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Short Stories: Critical Response and Discussion Post Essay (Critical Writing)


Poe “The Cast of Amontillado” Critical Response Essay

In Edgar Allan Poe’s, “The Cast of Amontillado” Montresor appears as a caring friend but that appearance is only used to mask the fact that Montresor is a mad man. In this play, Poe takes the reader through the mind of a mad man, who is bent on committing grotesque acts of revenge for insignificant sins committed against him. What makes Montresor behave like a mad man is the fact that he sees murder as a natural act and that the avenger is justified to commit such grotesque acts at the slightest provocation (Poe para 1).

Furthermore, Levine (72) writes that Montresor has a mad man’s desire to commit murder for a simple and unnamed insult that was committed many years ago. Levine’s assertion is that only a mad man can plan to murder a harmless person like Fortnato for a simple sin as an insult. Therefore Poe uses appearance to mask Montresor’s insanity.

Despite the fact that Montresor’s insanity is concealed in his friendly appearances, he also portrays himself as remorseful and guilty of his grotesque acts. According to Yule (para 9) Poe has endeavored to create characters who thrive on grotesqueness. Furthermore, these characters have an insane desire to commit horrific acts. Despite their insanity, Poe’s characters portray a sense of guilt consciousness.

In Poe’s, “The Cast of Amontillado” Yule’s assertion is portrayed in Montresor’s last words after committing the horrific murder. Montresor shows guilty conciseness when he says that his “heart grew sick on account of the dampness of the catacombs. (He) hastened to make an end of (his) labor. (He) forced the last stone into its position; (he) plastered it up” (Poe para 89). The fact that Montresor’s heart grew sick because of what he had done to Fortunato shows that he felt guilty.

Poe “The Cast of Amontillado” Discussion Post

In Edgar Allan Poe’s, “The Cast of Amontillado” Montresor the main character and anti hero appears as a caring and loving friend. However, as the story progresses, the reader comes face to face with a man who is a little off balance emotionally. Baraban (para 1) sees Montresor as a person who is so passionate about committing grotesque act of murder, an illustration that is captured in Montresor’s assertion that he “must not only punish, but punish with impunity” (Poe para 1).

Passion about murder is an attribute of a person who is emotionally unstable. The setting of the play is also appropriate to its grotesqueness. To begin with, that Montresor’s house has no attendants adds to the ghostly nature of the crime (Poe para 25). Secondly, Montresor uses the “damp vaults encrypted with nitre” to make the setting work for Montresor (Poe para 30). Furthermore, the fact that Montresor has been able to “wall up” the crime seen enable him to escape from his crime (Poe para 75). Montresor’s treatment of his house servant foretells how Fortunato would meet his death (through trickery).

He tricks them to make merry and not “stir from the house” until he returns (Poe para 24). Poe’s description of the empty house and the process of taking Fortunato through the numerous walls full of grotesqueness fills the play with suspense. The setting and the characters portrays the play’s primary theme of revenge. Montressr takes 50 years from committing the murder to telling his story. In this case, one of the effects of revenge, other than death (on Fortunato) is Montresor’s 50 years guilt ravaged consciousness (Kennedy 143).

Hawthorne “The Minister’s Black Veil” critical response essay

The story “The Minister’s Black Veil” by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a clear depiction of the power of allegory. In this allegorical story, the veil is used as the main symbol. Through this symbol, the author is able to depict to the reader fundamental lessons on the thin line between purity and sin (Stibitz 184). Hawthorne uses the veil in a number of ways to highlight this theme. To begin, through Rev. Hooper, the veil is symbol of purity and is significant in drawing many to the church. On the other hand, Hawthorne’s main intention of using the veil is to draw peoples’ attention to the sinfulness of the world.

