Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) was an American novelist, poet, literary critic, and editor who represented American romanticism, the forerunner of symbolism and decadence. When “with the help of some money raised by his West Point friends, he published Poems by Edgar A. Poe,” he became widely known (May 2010, p. 9). He was one of the first American writers to create their works in the form of short, dark, and mysterious stories. This paper will analyze several short stories and poems written by Edgar Allan Poe.
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In the first short story, “Black Cat,” “a male narrator scheduled to be executed in 24 hours as punishment for the murder of his wife attempts to describe the events that lead to his downfall” (Badenhausen, 1992, p. 487). His first victim is a pet, a black cat, which the narrator, in a fit of delirium tremens, cuts out the eyeball. When the narrator begins to repent his cruelty, he meets a very similar cat in the tavern. After taking it home, the narrator is friendly to the cat at first, but it does not last long. After discovering that the cat does not have the same eye as the previous one, the narrator tries to avoid the animal without causing it pain. Afterward, when he gets angry, he raises an ax over the new cat, but his wife stops him. He brings the ax down on her head in a fit of rage and puts the body in the cellar wall.
Realistic events and a series of mysterious, frightening coincidences allow a reader to attribute “Black Cat” to a narrower genre style of a psychological thriller. The first-person narrative reinforces the psychological component of the novel. The problem of personality degradation caused by alcohol addiction points to the real origins of most of the “Black Cat” horrors described. The crimes committed by the main character frighten by their ordinariness; they are told simply and artlessly. More vividly, the author conveys the character’s inner feelings, who, at the moment of the massacre of the cat, cry, trying to evoke “approval by employing the various manipulative tools” (Badenhausen, 1992, p. 488). The story leaves the reader to confront his emotions and fears and encourages a person to overcome fears and addiction with unknown consequences.
The second short story, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “is largely a study in human terror experienced on two levels,” the narrator, who is a maniac that is encouraged by his obsessive hatred of the “evil eye” to kill an old man he secretly loved, and the old man, who is killed and buried by the narrator (Howard, 2004, p.2). The story begins when the events, are already in full swing. The killer who is being narrated tells his story to someone else — this may be an investigator, a judge, a cellmate, a guard in prison, or a psychiatrist in a hospital, but the reader does not know exactly. The killer is trying to figure out why the murder happened; therefore, he tries to tell everything in great detail. As a result, his story turns into a dissection of the horror that happened to him.
Poe cuts off everything superfluous, leaving only the most necessary for presenting the essence of the story the narrator tells about his self-splitting (Wing-chi Ki, 2008, p. 25). From the beginning of the novel, every word serves one purpose – to move the story forward intensively. The driving force of the narration is not the killer’s insistence on his innocence, as one might expect, and that is typical for stories with a criminal plot, but the assurances that he is not crazy (Howard, 2004, p.1). The scene of the story’s denouement demonstrates the subconscious sense of guilt that made itself felt so bizarrely — in the form of an auditory hallucination. The killer does not notice that, without denying his guilt, he admits it.
Critics state that “The publication of “The Raven” in 1845 made Poe famous, enabling him to begin earning good money as a public reciter of poetry” (Minor, 2010, p.10). Traditionally, the raven is not just a bird but a dark harbinger of death. That is why to the lyrical hero, the Raven seems to be a demonic spirit that was sent from the realm of the dead to tell him that he is bound to eternal misery because of the death of his beloved woman. The main character of “The Raven” appears exhausted, sad, and melancholic with an “impressionable state of mind” (Edwards, 2002, p. 1). His longing is gradually added to the growing anxiety and nervous collapse, which in the end makes the hero scream.
The personification of this dark fear of the future is tragic and metaphorical because the black raven with a burning glance, a religious messenger of Hades (“fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core”) is opposed to the once quiet and peaceful atmosphere at home (antithetically – black raven and white marble, the storm outside and calm inside the house) (Dhahir, 2007, p.1). The character is afraid that he will not be able to cope with his woman’s death overtaking him, and the fear is now embodied in the black raven. Poe shows a broken man to remind readers how important it is to be strong and resilient in the face of fate.
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The second poem, “Alone,” presents the loneliness and melancholy of a narrator associated with Edgar Allan Poe. “And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone,” he says alliterating, the line highlighting the troubled childhood and other adverse events that happened to the narrator that made him gloomy and closed to society. Poe conveys that he was different from others; he saw darkness and could not share his thoughts, emotions, and experiences with people. The author uses imagery to evoke feelings in a reader, stating “From the red cliff of the mountain,” “From the thunder, and the storm,” and “And the cloud that took the form” (Poe, 2006, p. 149).
The poem “Alone” emphasized the timeless loneliness and negative feelings, such as anxiety and pain, that followed Edgar Allan Poe. “During these fits of absolute unconsciousness I drank, God only knows how often or how much. As a matter of course, my enemies referred to the insanity as the drink rather than the drink to the insanity. I had, indeed, nearly abandoned all hope of a permanent cure when I found one in the death of my wife” (Ostrom, 1966, p. 356). Poe’s mental and physical strength were overshadowed by a sequence of tragic events, his wife’s death, unsuccessful publishing of a collection of stories, that led to his inglorious end. Abandoned and alone, he, nonetheless, left a name in the history of literature, creating a new style of short horror stories that became famous and still appeal to people across the world.
Badenhausen, Richard. “Fear and Trembling in Literature of the Fantastic: Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat’.” Studies in Short Fiction, vol. 29, no. 4, 1992, p. 487. Web.
Dhahir, Sanna. “Literary Contexts in Poetry: Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven.’” Literary Contexts in Poetry: Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” 2007, p. 1. Web.
Edwards, Clifford. “The Raven.” Masterplots II: Poetry, Revised Edition, 2002, pp. 1–3. Web.
Howard, Ronald W. “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition, 2004, pp. 1–3. Web.
May, Charles E. “THE TALES AND THEIR AUTHOR: Biography of Edgar Allan Poe.” Critical Insights: The Tales of Edgar Allan Poe, 2010, pp. 8–14. Web.
Minor, Mark. “Biography of Edgar Allan Poe.” Critical Insights: The Poetry of Edgar Allan Poe, 2010, pp. 8–12. Web.
Ostrom, John Ward, ed., “The Letters of Edgar Allan Poe”, New York: Gordian Press, 1966, pp. 354-357.
Poe, Edgar Allan. “Alone.” Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 5, 2006, p. 149. Web.
Wing-chi Ki, Magdalen. “Ego-Evil and ‘The Tell-Tale Heart.’” Renascence, vol. 61, no. 1, 2008, pp. 25–38. Web.