Romanticism refers to that period of time between 1800 and 1900 when there appeared many writers, in both America and Europe, who published numerous literary works that did not touch the reality but concentrated more on imagination, surrealism, and metaphysics. American romanticism, therefore, refers to the period when many American writers authored books that were based on imaginations and things that are out of this world. These writings were very different from novels, since novel focused on imagination that is based in real time and in real places. Amongst such writers were Oliver Wendell Holmes and Washington Irving. Their works demonstrated a great deal of American romanticism, since they were based on absolute imagination.
American Romantism in Literature
In the short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the author describes a man who was killed during the American Revolution in a way of having his head chopped off. However, the deceased gets out his grave normally at night to look for his head while riding on a horse (Terence, 1953). This is completely imaginary, as it is impossible for deceased person to come out of his grave to search for his head and ride on a horse. This is the height of imagination in his work. It is a pure imagination to expect dead people to come back to life and to integrate themselves with the living, as we see the dead person chasing Ichabod in an attempt to find his head.
In the story, there exists an illustrious horse racer Brocton who was a champion in horse racing and was, hence, an envy of many people, old and young, male and female. In the story, we are told of Ichabod who was a career teacher and used to train people in music during free time (Knight, 2003). Ichabod loves the daughter of a fellow Dutch man Miss Van Tassel but is afraid of stiff competition from the horse racer and is very jealous of him. The horse racer is also wary of Ichabod. This demonstrates apparent individualism that exists in the romantic works.
The poem “The Chambered Nautilius” talks of a marine organism referred to as Nautilus, who lives in a shell. As it grows, it closes its old shell and occupies a new one, The chamber of Nautilus becomes too little for him, and he builds more spacious one right on the top of the old chamber, where Nautilius moves in after the end of building it. The old chamber is totally blocked, which helps the whole construction to buoy up. Thus, over some time, Nautilius builds several chambers in a raw, arranging them spirally on the basis of the previous chambers serving as a supportive structure. The creature itself is only present in the biggest chamber, which is the last one. These shells eventually coil themselves to form horn-like structure. We are also told that it has arm-like tentacle described as “purple wing” in the poem (Brian, 2012). It is used to propel it in the sea and is likened to the ship’s sail that helps the ship to cruise upon being blown by the wind. The organism lives in the deep sea and only comes to the surface to obtain the necessities such as sunlight. In the light of this vivid description of Nautilus, the writer demonstrates an apparent reverence of nature, since such an organic creature is juxtaposed with sea vessels such as ship.
The writer, however, uses this sea organism to symbolize human life. He encourages people to live responsibly because it is impossible to re-live your past. Every day, we should refuse from bad and offensive behavior, just like Nautilus sheds her old shell and lives better live. The writer notes in his poem that there comes a time when we shall be answerable to our creator. This is the time when we shall die as described in the poem, where the writer tells his soul to leave his low volte past.
The two literary works clearly demonstrate that American romanticism gave a lot of emphasis on the inherent characteristics, such as individualism fantasy, imagination, and reverence of the past. Despite the fact that these works are a product of sheer imagination, there is a lot we can learn from them, as they borrow a leaf from human behaviors and societal ways of doing things.
- A Jury of Her Peers
- The Pocahontas Story
- The Epic of Gilgamesh and Genesis
- Oedipus the King
- Langston Hughes and His Poem
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