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Romanticism, Realism, And Reason: Their Influence On American Literature

1222 words - 5 pages

Romanticism, rationalism, and realism all have one thing in common; they are each time periods that influenced change in American Literature. The three main components of each time period that differed were style, theme, and literary devices used in the writings.
During the time period of romanticism, literature usually contained grotesque and fantastical settings, plots, and characters. The short story, “The Masque of the Red Death,” by Edgar Allen Poe resembles the qualities of romantic literature. Poe uses objects and settings to represent values of life and death. These representations add to the overall romantic theme of this story. Poe uses seven rooms of the main character, Prince Prospero’s, palace to represent stages in life. The last and seventh room represents death. This room “was shrouded in black velvet tapestries that hung all over the ceiling and down the walls […] the panes here were scarlet—a deep blood color”(116). In this story Prince Prospero and his guests all die of the “red death” once they enter this room. The theme of this story is that no one can escape death. This is shown as Prince Prospero, a greedy and self-centered man, who tries to escape death, ironically dies as he enters the seventh room. Another element that is often found in romantic literature is the literary device, symbolism. Washington Irving, the author of the romantic folktale, “The Devil and Tom Walker”, uses symbolism to develop the plot and setting of his story. In this story, the setting is a dark and gloomy swamp with trees that symbolize lives that were once given to the devil, Old Scratch, in exchange for wealth. “Tom looked in the direction that the stranger pointed, and beheld one of the great trees, fair and flourishing without, but rotten at the core, and saw that it had been nearly hewn through, so that the first high wind was likely to below it down”(4). Like a lot of romantic literature, Irving uses an inanimate object to represent something of more importance. In this case the trees represent the people who have signed the contract with Old Scratch. Like the trees, these people looked happy and wealthy on the outside, but inside they are greedy and selfish. The style of writing in romantic literature is best exemplified in the poem, “The Cross of Snow’ by Henry Longfellow. Longfellow uses blank verse, a writing style that is common in romantic poems. Longfellow writes, “There is a mountain in the distant west that, sun-defying, in its deep ravines displays a cross of snow upon its side”(lines 9-11). Longfellow writes without a rhyme scheme or a noticeable pattern of any sort. The romantic era was a time period that encouraged art and literary creativity. After the romantic era came the realistic era, a time period that differed in terms of thinking and the three main elements of literature; style, theme, and literary devices.
In realistic literature, authors accurately portray the struggles and tribulations of...

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