Comparing Gothic Elements In Fall Of The House Of Usher, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Ligeia, And American Sl

2774 words - 11 pages

Comparing Gothic Elements in Fall of the House of Usher, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Ligeia, and American Slave


Gothic literature has a number of conventions, including evils of horror, present of light and dark, suggestions of the supernatural, and dark and exotic localities such as castles and crumbling mansions (American). Violence in gothic literature never occurs just for the sake of violence; there is always a moral dilemma (Clarke 209). By going the extremes, a gothic author is able to accentuate a contrast allowing the author's point to be made more easily. American fiction was based on fantasy works of writers like Edgar Allan Poe. Although Edgar Allan Poe, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Frederick Douglass, all used gothic devices in their work, the question arises whether Poe's gothic techniques represented his fantasy, or did they represent his reality like they do with Stowe and Douglass. Poe's use of gothic device leads the readers into a downward fall of an insane world representing fantasy. Stowe and Douglass, on the other hand, used gothic details to reflect the reality of the lives of slaves as they struggle to climb upwards out of the descending fall of their lives.

Edgar Allan Poe is primarily known for his mastery of the gothic genre. He constantly explored subjects such as self-destruction, madness, imagination, and earned a reputation for his fascination with death, especially the death of women (Scharf). Poe uses the interplay dark and light and colors such as black, gray, white and red in order to present the downward fall of his characters rather then an upward gain in their lives. Unlike the stories of Stowe and Douglass, these colors are present to represent the upward struggle of the characters to overcome their tragic lives.

Poe's characters tend to become each other's exact image. Roderick, In the Fall of the House of Usher, cannot separate himself from Madeline so when she becomes ill, he suffers also. In Poe's Ligeia, the narrator is connected to Ligeia in such a way the reader is left questioning how much of his experience occurred in his mind. There is a breakdown in order on the universal level as well as their personal level, similar to the characters of Stowe and Douglass. Their characters become lost in the white society and lose their own sense of being. Poe's short stories "The Fall of the House of Usher," and "Ligeia" are both classics examples of gothic genre. Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin and Douglass' Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, although do not represent our image of a classic gothic story, they do use the gothic genre to represent real life events.

In both Ligeia and The Fall of the House of Usher, Poe shows the downward fall of the characters. Almost immediately in Ligeia, Poe informs the reader that the author's mind in well into this decline, "...and my memory feeble through much suffering" (p 2390). This same idea is also reflected immediately...

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