The Prison in Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism: America As Prison - Essay

Nicolaus C. Mills (essay date 1970)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Mills, Nicolaus C. “Prison and Society in Nineteenth-Century American Fiction.” Western Humanities Review 24 (1970): 325-31.

[In the following essay, Mills uses the works of Cooper, Hawthorne, Melville, and Twain to discuss the theme of American society as a prison. Mills suggests that Puritan society, Wall Street, and the culture of slavery were all forms of imprisonment in the writings of nineteenth-century American authors.]


“Don't be shocked when I say that I was in prison. You're still in prison. That's what America means—prison.” These words of Malcolm X come as no surprise to anyone familiar with American writing in...

(The entire section is 3340 words.)

Robert Shulman (essay date 1984)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Shulman, Robert. “The Artist in the Slammer: Hawthorne, Melville, and the Prison of Their Times.” Modern Language Studies 14, no. 1 (1984): 79-88.

[In the following essay, Shulman explores the theme of society as a prison in American literature, with special focus on the repression of creativity and artists. Shulman argues that authors including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Edgar Allan Poe expressed in their writings a sense that even outside of a physical prison, the artist was confined by a particularly American drive toward conformity and sameness.]

Prisoners live in enclosed places. They want to get out but if they are in for a long time...

(The entire section is 5192 words.)