Solitude and Society in the Works of Herman Melville and Edith Wharton

By Linda Costanzo Cahir | Go to book overview

PREFACE

To an American, isolation is simultaneously a dilemma and a desire. This antithetical response runs through the history of the nation's literature. The earliest of American literary documents, William Bradford Of Plymouth Plantation, describes the Puritans' isolation in the New World as both vastly problematic and enormously necessary. Bradford characterizes the new land as a "hideous and desolate wilderness," a world challenging in its isolation, an isolation that was often onerous and life-threatening. Bradford acknowledges the physical horrors of the Plymouth condition as the expense of religious freedom. Disease, starvation, and "extreme wants" were tariffs the exiled Puritans paid in order "to have the right worship of God . . . without the mixture of men's inventions" (6). Bradford Of Plymouth Plantation repeatedly reminds us that the threats of the world mean little when compared to the loss of right worship and of self-expression. The history of Plymouth Plantation stands as a history of the American impulse.

Inherent in the American experience, and certainly a subject central in American letters, is the willingness to brave the wilderness, to accept solitude and loneliness, perhaps even to welcome them, as a means of searching for self. Through the solitary life the American casts off the mixture of men's inventions in order to confront his own inventions. This social solitude often evolves into a worthy social solidarity as the exile finds others who share his vision, who construct the same basic inventions that he does.

The interplay between seclusion and solidarity, a recurrent subject through all of American letters, becomes a particularly insistent theme in nineteenth-century American literature. The contradictory states of isolation and community, individualism and conformity were concerns that engaged nineteenth-century American writers who, though exploring the same essential problem, were notably varied in their approaches and their conclusions. Edgar Allan Poe explored the metaphysical significance of isolation and esteemed solitude as the state necessary for experiencing the rarefied domain of supernal beauty. Nathaniel Hawthorne viewed the interplay of society and solitude in moral terms and examined the

-xiii-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Solitude and Society in the Works of Herman Melville and Edith Wharton
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Preface xiii
  • 1 - Melville and Wharton: The American Diptych 1
  • 2 - The Devil's Children: The Isolation of Self-Reliance 23
  • 3 - The Mysterious Stranger 57
  • 4 - The Sociable Isolato 87
  • 5 - The Sexual Transgressor 121
  • Bibliography 143
  • Index 151
  • About the Author *
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 155

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.