the first rank of
the 19th Century radically experimental poets whose original and innovative style
anticipated in some respects the modernist movement of the following century.
There is no certainty about the reasons why she only spent one year at
Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, ten miles from her house. Homesickness, ill
health and her refusal to become a professing Christian may all have played an
important role in her departure from that prestigious institution. Except for that
year at the Seminary and some visits to Boston and to Washington, Dickinson spent
her life within the grounds of the Homestead, the family mansion where she had
been born. She never married and tried to avoid domestic duties in order to devote
all her energy to reading and writing.
When in 1860 Dickinson ceased to visit other peoples houses,
correspondence remained her preferred means of communicating with her friends.
Though the Homestead was only one lawn away from the Evergreens (where her
best friend, Susan, lived), she addressed Susan primarily in writing, and she did so
with such an extraordinary intensity and passion that their life-long emotional bond
has become a matter of conjecture. What is known for sure is that the poet
regularly shared drafts and invited feedback from that friend, her sister-in-law, in
whom she found her true soul mate and with whom she felt free to voice her most
intimate thoughts.
Since Dickinson did not keep a diary, her letters are her only prose available
to the public. They are interesting both in themselves and because they provide the
best context for interpreting her poetry. Many of them can be read as poems, just
as many of her poems can be read as letters, for she challenged traditional notions
of boundaries between genres, and in some of her letters she even switched from
prose to verse in the middle of the sentence.
Higginsons words in the introduction to the first volume of her Poems
(1890) defined Dickinson as a recluse by temperament and habit contributing to
the propagation of the mythic portrait of the eccentric woman always dressed in
white. Rather than clarify matters about her enigmatic figure, her poetry makes it
still more complex because she constantly manipulated her appearance and position
through frequent metamorphoses.
She chose a method of publishing which consisted in circulating her
manuscripts among her trusting friends. Much has been written about how the
conventions of print violated the characteristics of her poetry and about her wish to
preserve her privacy rather than exhibit her feelings to strangers. Another reason
that may have discouraged her from having her poetry printed is that she valued
her autonomy and was reluctant to have her work edited. All of the ten poems
printed in her lifetime, chiefly in newspapers, had been altered in various ways and
given titles without her consent.
Her most creative year was 1863, when she wrote more than three hundred.
She copied selections of her poems in ink onto sheets of letter paper that she
bound with string, but did not sign or put her name on these hand-sewn albums
which would come to be known as fascicles nor did she label, number, or give
them any titles. It is not until the year 1955 that an accurate collection of
Dickinsons poems appear.
The fact that Dickinsons work has been edited by a variety of people
accounts for different editorial practices. As her first editors wanted her poems to
be accepted by their contemporaries, they felt the need to make them conform to


19th Century standards of verse decorum, and thus adopted policies that tended to
delete the authors radical experimentation. In contrast, recent editors are
concerned with rendering her manuscript poems as faithfully as possible into print.
Rather than being anxious to assert her authority as a poet, she questioned
authority itself. Trapped between doubt and certainty, she was willing to admit that
there are no final answers to the great traditional questions that continue to
exercise poets. Therefore, instead of favouring straightforwardness, she preferred
Much has been written about her scepticism, which seems to be obvious.
Many of her poems, however, indicate that she was deeply concerned with divinity
and often explored notions of God.
Dickinsons poems are short and compact in accordance with the brevity and
conciseness of her style, characterized by a extraordinary sharpness. In contrast
with the wordiness or verbosity of most of her contemporaries, her passion for
economy in language giver all her utterances and epigrammatic character.
Nevertheless, her aphoristic verses are far from being simple, because the frequent
grammatical elisions that are the root of her elliptical style often result in obscurity.
Neither were her main themes nature, death and immortality- new, nor were the
formal features alliteration, assonance, consonance, simile, metaphor and
analogy- unusual. Her originality stemmed from her power and skill in expressing
her multifaceted sensibility in beautiful and suggestive language.
The message comes from Nature. Concerning form, this poem clearly exemplifies
how Dickinson adapted to her purpose the Congregational hymns she often sang.
She used the traditional hymn metre which consisted in quatrains of alternating
iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter lines, stanzas of four lines in alternate lines
of eight syllables (four metrical feet) and six syllables (three metrical feet), but she
interrupted this regularity by occasional changes in metre (as in line5, which only
has seven syllables) and rhyme (as lines 5 and 7).
At present there are five manuscripts of the poem, and one or two more have been
Apart for the changes in capitalization, the most important remodelling in the first
stanza took place when the author replaced the first word of the fourth line sleep,
by lie, thus transferring the focus from the notion of slumber into that of stasis.
The substitution was consistent with the contents of each of the two versions of the
second stanza. Indeed, the earlier version focuses on the marked contrast between
the somnolence of the dead and the vitality of the birds and bees. On the other
hand, the later version emphasizes how the universe remains in never ending
motion while the dead are motionless in their graves.
The opening unvoiced S sound is the key note of the first stanza, the S of silence
that strikes again in sleep, satin and stone Some readers have understood it as
the expression of the authors belief in the Resurrection, whereas others insist that
it transgresses conventional pieties and gives no consolations or hope because its
conclusion implies that it is the physical world rather than its spiritual counterpart
that continues to exist.
It was first published anonymously under the title of The May-Wine with editorial
changes intended to please a conventional audience. Two lines were altered to get
and exact rhyme, and one line was transformed for the sake of a more
understandable metaphor.
For quite long readers understood this poem as an innocent nature poem about the
intoxicating joy that the author experiences when she is overwhelmed by the
beauty of the spring scenery. The air is compared to liquor, and the speaker like a


