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1 Poe’s story is set in Prince Prospero’s castled abbey where he isolates 1000 courtiers to escape from the Black Death. After six months the Prince organises a masked ball; for the ball he has eccentrically designed 7 rooms in different colours representing the stages of life. In the seventh room, which represents death, there is an ebony clock. In the text there are temporary hermeneutic gaps which are eventually solved. The author uses this device to add suspense, and makes the reader try to solve the mystery. In the text there are two main temporary gaps which leave the reader in suspense. The first one we find is in line 113 where the author explains what happens when the ebony clock strikes: all the people at the party stop at the sound of the strikes and an atmosphere of confusion is set. Later in line 126, the clock strikes again, this time 12 times. In these parts of the short story the author introduces suspense, enhancing the readers’ interest and curiosity, they want to reach the climax and discover what mystery hides behind the striking of the clock, that is, the apparition of a masked figure which represents the Black Death. Young Goodman Brown decides to venture into the woods one night and says goodbye to his wife. Soon he encounters an old man (who could represent his evil self) and then they run into Goody Cloyse, but only old Goodman Brown approaches her. She tells him that ‘a nice young man is to be taken into communion’ (lines 144-145) which is the first temporary hermeneutic gap of the story. In lines 188-189 Young Goodman hears two invisible travellers who are talking about ‘tonight’s meeting’ in line 201 and in line 205 mention that ‘there is a goodly young women to be taken into communion’, this is the second hermeneutic gap. What the author achieves through this device is suspense, the reader tries to figure out where Brown is going and what the ‘communion’ mentioned by these characters is. These hermeneutic gaps are solved when Young Goodman Brown encounters an unholy altar where there are men and women known to him from his town who are celebrating an evil baptism in which he and his wife Faith are the new converts. Therefore at the end of the story we understand that his journey is in fact to his wife’s and his own communion. Old Brown Goodman suddenly disappears: this enigma is not solved, and therefore it is a permanent hermeneutic gap. The cloud that appears just after the old man has left is also an unexplained information gap, since it is not solved at any point. ‘Had Goodman Brown fallen asleep’ line249 The fact that it is not clear if what happened that night was a dream or not is also a permanent hermeneutic gap. These permanent hermeneutic gaps give the story an atmosphere of mystery and hint towards the supernatural.

2 Throughout the excerpts from Douglass’ work we see a gradual change in the mood. The title emphasises the importance of the setting, establishing that he is an American born slave. Chapter one begins ‘I was born in Tuckahoe… Maryland’. The excerpt’s tone is one of hopelessness. The author’s mother was black slave from whom he was separated as an infant (not uncommon in Maryland), he did not know his age and suspected that his master was his father. All this reflects the social context of the period and the slave trade. Chapter VI is set in Mr and Mrs Auld’s home where the salve Fredrick comes to understand that literacy is‘ the pathway from slavery to freedom’ (line 20), and the tone becomes more hopeful. In chapter X he describes Chesapeake Bay as seen from his master’s house. He watches the boats leave and longs for freedom, imagining where he would escape to and how. The outdoors setting is important since it evokes a sense of freedom. The nocturnal setting of the next excerpt sets a dark mood and introduces the fight against his master. Subsequently, he feels victorious and his attitude towards life changes. He writes ‘from the tomb of slavery to the heaven of freedom’ (lines 81-82) which reflects his determination to become free. In the last excerpt the atmosphere is happy, he is now free and married. He mentions the ‘Liberator’ which he says: ‘became my meat and my drink’ since it was a newspaper that denounced the slave trade. He finally became an abolitionist and felt free from his past and was able to speak openly about the slave trade.

The chapter title ‘The Slave Warehouse’ emphasises the way slaves are treated as goods, throughout the text the author tells how slaves are sold every day at any time. It is described from the outside which is important, the author addresses the reader directly telling them how normal the house looks from the outside but inside there are disrupted unhappy families sold separately, who are nevertheless obliged by their owners to act happily. Conventions of the period are reflected throughout, in lines 48 49: ‘cheerfulness of appearance…. are constantly enforced upon them’. This reflects how slave owners wanted slaves to seem happy even though they were treated brutally and inhumanly. In line 114 the author says: ‘these two are to be sold tomorrow’, The description of the women’s sleeping room is also important. A gloomy atmosphere is set since all of them sleep on the floor in poor conditions. Susan and Emiline (mother and daughter) are seen as common slaves or objects during the day but at night they are depicted as poor Christians and their feelings are considered. The description of the men’s sleeping room gives the reader a sense of confinement. The laughter mentioned in this part reflects the hypocrisy and underlines the irony of the slave trade. The last scene describes the auction room, which is loud, vivid and full of movement. The buyers review their future purchases and the brutal way slaves are treated in this part gives an agonising mood to the piece. The mood throughout is one of hopelessness and sadness.


lit americana