Through Rev. Hooper, the veil is symbolic of purity and the sense of r which all his parishioners strive to attain. Many of the sinners are attracted to the reverend as they see the veil as a symbol of purity and righteousness, a status that they want to achieve. According to Carnochan (182) many sinners are converted (becomes saved) because they have a notion that the veil is a symbol of the purity and that they want to be as pure as the reverend. Furthermore, the Reverend accepts that people, including him, are sinners but acknowledges that the veil is the way of escape from the original sin

While, Rev. Hooper’s message to his congregation is that the veil is an escape from the original sin, Hawthorne uses this allegory to criticize the puritanical view of sin. Hawthorne sees the veil as a symbol of puritans’ adherence to the original sin. In Hawthorne’s view the veil is a symbol through which people hide their sinful nature. As such Hawthorne implies that sin is deeply ingrained in all people and that the Reverend is using this veil as a way of denying that he, like his parishioners, is inherently sinful (Morsberger 455). Therefore, Hawthorne uses the veil to portray the thin line between sin and purity

Hawthorne “The Minister’s Black Veil” discussion post

“The Minister’s Black Veil” by Nathaniel Hawthorne fits into the description of a parable. According to Gowler (99) parable is a “short story that aims at teaching religious truth.” Since “The Minister’s Black Veil” teaches about the sinfulness, morality and purity it therefore fits to be a parable. The veil, as a symbol used to teach this message has different meanings. Many scholars have had different interpretation of the veil and therefore the original meaning has changed.

However, the veil can be take to either mean a façade, a mask through which the Reverend hides his sinful nature or it can either symbolize the reverend guard, a symbol of justification of his inherent sinfulness (Baym and Mary Loeffelholz 1312).

The fact that the meaning of the veil has mutated over time is reflected in implication of it original meaning. This is captured in the two funeral attendees who saw the vision of reverend Hooper walking hand in hand with the girl with whom he had sinned with. This implies that these two characters thus knew that the veil was Hooper’s way of hiding from his sin (Poe 333). Hawthorne also asks the question whether Rev Hooper was hiding from God or from his parishioners. The fact that the rev refuses to remove the veil since he did not want to be seen by the young lady means that he was hiding from his parishioners.

This is also asserted by the reverend’s claims that he had to wear the veil to hide from the “gaze of the multitude” (Werlock and Facts on File, Inc 452). Furthermore, this claim is the reason why he refuses to remove the veil, even upon being implored by Elizabeth, his betrothed. Elizabeth thinks the townspeople will take his refusal to remove the veil as attempts to hide a secret sin. Elizabeth’s concern is based on the fact that the reverend had preached on many occasions about the secret sin “concealed from people consciousness” (Werlock and Facts on File, Inc 452). As such she did not want they people to think that the reverend was concealing a secret sin and thus not following his preaching.

Hawthorne “Rappaccini’s Daughter” Critical Response Essay

The story “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne is full of evidence that fulfills the requirement of Romantic Movement literature. “Rappaccini’s Daughter” is set in a natural garden full of beautiful but poisonous plants, where Dr. Rappaccini’s daughter, Beatrice, is locked up. Giovanni falls in love with Beatrice emphasizes emotion over reason. Furthermore, Dr. Rappaccini’s daughter dies as a result of taking the antidote. This shows the dangers of man trying to play God. Therefore, “Rappaccini’s Daughter” fulfils the ideals of Romantic Movement literature.

One of the characteristics of Romantic Movement literature evident in this story is the emphasis on emotion over reason. Giovanni’s love affair with Beatrice poses danger to him because of the fact that Beatrice is locked up in a garden full of poisonous plants. As a result of being locked up in this garden, Beatrice is infected with the poison and thus turns poisonous and poses danger to any one who comes into contact with her. Giovanni is too emotional and ignores reason by pursuing her love, despite the dangers that such love posed to him (Fryer 41).

Dr. Rappaccini’s daughter, Beatrice is locked up in a garden, which is an absolute depiction of a raw natural environment and is sufficient evidence that romantic literature writers, such as Hawthorne, were obsessed with the natural. In this garden Beatrice has an overtly intimate relationship with plants. Furthermore, she has a fatal attraction to withering of fresh flowers. The insect that dies as a result of coming into contacts with Beatrice depicts that other natural creatures are present in this garden (Waggoner 113). This completes the natural setting.

The dangers of man trying to play God are evident in Giovanni’s attempts to heal Beatrice of her toxicity. Giovanni obsession with Beatrice drives him to look for an antidote to kill her poisonous nature. However, the poison kills Beatrice, instead of neutralizing the poison in her. The result of man interference with Gods creation in this case is death (Cuddy 42). Therefore, “Rappaccini’s Daughter” fulfils the ideals that fulfill the basic requirements of Romantic Movement literature.