bird drinking nectar- surpasses butterflies and bees in her capacity to luxuriate in
sensuous pleasure. Nature as a source of delight is indeed a theme that recurs in
many of Dickinsons poems. What is unique here is the subversive aspect that is
revealed when its last stanza is compared with the lines that inspired it. In The Day
of the Doom the divine Michael Wigglesworth had depicted the terrifying scene of
the second coming of Christ, when the passed over rush and to their windows
run,/Viewing this light, which shines more bright than doth the Noon-day Sun. In
Dickinsons poem it is also the saints who to windows run, though not to
contemplate the glory of God, but to see the little Tippler/Leaning against the
Dickinson seems to evoke some kinds of transcendental experience similar to the
ones described by Emerson, whose general influence on her thought is undeniable.
But, again, what is original in Dickinsons poem, and rather unexpected from
someone with her upbringing, is how wittily she plays with the language of alcohol
and inebriation to create an extended metaphor suffused with humour.
This piece is written in quatrains, alternating iambic tetrameter and trimeter, with
rhymes of various styles between the second and fourth line of each stanza.
It was first published in Poems (1896) without the last stanza. The removal of the
terrifying stanza has a significant effect on the meaning of the poem, which not
only becomes less frightening, but may be interpreted as a discourse on death
rather than as the description of a psychic breakdown. The poem is not about
actual death in a biological sense, but about the death of consciousness which is
linked to the experience of depression. It is the feeling of a funeral that occurs in
the speakers brain while experiencing a disturbed mental state. The ritual
described in the first four stanzas is familiar. But then, in the fifth stanza,
something unexpected happens. The plank suddenly breaks and the coffin, instead
of being lowered on ropes into the ground, drops down bumping against the sides
of the deep grave until it comes to a halt in the darkness at the bottom.
The extended metaphor of the funeral illustrates a mental process that is
characterized by monotony and repetitiveness. Although the world of sound
predominates, the spatial setting of the poem which is suggested by the
claustrophobic environment of the funeral-, is also important. In this gloomy
atmosphere, the mind becomes numb. The last line of the fourth stanza, Wrecked,
solitary, here, draws the readers attention to a different setting: that of an alien
land where a shipwrecked mariner endures a solitude compares to that of the
corpse in the coffin. But instead of expanding on this new metaphor, the poet
returns to the funeral and suddenly introduces the final element of surprise.
Both seeing ones funeral and the fantasy of being buried alive are common
motifs that have often been treated in literature. Dickinson uses and at the same
time, subverts this convention in an original manner and with dramatically effective
It focuses n the experience of death by capturing the last thoughts of the speaker,
surrounded by mourners, but much more attentive to the presence of a buzzing fly
that blocks out the light.
The imagery emphasizes the connection of the senses of hearing and sight by
linking sound and colour. The final ebb of consciousness is depicted as a loss of
sight, which marks the ending of the poem. It concludes when vision fails, the
unequivocal sign that the speaker has just died.
It exemplifies her technique of the omitted centre, a device by which the author
alludes to what seems specific, but in fact does not identify the people involved or


locate the events evoked. Instead, she omits information that is crucial to the
understanding of the poem.
This poem has attracted many feminist critics and within these interpretations they
emphasize how female creation is perceived as a form of aggression. The fact that
the speaker sees herself as a loaded gun, a lethal weapon, is understood as the
poets rejection of conventional femininity because she would be presenting herself
as everything that a woman is not supposed to be.
Feminist critics have been particularly interested in the volcanic image of line 11,
because they associate it with that of the female writers, whose linguistic
expression erupts out of silence, disrupting the social structures of the male
organization. According to this elucidation, Dickinson would have characterized the
Vesuvian power of her art by comparing her smile to the aftermath of a volcanic
There is a great deal of violence in it, though it is difficult to point out concrete
One of the most exciting interpretations is the one that identifies the speaker with
Death that has the power to kill but not the power to die.
In perfect or exact rhyme the vowel sounds are the same, whereas in imperfect or
slant rhyme, also called half-rhyme, partial rhyme or para-rhyme, the vowel sounds
are close but not identical. In both versions of Safe in their Alabaster Chambers,
lines 3 and 5 in the second stanza rhyme exactly (ear, here in the 1859 version;
row, snow in that of 1861), whereas the rhyme of lines 3 and 5 in the first stanza is
imperfect or slant.
Dickinsons style creates an illusion of simplicity while conveying complex meaning.
Kamilla Denman has argued that Dickinsons punctuation is neither a transcendent,
purely extra-semantic effect nor a careless transgression of grammatical rules, but
an integral part of her exploration of language, used deliberately to disrupt
conventional grammatical patterns and create new relationships between words; to
resist stasis in linguistic expression []; to create musical and rhythmical effects;
and to affirm the silent and the nonverbal, the spaces between words that lend
resonance and emphasis to poetry.
Dickinsons elliptical style leaves ample room for endless speculation about
meanings and intentions.
Critics have been fascinated by the contrast between Dickinson, a private poet
writing intimate lyrics for a selected audience, and Whitman, a public poet loudly
addressing his nation and the world at large. The difference between them is
illustrated, for instance, by the striking contrast between Dickinsons hesitant tone
in This is my letter to the World and the confident tone of the first section of
Whitmans Song to Myself.


MARK TWAIN (Samuel L. Clemens)
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, two classics
novels of boyhood adventure. The fact that many people have read both of them in
their school days has contributed to spreading his fame as an author of childrens
books, while it has somehow challenged his stance as a serious literary artist.
He was a master of satire, a term which can be defined as the art of exposing folly
or wickedness by mocking them. He did not poke fun at trivialities, but resorted to
humour in the name of important values and for crucial purposes, in order to
correct, censure and ridicule the vices of societe by making them the target of
Realism: as a typical realist, he aimed at accurately portraying the daily life of
common people, one of his main concerns was to record precisely the way he heard
ordinary people both children and adults- talk. He avoided bookish effect that
often marred previous attempts to transpose local idiom into literature. He did not
simply use slang and dialect words, but strove to reproduce in print the sounds as
they were pronounced in order to suggest authentic regional accents.
His accomplishments in the field not only attracted an audience sympathetic to the
promotion of democratic and nationalistic ideals in his own time, but also paved the
way for the acceptance of vernacular speech in modern American literature.
The adventures of Tom Sawyer was rooted in the authors own childhood memories
of frontier life in the river town of Hannibal. Such a provocative specimen of the
modern bad boy literature that clearly satirized the older good boy or model
boy genre, with its picaresque and witty satire established Twain as an extremely
popular writer of fiction. Its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Fin, much richer
than its antecedent on all accounts.
Mark Twains famous work Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been very
controversial from the time of its appearance to the present. Some of its first
readers considered it vulgar, irreverent trashy and vicious. Nowadays it is still one
of the most challenged books in America and a s a result, various schools across
the US have alternatively banned and restore it to their curricula. Mark Twain was
absolutely against slavery and wanted to demonstrate the harm that the institution
had caused o his country, but he did not completely overcome certain racial
prejudices about non-white people. He would be judged as racist by todays
standards of political correctness were applied to a thorough analysis of all his
Although HF expresses antislavery feelings, it is not an antislavery novel in the
sense of Uncle Toms Cabin had been, basically because Twain published it after
slavery had been abolished in the United States. He wrote it after the Civil War and
Emancipation, in a period of Reconstruction that was failing to establish ht
necessary conditions so that former slaves who were legally emancipated would be
truly free.
Mark Twain began HF as a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and over a
period of seven years, he set aside his manuscript several times and every time he
resumed his work he altered his former plans. Out of the forty-three chapters that


