First, Hawthorne blatantly critiques religion and its hierarchy of power; the protagonist in “Young Goodman Brown” is convinced (in a dream state or not) that those in his community, including the higher ups of the church, defect to the devil.
Second, the protagonist in Gautier’s “The Mummy’s Foot” is consumed by the idea of owning a “special” paperweight, one that his friends will not posses and therefore admire.
Finally, Mérimée critiques intellectualism and the idea of “pseudo-experts,” people who believe they know more than they actually do. The protagonist of the story, an all-knowing expert from Paris, is finally forced to give up all logical reasoning when he cannot explain the apparent murder of a man on his wedding night.
While the fantastic appears to be a light-hearted genre interested only in superficial ideas and concepts, these stories suggest that this genre engages with serious societal concerns, namely religion, commercialism and intellectualism, among others.
First, Hawthorne’s fantastic story, “Young Goodman Brown,” reflects and critiques religion by creating a parallel between the worship of God and the worship of the devil. Goodman Brown, the protagonist, is said to have to journey into the forest, through the night, in order to accomplish something unknown to the reader. Upon entering the forest, Goodman Brown encounters a man ...
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...rsal; Monsieur Peyrade seems to understand what killed his son, while the narrator does not.
In brief, the fantastic, although thought as being superficial in the subject matter it discusses, is actually a serious genre that discusses and critiques meaningful societal issues dealing with religion, such as hierarchy and blind faith. Gautier’s “The Mummy’s Foot” critiques commercialism by portraying those obsessed with the acquisition of objects as petty and as being nearly “consumed” by the items they purchase. Finally, Mérimée critiques intellectualism by forcing an “all-knowing” narrator to become the opposite of what he thinks he is: a person who is unable to reason logically. Overall, one can view the fantastic genre not as a form of escape or backlash to the emergence of science, but as a genre that is concerned with the societal problems in nineteenth century.
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