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Romantic Writing And Revolutionary Writing In Early American Literature

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Early American Literature consisted of various styles of writing. Two of the most distinguishable types were: Romantic writing and Revolutionary writing. These different pieces of writing have distinct characteristics, themes, and focuses which makes them both interesting to read and easy to learn from. Romantic writers emphasized imagination and emotion. Revolutionary literature, on the other hand, focused on the fascination of forming American identity, social structure, and philosophy. One good example of Revolutionary writing would be Ben Franklin’s Autobiography; whereas Washington Irving’s “The Devil and Tom Walker” was a Romantic Style of literature.

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The Romantic style of American literature flourished in the 18th century in France and Germany. Romanticism was a literary movement that was all over Europe and Latin America. The main idea of Romanticism was to write against established order of law or rules, which were really straight and strict. Imagination, emotions and intuition were the essence of Romanticism. Romantic writers replaced the basic universal type of character for something more complex, different from the usual. One of the writer’s main goals was to emphasize the inner struggles and show in effect the passion of the main characters (mtholyoke). Romantic literature shows the difference between what is good and evil and how greed and guilt can affect the human mind. Famous writer Washington Irving’s story “The Devil and Tom Walker”, is a great example of an early Romantic writing. The story of “The Devil and Tom Walker” has many characteristics that give example and emphasize elements of Romanticism.

A big part of Romanticism is that it tries to show the readers the inner nature and struggle of the main character. In this story, that is exactly what Washington Irving accomplishes when he describes the way the main character “Tom” feels and the inner struggles he faces. In the short story, the reader sees Tom Walker’s greed and ambition and all the struggles that come with it. Irving illustrates how Tom reacts to fear and how he starts carrying a bible everywhere he goes and is always scared that the devil will come for him.

A strong element of Romanticism is adding supernatural aspects to the story like when Tom Walker and his wife go to bargain with Devil. Irving does a really good job when it comes to showing Tom Walker’s greed and how he suddenly changes his regular life for a strong desire for money and personal gain, which ended up in his own death. It’s easy to see how the element of nature, which is one of the main themes of Romanticism, is portrayed.

In “The Devil and Tom Walker”, Irving describes the swamp as “thickly grown with great gloomy pines and hemlocks, some of them ninety feet high, which made it dark at noonday and a retreat for all the owls in the neighborhood”. This example gives the reader an idea of the dark and mysterious setting.

During the Revolutionary Era in American History, enlightenment thinkers were very common (Clevelandhs). The Revolutionary era took place when the United States of America was declaring independence from Britain. The wars really influenced the people and their writing because it gave them a new way to think. During Revolutionary times, is when rights and liberties were being abused so men started writing speeches about loyalty and freedom. Basically, Americans were fighting the wrongdoing by writing. Revolutionary writings illustrated the forming of identity, social structure, and philosophy (WHS). Revolutionary authors focused on reason and order rather than fictitious ideas and personal preference, they also believed tradition was better than change. During the Revolutionary era there were many great writers like John Locke, Alexander Hamilton, Patrick Henry, and Benjamin Franklin. Benjamin Franklin was one of the most successful authors during his time period (WHS). He was a prosperous writer, printer, publisher, scientist and diplomat. Benjamin Franklin wrote an Autobiography, its main purpose was to advise his son.

Franklin’s Autobiography basically describes thirteen virtues he wanted to improve in his daily life. Franklin listed all thirteen virtues: temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility. His goal was to reach perfection. To accomplish his goal Benjamin Franklin created a calendar record book that would remind him what virtue he needed to work on every week. After working on a specific virtue he recorded each lapse with a black spot. Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography was a revolutionary writing because he focuses on enlightenment ideals when writing. His autobiography is all about order and reason and not imaginative nor fictitious ideas.

Romantic and Revolutionary styles of literature each have their own set of characteristics that make then interesting to read. Romantic literature was mostly about writing outside the norm; the authors preferred to use fiction. The main goal for Romantic writers was to show the inner struggles and emotions of the characters and reactions to certain encounters the characters will face. Revolutionary style of writing was more about illustrating social structure and enlightenment beliefs during the revolutionary era. Revolutionary literature major themes are reason and order rather than fictitious ideas and personal preference. While these two styles of writing are completely different, they did an excellent job of not only portraying the time period but also representing people’s beliefs and struggles.

11 February 2020

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