comprise the novel, the first eleven deal with adventures on land, and the next
twenty chapters detail those that take place either on the raft that floats down the
Mississippi River or on its banks. The river dominates the geography of the novel
and provides a symbolic contrast with the land, where a decadent and perverted
culture prevails. Dominant notions of morality are progressively questioned and
subverted in the subtle ways to make the audience sympathize with the authors
ideological position.
Although HF has disturbed and offended many people since its first reception, it is
widely recognized as a major text of American realism. Hailed as a masterpiece by
some of the most prestigious critics of the period, there is a consensus to celebrate
this work as the archetypal American novel. When Hemingway made the famous
statement, all American writing comes from that. There was nothing before.
There has been nothing as good since, he had probably in mind the vernacular
language of the novel, which remains a crucial feature of its literary quality. Twain
put into literature the spoken language of the Southern lower and middle-class
society, he devoted particular attention to the speech of illiterate children and
slaves. He also breaks grammatical rules, he makes errors of subj-verb agreement,
he frequently uses double negatives, get the past form of irregular verbs wrong,
uses the non-standard aint for isnt and occasionally misspells certain words.
Hucks colloquial speech as a first person narrator, he directly addresses the readers
in a friendly manner so as to engage their sympathies. Mark Twain uses a typical
innocent eye perspective that help readers to see beyond the surface of reality.
Indeed the man effect of this literary device is to emphasize the narrators
imperfect or nave perception in order to encourage a superior and more
enlightened readers awareness.
Twain often satirized Christian customs and the hypocritical spiritual guidance of
certain religious instructors. The author not only poked fun at the Widows saying
grace before meals and mocked Miss Watsons conventional conceptions of heaven
and hell, but also took the liberty pf making iconoclastic allusions to biblical
personages such as Moses. Huck plays the role of an unruly boy who wants to
remove himself from the female world of conformity and rejects the conventional
standard of behaviour and values that both women represent.
Superstition is a theme that permeates the novel, appearing whenever Huck and
Jim express their fear of the unknown.
Although some of this humour arises form its distinctly American idiom and
depends on fashions that may no longer be prevalent, most of it is universal
enough to still be enjoyed by readers all over the world. The author creates
humorous effects by irony, paradox, hyperbole, slang expressions and funny
HF presents some typical features of the picaresque novel, a genre which originated
in 16th century Spain, the earliest example being Lazarillo de Tormes.
He continued to lecture with great success both at home and (in 1872-73) in
England. In 1876 he published Tom Sawyer, a narrative of youthful escapades. It
was followed in 1880 by A Tramp Abroad, in 1881 by The Prince and The Pauper,
and in 1883 by the autobiographical Life on the Mississippi. His next novel,
Huckleberry Finn (1884), is generally considered his finest and one of the
masterpieces of American fiction. In 1889 he published A Connecticut Yankee in
King Arthur's Court, in which a commonsensical Yankee is transported back in time
to medieval Britain.


IN this book a number of dialects are used, to wit: the Missouri negro dialect; the
extremest form of the backwoods Southwestern dialect; the ordinary "Pike County"
dialect; and four modified varieties of this last. The shadings have not been done in
a hap- hazard fashion, or by guesswork; but painstakingly, and with the
trustworthy guidance and support of personal familiarity with these several forms of
speech. I make this explanation for the reason that without it many readers would
suppose that all these characters were trying to talk alike and not succeeding.
Twain is unsurpassed in American literature. His novel The Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn, a masterpiece of humor, characterization, and realism, has been
called the first (and sometimes the best) modern American novel.
Twain's literary reputation rests most particularly on The Adventures of Huckleberry
Finn. In its hero, a resourceful, unconventional boy with an innate sense of human
values, Twain created one of the most memorable characters in fiction. The
narrative device of a raft carrying Huck and a runaway slave down the Mississippi
enabled Twain to achieve a realistic portrait of American life in the 19th cent.
Through his use of authentic vernacular speech he revolutionized the language of
American fiction and exerted a great influence on many subsequent American
writers. In 1990 a handwritten manuscript of the first half of the novel was
discovered that includes a number of minor changes and an episode that was left
out of the original published version; these passages were included in an edition
published in 1996
Like William Dean Howells, Clara Clemens may have honestly thought that the
"real" Mark Twain was a genial humorist who was led to omit certain American
colloquialisms from the printed page -- for example, from "Huckleberry Finn." The
savagery of certain elements in that great novel -- Colonel Sherburn's assassination
of Boggs and his contemptuous quelling of the mob that wants to lynch him come
to mind -- cannot be made to vanish by a conjuring trick; and the space age is far
more moved by the sardonic and disillusioned Mark Twain than it is by Twain the
comic lecturer and writer of genial buffoonery.
Mark Twain's most loved, most influential, and most controversial books. It was
banned from the Concord Public Library in 1885, the year of its publication, and
Huckleberry Finn ranks number five in the American Library Association's list of the
most frequently challenged books of the 1990s. But in 1935, Ernest Hemingway
wrote that "all modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain
called Huckleberry Finn.... All American writing comes from that. There was nothing
before. There has been nothing as good since."
No aspects of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are more controversial today than its
depiction of race relations and Mark Twain's use of racist language. The book takes
place before the Civil War when the institution of slavery was the primary influence
on race relations. It is set during the years that Mark Twain was growing up in the
slaveholding community of Hannibal, Missouri. He wrote the book much later,
though. It is important to understand both the history of slavery and the
deterioration of race relations in the United States that occured during the years
Twain was writing the book.
For a decade after the Civil War, race relations improved dramatically. Slavery was
abolished, African Americans were able to vote, some were elected to office, and


