Greed in the Works of Poe and Hawthorne
When the dark, gloomy, and harrowing themes such as gothic writing, mystery, and suspenseful writing are brought up, most people’s minds immediately think of Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Distinguished authors Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne are well-known for their mysterious, gothic and suspenseful writing, often achieved through imagery, symbolism, and tone. As best shown in ‘The Oval Portrait’ and ‘Rappaccini’s Daughter’, both Poe and Hawthorne extensively use symbolism to drive home their message that being greedy by constantly pushing for perfection without regards for others can have grim consequences.
Through Poe’s extensive use of symbolism in ‘The Oval Portrait’ , he is able to effectively convey one of his more prevalent themes: greed can have grim consequences. In ‘The Oval Portrait’, a painter who was painting a portrait of his wife become so absorbed in his art and spent weeks straight trying to perfect it, while unbeknownst to him, his wife had died while he was painting it. In the Poe writes “Yet she smiled on and still on...took a fervid and burning pleasure in his task and wrought day and night to depict her who so loved him…”(Poe,1). Here, Poe is describing the painter as “working day and night” to paint his wife as perfectly as possible, representing his obsession of painting his wife as perfect as possible. Later in the story, Poe also writes “...as the labor drew nearer to its conclusion, there were admitted none into the turret; for the painter had grown wild with the ardor of his work,...”(Poe,1) Again, Poe’s description of the obsessive nature of the painter with his painting is a use of his symbolism to represent greed. This obsession that the painter shows towards the perfection of his painting symbolizes the greed that Poe writes and warns about through a number of his pieces.
Poe also uses symbolism to represent the consequences of greed in ‘The Oval Portrait’. Towards the end of his short story, Poe writes about how the painter was ecstatic to finish his portrait but instead realized that his wife was now dead. “...the painter stood entranced before the work which he had wrought; but in the next, while he yet gazed, he grew tremulous and very pallid, and aghast, and crying with a loud voice, ‘This is indeed Life itself!’ turned suddenly to regard his beloved:-- She was dead!” Poe’s use of the word “entranced” shows how the painter has become so full of greed that he focused more on the painting than his wife. At the end of of the quote, Poe writes that the wife died as a result of the painter becoming so entranced in perfecting the painting that he forgot that his wife was there. The use of symbolism here is very similar to the last example as the death of the painter’s wife is symbolizing the consequences...