19th century American fiction and american angst

Essay 2
Length: 2-3 pages
Topic: 19th Century American Fiction and American Angst

We began this week thinking through the ways Poe’s fiction unconsciously expresses anxieties about the American institution of slavery and the ways decadent aristocracy flourished (despite the American Revolution) in the US. We examined Hawthorne and thought through how his characters are suspicious of the outward goodness of others and of the ways Hawthorne thinks the inner consciousness of others can never be known. We read Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener,” another text where someone’s inner intentions are impenetrable, to the point that he may as well be a machine. And we finished with “Benito Cereno,” a long story about how to interpret the events on board a boat that also resists easy interpretations into its ultimate view of slavery and the mutiny on board ship. All of these works deal in 19th century American anxieties, be they anxieties about unexamined social/political/economic inequalities and systemic dehumanization, the fear of violence due to systemic dehumanization (the return of the repressed), the fear of judgments of others, the paranoid fear that the placid reality you take for granted by obscure a horrible truth, or even the fear that you may never be able to interpret your world correctly. For this very brief paper I want you to pick one work and using direct quotation and citation of the source along with close analysis and answer the following question: Which of these works strikes you as capable of speaking to a contemporary cultural anxiety and why?

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