they were able to acquire land and jobs. The progress of the Reconstruction era
came to an abrupt end with the Hayes-Tilden Compromise of 1877. Reconstruction
in the South was ended in order to settle a disputed presidential election, and race
relations in the United States reached their historical low point in the decades that
followed. Rights gained by African Americans between 1865 and 1877 were lost as
Jim Crow segregation laws were established, African Americans were disfranchised
throughout the South, and they became victims of escalating racial violence that
went unchecked by federal authorities. The deterioration of race relations during
the years Mark Twain was writing Huckleberry Finn is as important to understand as
the slavery of the period depicted in the novel. The novel is about slavery and a
slaveholding society, but it can also be read as a critical commentary on the later
Sensitive to the sound of language, Twain introduced colloquial speech into
American fiction. In Green Hills of Africa, Ernest Hemingway wrote: "All modern
American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn..."
HUCKLEBERRY FINN (1884) was first considered adult fiction. Huck Finn, which
painted a picture of Mississippi frontier life, was intended as a sequel to Tom
Sawyer. Huck, who could not possibly write a story, tells us the story. Both works
stand high on the list of eminent writers like Stevenson, Dickens, and Saroyan who
honestly depicted young people without any condescension or moralizing. Huck's
distaste for civilization reflects the ideas of Walden, and his debate whether or not
he will turn in Jim, an escaped slave and a friend, probed the racial tensions of the
national conscience. Later Twain wrote in The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg
(1900): "I have no race prejudices... All that I care to know is that a man is a
human being - that is enough for me; he can't be any worse."
One of Twain's major achievements is the way he narrates Huckleberry Finn,
following the twists and turns of ordinary speech, his native Missouri dialect.
Shelley Fisher Fishkin has noted in Was Huck Black? (1993) that the book drew
upon a vernacular formed by black voices as well as white. The model for Huck
Finn's voice, according to Fishkin, was a black child instead of a white one. Huck,
himself, was drawn a boy named Tom Blankenship.
What makes it valuable is the evident truthfulness of the narrative, and where this
is lacking and its place is taken by ingenious invention, the book suffers. What is
inimitable, however, is the reflection of the whole varied series of adventures in the
mind of the young scapegrace of a hero. His undying fertility of invention, his
courage, his manliness in every trial, are an incarnation of the better side of the
ruffianism that is one result of the independence of Americans, just as hypocrisy is
one result of the English respect for civilization. The total absence of morbidness in
the book--for the mal du siecle has not yet reached Arkansas--gives it a genuine
charm; and it is interesting to notice the art with which this is brought out. The best
instance is perhaps to be found in the account of the feud between the
Shepherdsons and the Grangerfords, which is described only as it would appear to a
semi-civilized boy of fourteen, without the slightest condemnation or surprise,-either of which would be bad art,--and yet nothing more vivid can be imagined.
That is the way that a story is best told, by telling it, and letting it go to the reader
unaccompanied by sign-posts or directions how he shall understand it and profit by
it. Life teaches its lessons by implication, not by didactic preaching; and literature is
at its best when it is an imitation of life and not an excuse for instruction.
As to the humor of Mark Twain, it is scarcely necessary to speak. It lends vividness
to every page. The little touch in "Tom Sawyer," page 105, where after the murder
of which Tom was an eye-witness, it seemed "that his school-mates would never
get done holding inquests on dead cats and thus keeping the trouble present to his
mind," and that in the account of the spidery six-armed girl of Emmeline's picture in
"Huckleberry Finn," are in the author's happiest vein. Another admirable instance is


to be seen in Huckleberry Finn's mixed feelings about rescuing Jim, the negro, from
slavery. His perverted views regarding the unholiness of his actions are most
instructive and amusing. It is possible to feel, however, that the fun in the long
account of Tom Sawyer's artificial imitation of escapes from prison is somewhat
forced; everywhere simplicity is a good rule, and while the account of the Southern
vendetta is a masterpiece, the caricature of books of adventure leaves us cold. In
one we have a bit of life; in the other Mark Twain is demolishing something that has
no place in the book.
Yet the story is capital reading, and the reason of its great superiority to "Tom
Sawyer" is that is it, for the most part, a consistent whole. If Mark Twain would
follow his hero through manhood, he would condense a side of American life that, in
a few years, will have to be delved out of newspapers, government reports, county
histories, and misleading traditions by unsympathetic sociologists.
The story, to be sure, ends by lapsing into burlesque, when Tom Sawyer insists on
freeing the slave whom he knows to be free already, in a manner accordant with
"the best authorities." But even the burlesque is redeemed by Tom's real
unconscious heroism. There are defects of taste, or passages that to us seem
deficient in taste, but the book remains a nearly flawless gem of romance and of
humour. The world appreciates it, no doubt, but "cultured critics" are probably
unaware of its singular value. A two-shilling novel by Mark Twain, with an ugly
picture on the cover, "has no show," as Huck might say, and the great American
novel has escaped the eyes of those who watch to see this new planet swim into
their ken. And will Mark Twain never write such another? One is enough for him to
live by, and for out gratitude, but not enough for our desire.


His models were Dickens, Balzac, and Hawthorne.
Characteristic for James novels are understanding and sensitively drawn lady
portraits. His main themes were the innocence of the New World in conflict with
corruption and wisdom of the Old. Among his masterpieces is DAISY MILLER
(1879), where the young and innocent American Daisy finds her values in conflict
with European sophistication. In THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY (1881) again a young
American woman becomes a victim of her provincialism during her travels in
Europe. THE BOSTONIANS (1886) was based on Alphonse Daudet's novel
L'vangliste and set in the era of the rising feminist movement. WHAT MAISIE
KNEW (1897) depicted a preadolescent young girl, who must chose between her
parents and a motherly old governess. In THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (1902) a
heritage destroys the love of a young couple. James considered THE
AMBASSADORS (1903) his most 'perfect' work of art. The novel depicts Lambert
Strether's attempts to persuade Mrs Newsome' son Chad to return from Paris back
to the United States. Strether's possibility to marry Mrs Newsome is dropped and
he remains content in his role as a widower and observer. James's most famous
short stories include 'The Turn of the Screw', a ghost story in which the question of
childhood corruption obsesses a governess.
Although James is best-known for his novels, his essays are now attracting
audience outside scholarly connoisseurs. In his early critics James considered
British and American novels dull and formless and French fiction 'intolerably
unclean'. "M. Zola is magnificent, but he strikes an English reader as ignorant; he
has an air of working in the dark; if he had as much light as energy, his results
would be of the highest value." (from The Art of Fiction) In PARTIAL PORTRAITS
(1888) James paid tribute to his elders, and Emerson, George Eliot, Turgenev. His
advice to aspiring writers avoided all theorizing: 'Oh, do something from your point
of view'. H.G. Wells used James as the model for George Boon in his Boon (1915).
When the protagonist argued that novels should be used for propaganda, not art,
James wrote to Wells: "It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance,
and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process. If I
were Boon I should say that any pretense of such a substitute is helpless and
hopeless humbug; but I wouldn't be Boon for the world, and am only yours
faithfully, Henry James."
As a novelist, Henry James is a modern of the moderns both in subject matter and
in method. He is entirely loyal to contemporary life and reverentially exact in his
transcription of the phase. His characters are for the most part people of the world
who conceive of life as a fine art and have the leisure to carry out their theories.
Rarely are they at close quarters with any ugly practical task. They are subtle and
complex with the subtlety and the complexity that come from conscious
preoccupation with themselves. They are specialists in conduct and past masters in
casuistry, and are full of variations and shadows of turning. Moreover, they are
finely expressive of milieu; each belongs unmistakably to his class and his race;
each is true to inherited moral traditions and delicately illustrative of some social
code. To reveal the power and the tragedy of life through so many minutely limiting
and apparently artificial conditions, and by means of characters who are somewhat


