Romanticism, Realism, and Reason: Their Influence on American Literature

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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 f... ... middle of paper ... ... idea that people should begin to think more logically. In Benjamin Franklin’s essay, “Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America,” Franklin uses the literary device, satire, in attempt to make a political change. He satirically writes, “Savages we call them, because their manners differ from ours, which we think the perfection of civility; they think the same of theirs”(1). Franklin points out that people will look at different cultures and call it something like “savage’ when those “savages” are looking at them saying the same thing. Franklin attempts to help people recognize the foolishness of the American’s attitude regarding the Native Americans. Although the eras of romanticism, realism, and reason differed in many ways, they each individually influenced change in the three main components of American literature; style, theme, and literary devices.

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