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Slavery and racism ideas Essay Sample

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Slavery and racism ideas Essay Sample

A story has many different parts to it. These individual parts are known as the characters, the plot, the setting, the conflict and the resolution. These 5 parts are often discussed and analyzed to properly dissect a story but they don’t all seem to be looked at equally. People tend to focus on the characters and the plot but there is one more that is often overlooked despite its importance to stories, especially short stories. Setting is a key aspect to all of the romantic/gothic short stories that have been read throughout this course. This is clearly visible with how Poe uses setting to convey ideas in “The Fall of House of Usher”. “The Oval Portrait” also requires the setting to set up the gothic theme and move the plot. Lastly, in “Benito Cereno” it is crucial for Melville to have chosen south america for his message to be properly conveyed.

In the story, “The Fall of the House of Usher”, setting is used in a very comprehensive way by Poe. The setting is used to establish a mood and foreshadow future events which is a crucial part of the gothic horror story. Poe is also able to communicate hidden messages of a character through the setting and add extra layers to be analyzed. In a horror story, atmosphere is key and Poe does not take the task of setting up the atmosphere lightly. The opening paragraphs are used to intricately build a dark and gloomy setting in the reader’s mind.

For example, the very house that the story is about is described in such a way to project a terrible atmosphere. “Vacant eyelike windows” (Poe 2014) , the house has “an atmosphere which had no affinity with the air of heaven” (Poe 2014) and the “black and lurid tarn,” (Poe 2014) are all examples of Poe setting the atmosphere up. Apart from just giving the story an appropriate atmosphere, Poe also uses the setting to foreshadow key ideas for his story. The most important foreshadowing that occurs is the noting of the houses reflection in the black tarn. Poe mentions the reflection to foreshadow the Usher families backwards way of inbreeding. The foreshadowing of this idea is very important for adding to the complexity of the story and ultimately adds to the enjoyment for the reader.

Similarly, Poe opens “The Oval Portrait” with a very gothic atmosphere of a dark abandoned house/castle. Once again, Poe builds the scene to add mystery to the story. “Its decorations were rich, yet tattered and antique. Its walls were hung with tapestry and bedecked with manifold and multiform armorial trophies, together with an unusually great number of very spirited modern paintings in frames of rich golden arabesque” (Poe 2004). The mentioning of paintings in this detailed description foreshadows the story that is about to be discovered by the narrator. This mysterious atmosphere is then closely tied to the discovery of the portrait. Given that it is very dark in the castle, the narrator requires a candle to see and this gives Poe the opportunity to slowly reveal and push the plot as candle light gets exposed to new surfaces. When the narrator moves to read the book more easily, the light from the candle splashes onto the wall and reveals the all important oval portrait. If it were not for how Poe setup the setting and atmosphere a reveal like this would not mean nearly as much and the entire plot of the story would be much weaker.

Lastly, in Melville’s “Benito Cereno”, South America is not the chosen setting for nothing. As an abolitionist, Melville set out to make a commentary on slavery in this story. This idea is very clearly portrayed with the theme of slavery throughout the story but the real power of the message has a lot to do with where the story is set. Melville chooses South America in the 1800’s as it is a region of the world where slaves are still very commonly used opposed to Europe at the time where such a thing was much rarer.

Since the story uses this setting it allows the reader to understand the racist views of Delano. Melville uses Delano to push the idea that slaves cannot think for themselves and he sets the idea that a slave revolt would be impossible since they simply do not have the brain capacities. The era and part of the world the story takes place in allows for such a casual racism that Melville is able to give examples to the reader like “Captain Delano took to Negroes, not philanthropically, but genially, just as other men to Newfoundland dogs” (Melville 1990). This point of view allows the reader to be shocked when it is revealed that the ship has actually been taken over by the slaves and of all people it is Babo who has lead this revolt.

In conclusion, the setting in these stories is one of the most important aspects to analyse. In “The Fall of the House of Usher” it gives Poe the chance to foreshadow and build layers to the story for the reader to enjoy. In “The Oval Portrait” Poe is able to use the setting to establish a gothic theme and ultimately push the plot and make the build up more interesting. Finally, Melville decides to use the South American setting as an opportunity to speak about his opposition to slavery and racist ideals.

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