self-conscious and are apt to make of life only a pleasant pastime, might well seem
an impossible task.
Yet it is precisely in this that Henry James is pre-eminently successful. The
essentially human is what he really cares for, however much he may at times seem
preoccupied with the technique of his art or with the mask of conventions through
which he makes the essentially human reveal itself. Nor has the vista of the
spiritual been denied him. No more poignant spiritual tragedy has been recounted
in recent fiction than the story of Isabel Archer in The Portrait of a Lady. His
method, too, is as modern as his subject matter. He early fell in love with the point
of view, and the good and the bad qualities of his work all follow from this literary
passion. He is a very sensitive impressionist, with a technique that can fix the most
elusive phase of character and render the most baffling surface. The skill is
unending with - which he places his characters in such relations and under such
lights that they flash out in due succession their continuously varying facets. At
times he may seem to forget that a character is something incalculably more than
the sum of all its phases; and then his characters tend to have their existence, as
Positivists expect to have their immortality, simply and solely in the minds of other
people. But when his method is at its best, the delicate phases of character that he
transcribes coalesce perfectly into clearly defined and suggestive images of living,
acting men and women. Doubtless, there is a certain initiation necessary for the
enjoyment of Mr. James. He presupposes a cosmopolitan outlook, a certain interest
in art and in social artifice, and no little abstract curiosity about the workings of the
human mechanism. But for speculative readers, for readers who care for art in life
as well as for life in art, and for readers above all who want to encounter and
comprehend a great variety of very modern and finely modulated characters, Mr
James holds a place of his own, unrivalled as an interpreter of the world of to-day.


KATE CHOPIN (1850 1904)
Her literary fame rest on The Awakening, the novel that marked her fall into a long
period of obscurity.
In her own time, she was praised for her aesthetic achievement, she was
immediately condemned on moral grounds for writing a story about the artistic and
sexual awakening of a young woman dissatisfied with her conventional role as wife
and mother. The sympathetic way of treating the theme was harmful for her at her
time and good afterwards.
She has almost been forgotten after the publication of The Awakening in 1899 until
1969, when the Norwegian Per Seyersted edited her complete works and the 1 st
critical biography. The only thing that had survived her meanwhile where a few
short stories often anthologised as illustrative examples of regionalist or local colour
fiction, a genre that became successful after the Civil War because it satisfied the
curiosity among Americans to learn about the different regions of the united nation;
that had the negative effect of confining her to a narrow designation local
colourist, often used derogatorily.
Nowadays her whole work is placed in the more prestigious literary movements of
realism and naturalism; the short stories mentioned before have been recently
reinterpreted as subversive pieces that use the conventions of the genre in order to
undermine and dismantle the conservative ideology it helped to support. She
described everyday life of ordinary people of Louisiana, she adopted many of the
typical features of the regionalist writing that was popular among her
contemporaries and then went beyond the surface representations of folkways and
speech patterns in order to examine the values of southern society and explore
fundamental issues n regard to humanity at large. Unlike most regionalists, she
expressed no nostalgia for the past, for she did not present an idealized picture of
Old South (gender and race relations in particular).
LIFE: Both bilingual and bicultural, is now recognized as the 1st major writer in
American literature, formed outside the Protestant Anglo-Saxon mainstream.
Born Katherine OFlaherty to a wealthy family of Irish and French descent, her
father was an Irish immigrant who had succeeded in various business and become
a prosperous merchant before he took as his second wife, Eliza Faris, a member of
the prominent old French community of the city. When Kate was 5, her father was
killed in a railway accident and she was raised by 3 women (mother, maternal
grandmother and great-grandmother, who taught her French).
Her personality was shaped while growing up in a matriarchal household ruled by
strong independent women who controlled their own lives. She was educated at the
Sacred Heart Academy in St. Louis, from which she graduated in 1868, 2 years
later, at 20, she married Oscar Chopin, born in Louisiana and who had spent the
years of the Civil War in France, the son of Creole mother and a French father who
was a cotton plantation owner in Louisiana; -Oscar had a cosmopolitan background
that suited Kates taste and possessed all the qualities to anticipate a happy


