I keep drawing a blank, please help!

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Describe the dominant impressions of The Pit and the Pendulum, Rappiccini's Daughter, Ishmael's discussion of the whiteness, in Moby Dick. How are the simialr, and how are the different?

I've read and reread all threee of these works, and when it comes to answering that for my essay, I keep coming up blank. Please help me? Thanks!

-- Anonymous, July 19, 2004


The blankness is the proper response as you have correctly evaluated the mind of the porfessor who framed such a dastardly question. You frustration and terror in fact most resembles all three works where each protagonist confronts an impossible huge mystery that menaces their life, traps them in a destiny. Each is a work of the period(Poe, Hawthorne, Melville), each a work of bizarre fiction with scientific or historical "vraisemblence". Only Poe is most fully aware of what he is doing, the effect reduced away from the plot or setting or science and most nakedly the core of the story. Hawthorne surprisingly seems the most like science fiction, the prominence of the plot twist. melville is the msot grandiose metaphysical symbolism. Poe alone, with his drama consumed hero, is buried in the feeling itself, the experience greater than the event, the problem or the resolution and certainly too intense for intellectual metaphysics or clever plotting.

Whta is disturbing about Poe is the desire for understanding and resolution, but only the facile rescue from outside rescues the courageous but doomed struggler. Hawthorne proceeds like any decent TV or radio play, a bit of morality of tragedy of irony. Melville swells beyond the gothic to make the ordinary mythic and cosmic and his hero sings the epic of the ocean. Melville is not so claustrophobic in his trap of fate, but Ishmael has to be rescued too.

The choice has to do with effect sought by Romantic writers of awe, terror and the struggle of intelligence to cope with the wild antipathies of disordered nature. In these choices, this terror and pity, this heroic awe for the loner individual typifies their contemporary art.

-- Anonymous, July 20, 2004

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