Gothicism Embedded In Religion: Comparing Jonathan Edwards To American Gothic Authors: Compares Jonathan Edwards, Charles Brockden Brown's "Weiland", And Edgar Allan Poe

3199 words - 13 pages

In 18th century America, religious faith was the most important aspect of life. It was a time period where society revolved around prayer and ideas of salvation, thoughts of purity and becoming close to God; it was a time of great excitement, of Great Awakenings and the conversion of many souls to Christianity. But it was also a horrific time period, where and anyone who wasn't devoted to God was considered a dissenter and a heretic, and as a result suffered repercussions that had an elements of dark and sinister gothicism. Though some of the ideas involved in the gothic could be considered blasphemous when scrutinized under a religious perspective, the gothic and religion are allied in an ...view middle of the document...

Edwards was a minister and devout Christian, and tried to glorify religion in his descriptions of salvation. However, even when Edwards describes the process of The Great Awakening, the images that he intended to be positive are tainted with underlying darkness. The significance of a section of text is completely altered when the divine language is interrupted by a single disturbing word or a transfer to a dark tone. This can mainly be seen in his letter to Benjamin Colman, A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God, in his description of the number of people who had been saved."The Reverend Stoddard...was eminent and renowned for his gifts and grace; so he was blessed, from the beginning, with extraordinary success in his ministry in the conversion of many souls. He had five harvests, as he called them....Some of these times were much more remarkable than others, and the ingathering of souls more plentiful, Those that were about 53, and 40, and 24 years ago were much greater than either the first of the last: but in each one of them, I have heard my grandfather say, the bigger part of the young people in the town seemed to be mainly concerned for their eternal salvation." (Edwards 58)Edwards is trying to convey that there was great glory in converting so many souls, and the nostalgia of his grandfather recollecting that the conversions were successful seems to add a tender affirmation of that fact. However, there are conflicting words and ideas that add an eerie tone to what Edwards intended to be positive. The term "harvest" in reference to souls is quite dark and out of place; the idea of harvesting souls seems diabolical (much like something that would occur in the short stories of Poe or John Washington Irving), and when surrounded by pleasant phrases such as "extraordinary success" and "plentiful", and encapsulated in the general idea that Edwards believed Stoddard was "blessed", the eeriness of the statement intensifies. Similarly, the statement Edwards makes about the Puritan youth being concerned with their salvation is seen as fanatical delusion, because they were more afraid of damnation than concerned with being saved. The omission of that fear in the text, paired with the pride that Edwards had in his own personal conversions, makes A Faithful Narrative seem more maniacal and scary than inspirational. There are many similar conflicting textual instances throughout all of Edwards' work, and they add an underlying darkness to the message of the text itself, enticing the same emotions in its readers and listeners that Gothic literature also creates.The evidence that Edwards' writing is full of gothic undertones doesn't need to be analyzed through close reading of the text itself, but lies on the surface just as the work of gothic authors like Brown or Poe. Edwards was as much of an artist as he was a minister (if not more of an artist). The way that he described damnation and hell in his sermons is still chilling to read in...

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