Critique of the Unlimited Human Potential
Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville & Edgar Allan Poe were authors who belonged to the romanticism movement. Their writings were mostly on romance and they constantly brought out the sinful, evil nature of human beings and the inability of human beings to own up their mistakes. They viewed human beings as elusive beings who always gave reasons to support their evil ways. They expressed skepticism about an unlimited human potential seeing our natures as inherently flawed, in a variety of ways, for a variety of reasons.
Nathaniel Hawthorne probed the moral and psychological nature of man. His writings had a moral message. Guilt was one of his concerns and he argued that every human being experienced it whether they expressed it or not. In his short story, “The Minister’s Black Veil” Mr. Hooper, the reverend, wears a veil after the death of a young woman and continues wearing it all his life and is buried in it. He reveals his secret to no one, not even his fiancée. The black veil symbolizes secret sin and darkness of the human nature. Mr. Hooper had committed adultery. He was guilty and was unwilling to confess his sin due to a vow he had made. This story clearly illuminates the darkness of the human heart and mind. He shows that human beings do evil and for various reasons conceal it. In “The Birth Mark”, Aylmer, Georgiana’s husband, is obsessed with Georgiana’s birthmark that is on the cheek and wants it surgically removed. This is as a way of waving other men’s attention from his beautiful wife. It was selfish of him since he liked the birthmark before marrying her. In these two stories, Nathaniel brings out the ill motives and secrets that influence man’s actions.
Herman Melville was also a romanticist and was skeptical of the unlimited human potential. His writings mostly focused on the themes of gender and sexuality. In” The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids, there is male dominance and the women are oppressed. There is the slave image that signifies exploitation of the woman’s physical labor and their reproductive organs. It clearly shows how women do not have the potential to free themselves from oppression by men. Men are portrayed as evil and chauvinistic. The rescuing of Yillah and Isabel was from lurking sexual motive other than genuine concern.
Edgar Allan Poe, a romanticist, was skeptical of the unlimited human potential. He believed that people were driven by self-destructive tendencies and they avoid consequences for their evil deeds. In” The Imp of The Perverse”, the narrator murders a man with a candle with poisonous vapor and goes ahead to inherit the dead man’s estate. He clearly brings out the evil thoughts and acts of men and the way they avoid taking responsibility for their actions. The murderer continually runs away from the consequences of his evil actions, hoping that no one would ever know his secret.
In conclusion, Nathaniel Hawthorne was deeply concerned with morality and believed every human being experienced guilty and instead of taking responsibility for their actions, they hid under their veil all their lives. Herman Melville concern was gender and sexuality. He brought out male chauvinism and the in ability of women to liberate themselves. For him, women could not fight for their rights. He also brought out the evil motives underlying people’s actions. Edgar Allan was also concerned of man’s inability to take responsibility for his actions. His other concern was man’s self-destructive behavior. They argued that man’s actions were spurred by a sinister motive, which resulted in evil. Though man knew he had to take responsibility for his evil needs, he always gave reasons for his actions and run from the consequences. They therefore, expressed skepticism about an unlimited human potential seeing our natures as inherently flawed, in a variety of ways, for a variety of reasons.