3 months of honeymoon in Europe, then went to live in New Orleans (Louisiana),

where a French atmosphere still prevailed. Oscar worked as a cotton factor, that is,
between the cotton traders and the growers, a gentlemanly middle man; when his
factoring business failed in 1879, they moved with their children to Cloutierville, to
take care of his family plantation in Natchitoches Parish in northwestern Louisiana,
where they spent 4 years. He died suddenly from malaria in 1882, she ran their
general store and plantation for more than a year and she proved that she was able
to take charge of her own life. At the prompting of her mother in St. Louis,
however, in 1884 she returned with her 6 children to her native city, where she
spent the rest of her life.
Within 5 years after moving back to St. Louis, she began her relatively successful
literary career, partly to supplement her income and support her children. Although
she did not live only on writing, she did not consider herself an amateur, but a
dedicated professional writer and a serious artist as well. She look for literary
distinction and, being a very practical woman, she also managed her literary career
just as she was managing her familys property. She started with a poem, If It
Might Be, and tried Missouri local colour with some short stories set in St. Louis.
But she soon realised that what would really sell was farther south, in Louisiana,
whose foreignness compared to the rest of the United States hardly needed to be
emphasized. At 18 she had spent 3 weeks in New Orleans, which she liked
immensely, and had been particularly impressed by the sensuous life-style of its
bourgeois Creole population. During the 14 years she spent in the area after her
marriage, she became fascinated by the sophisticated and refined Creole culture of
Louisiana; she observed the exclusive milieu of this artistically sensitive elite as an
outsider, for it was quite different from her own St.Louis French background. At that
time, the upper class of Louisiana was made up of the proud descendants of the
early French and Spanish settlers, Catholics and who spoke a provincial form of
standard French. While in Louisiana, he knew another group of French heritage, the
descendants of the French-speaking Protestant settlers whom the British had driven
out of the captures French colony of Acadia (now Nova Scotia, Canada), back in
1755, and who created the Cajun culture. Most of the characters in Chopins
Louisiana stories belong to one of these 2 groups, largely unknown to the rest of
But she was concerned with psychological realism and tried to show how these
people dealt with universal issues according to the specific values prevalent in their
environment, not in entertaining America.
The critical praised her during her lifetime from her Louisiana short stories, only 1
part of her production, in 1 decade she wrote more than a hundred short stories,
sketches, poems, essays, reviews, a one-act play and 3 novels. The 1st one, At Fault
(1890), was set in the isolated Cane River region of Louisiana. Reviewers praised
the authors style, but objected to her portrayal of an alcoholic wife and to her
treatment of the theme of divorce. She wrote a 2nd novel, Young Dr. Gosse and
Theo, but destroyed the manuscript in 1896, after having had it rejected by several
publishers. Before the appearance of her last and best novel, The Awakening
(1899), her reputation as a writer rested basically on the short narratives that she
began to publish in regional newspapers, and which after improving her marketing
abilities, she also placed in important eastern magazines. Over 200 reviews and
press notices attest to the nationwide acclaim she won with Bayou Folk (1894), a
collection of 23 stories and sketches of rural life in Louisiana, most of them set in
Natchitoches Parish. A Night in Acadie (1897), her 2nd collection, with 21 stories,
received much less attention.


Her correspondence reveals that several editors asked her to rewrite the stories
they considered too indelicate or immoral for an audience of true ladies, she
reacted to censure: sometimes she altered what she had submitted for publication,
and developed an ability to hide enconded meanings that can only be uncovered by
a close reading of her polished texts; on other occasions she resisted pressure and
suffered the consequences of dealing with subject matter that was deemed
provocative, especially when treated by a female writer who was expected to
conform to the prevailing mores. For instance, she never attempted to find a
publisher for her most explicitly erotic story, The Storm, the joyful sexual fantasy of
an unpunished happy adultery she wrote in 1898. The Story of an Hour, about
the sense of freedom enjoyed by a woman during the hour she thinks she is a
widow until she discovers her husband is still alive; it was refused by the editor of
The Century, 1 reason was that her heroines were gradually becoming less
submissive and more independent; she began to get into trouble when she
imagined discontented women rebelling against oppressive attachments to
unattractive men and openly exposing the oppressive nature of their marriage
contracts; she also wrote about sexuality in the lives of men and women with a
frankness rarely seen in the work of 19th century female writers. As her initially soft
dissenting voice became clearer, the chances to be accepted diminished.
The Awakening (1899), is a complex narrative about Edna Pontelliers growth from
being her husbands possession to achieving self-ownership; she is a discontented
wife and mother who experiences an awakening or process of self-discovery that
makes her yearn for sexual freedom and artistic fulfilment. Chopins audaciously
sympathetic treatment of her female protagonist elicited many hostile critical
reactions. Calling the novel the American Madame Bovary may be interpreted as a
compliment today, but not then. Many reviewers allowed for the aesthetic merit of
the book and praised its skilful technique, but most of them disapproved of Chopins
handling of the theme of adultery and deplored her choice of an improper and
essentially vulgar subject matter. In this adverse atmosphere, the publishers
cancelled her contract for a 3rd collection, A Vocation and a Voice was posthumously
published in 1991. Of the 22 stories planned for the volume, only 4 were set in
Louisiana, and most of them dealt explicitly with issues of love, sex, marriage,
paying little attention to specific settings.
The reception of The Awakening (both critical and personal response on her
personal and professional life) had not that bad results on her as it has been
Not all the reviews were unanimously unfavourable, some were commendatory
and others were mixed
Not all readers felt outraged, some women wrote her warm letters of
Although the book could have surprised some people, no the ones close to her
and the ones who attended her artistic and literary salon, that she started by the
early 1890s in her St. Louis house, notable for its liberal thinking.
The invitations she received prove she was not totally ostracized in her city
The book was never banned or withdrawn from libraries
Contrary to the idea that she sank into a severe emotional depression, her
correspondence does not suggest that she was disheartened by the controversy it
The legend that The Awakening killed her has recently been amended. The
publication of a novel that so clearly denounced the subordinate role of women and
proclaimed their right to independence certainly damaged Chopins literary
reputation, but the main reason why she wrote few stories afterwards was that her
physical health was gradually failing.


She died from a cerebral haemorrhage after a strenuous full days outing at the ST.
Louis World Fair of 1904.
More than half a century after her death, her work has been reassessed from
different approaches:
The apparently clear and direct style of her brilliantly compressed prose has been
thoroughly revised in search of subtle ironies that may be missed by careless
Her meticulously chosen symbolism is now considered more than decorative, an
essential artistic component of her technique.
She has been called a psychological symbolist because she used symbols to
project the psyche of her characters.
Her concentration on the mind of each individual character has been linked to the
psychological realism of the French writer Guy de Maupassant, whom she really
admired. She translated 8 of his short stories into English, though only could sell his
3 more conventional. In her essay How I Stumbled upon Maupassant, she
explained the nature of her attraction to his work in words that could also have
been applied to her own literary production: here was a man who had escaped
from tradition and authority, who had entered into himself and looked out upon life
through his own being and with his own eyes; and who, in a direct and simple way,
told us what he saw
Other strong influences were Zola and Flaubert, nevertheless, she transcended her
sources when she created a body of work that spoke in her own voice.
Her attitude towards slavery and her portrayal of black people is influenced by the
fact that she had been brought up in a Missouri slaveowning family that had
supported the Confederacy during the Civil War, though is not reason enough to say
she approved of the institution; as she set most of her narratives in the postbellum
period (slavery was already abolished), they embodied a vision of a society deeply
concerned not with slavery itself but with its legacy. The few stories she set before
the American Civil War, such as Desirees Baby (1893), had tragic endings that
subverted the idyllic images offered by the plantation novel that Chopin evoke din
the deliberately deceptive beginnings of her narratives.
Desirees Baby was an immediate success, it was included in the collection entitled
Bayou Folk and it remained continuously in print while most of her work fell into
Her main themes: marriage and motherhood are explored here through a
submissive female protagonist who is far from being like the emancipated heroines
that people Chopins later fiction. This is maybe the reason why it survived.
Additionally, it deals with miscegenation, a theme that most local colourists were
reluctant to treat but that Chopin managed to get through by encoding her
profound meanings beneath the surface of her text.
The story is told in the standard English of her audience, but includes glimpses of
French, the language that was spoken in the historical context where the plot takes