Hawthorne “Rappaccini’s Daughter” Discussion Post

The initial description of Rappaccini’s garden creates a sense of awe about the story. This is depicted in Hawthorne (4) explanation that the garden “weren’t immortal spirit, but so had sought unceasingly, without heeding the vicissitudes around it; while one century embodied it in marble, and another scattered the garniture on the soil.” In this story, Baglioni primary motivation for warning Giovanni is to keep the son of his friend away from the evils of Rappaccini’s. Baglioni argues that Rappaccini only intended to make a “science study of Giovanni” (Hawthrone 26). However, Giovanni knew of existence of a professional warfare between the two professors. This complicates the warning since Giovanni thought that Baglioni warning was part of the professional warfare.

As Beatrice puts it, the garden is her father’s world. This implies that her father is like God and the garden is the world he has created. This assertion is significant in her constant assertion that the flowers are her “sisters and her splendor” and implies that since the flowers are her fathers creations they are therefore her true sisters (Hawthorne 9). Beatrice’s contact with the flower brings forth her dual nature: a toxic but spiritually pure being.

The reality of her dual nature and Giovanni’s response (by giving Beatrice the antidote aimed at neutralizing her toxicity) builds on the theme of the dangers of ‘man interference with nature’ to the extent that Beatrice dies instead of being cured. Some critics view Giovanni’s as a poisonous being, far more poisonous than Beatrice. This is captured in her last words thus: “Farewell, Giovanni… Oh, was there not, from the first, most poison in thy nature than mine?” (Hawthorne 56).

According to Stallman (para 9 and 10) Beatrice is “a victim of male love and horror” and Giovanni’s attempt to antidote her portrays his poisonous desire to dominate a woman who he only has a physical attraction to. However these actions do not mean that Giovanni is totally evil. He sees the true evil nature of Dr. Rappaccini when he refers to Rappaccini’s garden as “adultery of various vegetable species, not products of God but the monstrous offspring of man’s depraved fancy” (Hawthorne 31). According to Phal (61) this implies that man’s intervention in Gods’ creation can only result to horrors such as the ones that befell Beatrice.

Works Cited

Baraban, Elena. The Motive for Murder in “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe. n.d. Web.

Baym, Nina, and Loeffelholz, Mary. Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W. W. Norton. 2007. Print.

Carnochan, Wayne. “The Minister’s Black Veil”: Symbol, Meaning and the Context of Hawthorne’s Art. California: Nineteenth Century Fiction, 1969. Print.

Cuddy, Lois. The Purgatorial Gardens of Hawthorne and Dante: Irony and Redefinition in Rappaccini’s Daughter’. Modern Language Studies. 1987. Print.

Fryer, Judith. The Faces of Eve: Women in the Nineteenth-Century American Novel. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976. Print.

Gowler, David. What are they saying about the parables? New Jersey: Paulist Press. 2003. Print.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Rappaccini’s Daughter. New York: Read How You Want. 2006. Print.

Levine, Stuart. Edgar Poe: Seer and Craftsman. Deland, FL: Everett/Edwards, 1972. Print.

Kennedy, Gerald. Poe, Death, and the Life of Writing. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987. Print.

Morsberger, Robert E. Minister’s Black Veil. New England Quarterly.1992. 46.3: 455.

Phal, Dennis. Architects of the Abyss: The Indeterminate Fictions of Poe, Hawthorne and Melville. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1989. Print.

Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Cask of Amontillado.” N.d. Web.

Poe, Edgar Allan. “Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Tales” Edited. New York. W.W. Norton & Company. 1987. Print.

Stallman, Laura. Survey of Criticism of “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne [with class response and discussion]. 1995. Web.

Stibitz, Earle. Ironic Unity in Hawthorne’s “The Minister’s Black Veil”. American Literature.1962. Web.

Waggoner, Hyatt. Hawthorne: A Critical Study. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1955. Print.

Werlock, James and Facts on File, Inc. The Facts on File companion to the American short story, Volume 1. New York: InfoBase Publishers. 2000. Print.

Yule, Kelsey. Internal Affairs: Poe’s Destroyers of Intent. n.d. Web.

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