The Symbolism in The Masque of Red Death and Young Goodman Brown
Both Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe belong to the late Romanticism in 19th century American Literature, which main characteristic is probably the widest disparity between tragic reality and romantic ideal. Such a gap could be observed in both short stories proposed for discussing in the current task, particularly noted in their closures when a grim denouement abruptly clashes with apparently classical fairy tale’s course of events.
At the level of questions, the heartbreaking conclusion of The Masque of the Read Death seems not to offer major difficulties at first sight, and yet the identity and significance of the title character left open and uncertain. Against all the traditions, and in close relation with the level of expectations, the reader’s confidence in Prince´s fair triumph is profoundly disappointed, as the final dismal picture leads to frustration and despair. In turn, the interpretation of “Young Goodman Brown” becomes a little bit more complex, as two plots could be distinguished there. And while the inner one seemingly resolves all the matters, the frame story does not provide a clear-cut interpretation. Despite the outstanding conviction of the character in the main story, he does not emerge as a winner after all: his spirit is overcome by discouragement, being very close to the blade of doom.
None of the stories satisfies traditional conventions and use the strategy of the ambiguous interpretation in order to wake up the reader’s moral criteria and their ability to co-creation. Instead of providing the final moral lesson in conclusion, both authors prefer to give some hints to elicit further reflection of the audience. Doing so, Hawthorne deliberately arouses suspicion as to questioning, after fulfilled with biblical allegories course of events, whether Goodman Brown had fallen asleep in the forest and only dreamed a wild dream of a witch-meeting (Hawthorne, 237). In turn, Poe breaks the atmosphere of pictorial mystery by intriguing remark with religious connotation while comparing the appearance of the man character to that of the thief at night (Poe, 291). With regard to this, closure of both works purposely clash the reader’s expectations. Reflecting the Calvinist background of Hawthorne, his “Young Goodman Brown” delivers clearer moral streak. For the story of The Masque of the Read Death are different interpretations available, none of them provided by Poe. Most would probably agree that the real closure of both works takes place in reader’s mind by converting reflection power into a key component of literary perception. The key role play here the text strategies used in the closure content and structure.
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