STEPHEN CRANE (1871 1900)
In a brief career ended by death at 28, he produced an extensive work that has
been collected in 12 volumes. In only 8 extremely productive years characterized
by financial struggle and exciting adventure, he brought out 2 volumes of poetry, 5
novels and over 300 short stories, sketches and articles.
He was a prolific journalist, thats why its said that he wrote fiction basically
drawing on the events he witnessed and reported for the newspapers; 1 of his
biographers, however, said he often anticipated in his writings the circumstances in
which he himself would later be involved,(he sketched a novel about NY slum before
having any direct knowledge of the metropolis and published brilliant descriptions of
battlefields before he had any real acquaintance with actual war).
The enormous imaginative appeal that disasters at sea and scenes of drowning had
for him inspired some of his literary and journalistic practice before it finally
materialized in his own shipwreck off the coast of Florida.
His obsessive search for intense experience was both the result of his artistic
concerns and the stimulus for his creative achievements.
In his lifetime, his personal exploits became legendary, public interest often focused
on his bohemian lifestyle and daring acts as a war correspondent. He was the
preachers unruly son who rejected Christianity and lived in scandal with his
common-law wife, Cora Taylor, the ex-owner of a brothel in Florida.
This colourful life of excess resembled that of Edgar Allan Poe, its treatment by an
inaccurate 1st biographer had a deep impact on his literary reputation; later
biographies clarified the magnitude of the inventions that had found credence for
decades; therefore, many of the clues that were used to interpret the authors
existence are now considered unsubstantial.
His biographical background has been properly researched and what emerges is a
nonconformist and mysterious figure, such was his own descriptions: I cannot help
vanishing and disappearing and dissolving, it is my foremost trait.
Much in his best writings is as original and remains as unexplained as his
personality. Many of his works elude simple definition or classification, for they
reflect the various artistic trends of the end of the 19th century, especially
naturalism, impressionism and symbolism. Furthermore, some critics have seen
Crane as a forerunner of the 20th-century movements of expressionism and
Born in Newark, New Jersey, 14th son of a revivalist Methodist minister and a pious
mother who wrote for religious journals and was herself descended from a long line
of Methodist clergy.
Brought up in an austere home, he soon rebelled against the interdictions and strict
discipline; at school he enjoyed history and literature, but he spent more time
gambling and playing sports than studying, therefore academically not successful.


He attended Syracuse University but left after 6 months to become a writer, went to
N.Y. and supported himself as a freelance newspaperman and completed his 1st
novel, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893).
He had sketched out a draft of Maggie while still a student at Syracuse, before
having any experience of the wicked city; his literary inspiration was stirred by
listening to Hamin Garland lecture on realism in fiction. His real-life models, as he
was obsessed with learning about the actual existence of the people he wrote
about, he decided to study urban vice in one of the worst slums of NY, the Bowery.
The idea of danger bordering the genteel neighbourhoods had a peculiar attraction
for him, and his journalistic activities allowed him to observe at close hand the
shabby tenement districts and the citys police court. Maggie 1 of the earliest
examples of literary determinism in American fiction for it tries to show that
environment is a tremendous thing in the world and frequently shapes lives. Its
protagonist is an innocent and abused slum girl who is seduced driven to
prostitution and eventually commits suicide. After being rejected by a number of
publishers, the novel was privately printed under a pseudonym (because of his
family), although the author was encouraged by the praise he received form William
Dena Howells and Hamlin Garland, (influential novelist and critics), he was
disappointed with the general reception of Maggie. The novel was a commercial
failure because the American public did not welcome this grim exponent of social
realism that so authentically recreated sordid slum life.
His 1st book of poetry The Black Riders, (1895), also had little popular success, it
contained 68 short poems in free verse in which he expressed his bleak worldview
and which foreshadowed innovative techniques that would be developed in the 20th
century. Those experimental poems did not win wide acceptance, because they
were too cryptic in content, too unconventional in form and too sombre in tone.
His 2nd collection of poetry, War is Kind (1899), reiterated the attitudes set forth in
his previous volume and included more explicit social poems. Its title poem is a
bitterly satirical antiwar piece composed of 3 stanzas addressing successively a
maiden, a child and a mother who have lost loved ones in battle, each stanza
ending with the admonition: Do no weep, war is kind. These 2 collections have
earned the author a position as a minor poet in the canon of American literature,
where he stands mainly as a fiction writer.
The publication of The Red Badge of Courage (1895) brought Crane the
international literary fame he had been seeking. The novel was particularly well
received in England, the novelist Joseph Conrad, later 1 of his best friends, hailed it
as masterpiece. Years after Cranes death, Conrad recalled his reading of The Red
Badge.. as one of the most enduring memories of his literary life, and praised the
marvellous accord of the vivid impressionistic description of action on that woodland
battlefield, and the imaged style of the analysis of the emotions in the inward moral
struggle going on in the breast of one individual, the Young Soldier of the book, the
protagonist of the monodrama presented to us in an effortless succession of graphic
and coloured phrases.
Such comment pointed out for the 1st time the impressionism that most critics
would consider characteristic of Cranes fiction, and also emphasized the main
theme of the book, defined as a psychological portrayal of fear, by its own author.
Indeed, The Red Badge is primarily an initiation story concerned with the changing
emotional states of a young soldier, Henry Fleming, who overcomes his fear and
discovers courage.
Innovative features of this work


The presentation of the protagonists personal identity in a complex and ambiguous

manner through the development of techniques which are consistent with Cranes
devotion to psychological verisimilitude.
It parodies historical novels about the American Civil War (1861-5), and the
conventional narrative forms previously used to interpret that conflict. Unlike most
works of fiction based on the American Civil War, his uncommon contribution to the
genre does not even mention the name of a campaign or a battle, though it could
be guessed that it was the Battle of Chancellorsville (1863)
When the novel 1st appeared , there was speculation about how could he write so
convincingly about a war he had never seen, (he was born 6 years after the end of
the War), he relied on eyewitness accounts in order to present battle scenes in a
realistic mode, but transcended realism when he combined it with impressionism,
and thus achieved remarkably original results. He had a reputation as a war writer
and had the desire to witness real combat, the Bacheller Syndicat (press agency)
set hi to the American West, Mexico and Cuba.
In spite of the official neutrality of USA, the Cuban revolutionaries who fought
against the Spanish rule of the island, received the support of filibustering
expeditions that sailed from American seaports and were widely publicized by the
American press. Crane, who was obsessed with participating in a war, was
commissioned by the Bacheler to cover the Cuban Revolution, in December 1896 he
sailed out of Jacksonville (Florida) aboard the Commodore, an old steamer bound
for Cienfuegos with a large party of insurrectionists and 10000 dollars in arms and
ammunition for the Cuban rebels. The steamer foundered and sank several miles
off the Florid coast near Daytona Beach, then he and other 3 men remained at sea
for 27 hours n a dinghy because the rough surf did not allow them to go ashore
until next morning. He 1st published a newspaper report of it and then a short story
based on it: Flanagan and His Short Filibustering adventure, this adventure also
became the framework for one of his best and most often discussed pieces of
fiction: The Open Boat.
After a week rest he was ready for going to Cuba, but could not find the way to do
it, after many unsuccessful attempts to reach Cuba, he accepted a job offer to
cover the Greco-Turkish War of 1897 as a correspondent for Hearsts NY Journal,
whose owner wanted to exploit the writers name and personality. This experience
provided the background for Active Service (1899), a novel hurriedly written in
England, where he arrived soon after the end of the war.
In February 1898, he heard the Maine had been blown up in Havana Harbour, he
returned immediately to USA intending to volunteer for the Spanish-American war,
but was rejected for health reasons, so he went to Cuba as a reporter, instead than
as a soldier, reporter for Joseph Pulitzers NY World.
American correspondents played a very unusual role in this war, they fought in it,
instead of merely reporting what was going on, Cranes daring behaviour won him
the 1st place among his fellow journalists. His reports were exciting, provocative
and full or irony. He felt encouraged to transcribe reality with as few words as
possible so as to evoke with swiftness and precision the picture he was aiming for.
Apart form 25 dispatches, he used the materials he had gathered in Cuba to write
11 short stories posthumously collected in a volume entitled Wounds in the Rain
(1900), where fact and fiction were skilfully combined to produce an integrated
whole of mixed feeling about warfare. The sketches were based on his experience
of actual combat, which confirmed the intuitions about the futility of violence he
had expressed throughout The Red Badge of Courage, also taught him about the
multiple facets of a complex human activity he analysed from various perspectives,
often with humour, sometimes satirically and always perceptively.


He avoided both cheap sentimentalism and the idealized views of death in battle
which pervaded the writings of many of his contemporaries, prone to justify
imperialist expeditions as noble missions on behalf of humanitarianism, and to
encourage aggressive nationalism with appeals to the martial spirit so prevalent at
that time.
He was loyal to his own country, but tried to understand other positions, like the
Spanish enemies and the Cuban allies and show a king of respect toward them,
unlike his fellow American journalists.
During the Spanish-American War, he suffered from fever and exhaustion, his
health deteriorated and had to be evacuated after he collapsed and became
delirious; had some rest in Virginia, after was contracted again by Hearst to cover
the Puerto Rican campaign for the NY Journal. He went to Cuba and remained in
Havana for some time when he returned to England he war suffering form
tuberculoses and probably malaria. In the last months of his life, his situation
became desperate, he was seriously ill and heavily in debt, but still tried to
concentrate on his writing and meet deadlines for publication. In an attempt to
regain his health, in May 1900 he was taken to a sanatorium in Germany with the
assistance of Henry James and other friends, but he died at Badenweiler on June 5.
WORK: Harold Bloom said his main contribution to American literature is The Open
Boat, which exemplifies the maturity of the writer; when Crane wrote it, he had
already published newspaper report of shipwrecks whose imagery clearly prefigures
that of his famous short story. In his earlier fiction, (long before the Commodore),
he had also articulated some of the themes developed in The Open Boat. His main
source was his own experience of being adrift in the ocean, although readers should
not expect to find a literal transcription of what happened. It is impossible to
determine how much is fact and how much is imagination; after the sinking of the
steamer, Crane (correspondent), Edward Murphy (the captain), Charles
Montgomery (steward) and William Higgins (oiler) certainly remained at sea for 27
hours, all night Higgins and Crane took turns rowing and just before they landed in
the morning, the oiler was drowned in the surf; our of 19 survivors, they 3 were the
last to be saved.
The source of the 1st published newspaper account was Montgomery, who praised
Cranes calmness and fortitude; a few days later, Crane wrote his own version,
Cranes Own Story, in which he presented himself as an observer, while he treated
the Irish shipmaster Murphy and the late Higgins as heroes. This report gave little
information about what had happened during the hours that the 4 men were
floating adrift in the dinghy, but included the tragic event of the drowning of 7 men
who couldnt find room in the lifeboats of the survivors. The incident was omitted,
except for an allusion to the 7 upturned faces that haunt the memory of the young
captain in the dinghy.
There is no overlapping between The Open Boat and Cranes Own Story, the former
begins where the latter ends, almost all the newspaper account is taken up with the
departure, voyage and sinking of the Commodore, as if the author deliberately
saved the dinghy episode for artistic treatment. The short story opens with 4 men
stranded in the ocean in a small boat and limits itself to their ordeal, there is no
reference to the sinking, to Cuba or to the filibustering expedition. Unlike the
newspaper report, which is written in 1st person, The Open Boat is written from the
3rd person point of view, although the narrator concentrates on the correspondents
consciousness and expresses a privileged knowledge of his thoughts and feelings.
The other 3 characters reveal themselves through their words and actions. By
facing common danger, the 4 men establish an unexpected community in which a
new fraternal solidarity prevails.