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The Use of Eerie and Bizarre of Edgar Alan Poe

This paper is an analysis of how the literal tools of eerie and bizarre; settings, characters, and images are used in developing the effect of horror. The literal works to be analyses in this case as an effort to analyze the use of these literal tools in the development of horror include; ‘The Mask of Red Death (1839)’ and ‘The Cask of Amontillado (1846)’. Eerie is a term used to refer to the effect of being affected by fright or an instance of being not of an earthly nature. It may also be used to refer to an instance which is very mysterious, unexpected, unusual, or strange to the extent of ‘sending chills up the spine’ of the reader or audience of artwork. Bizarre on the other hand is the term used to refer to an instance which is strikingly unusual and highly content in style and appearance (Zepetnek 12-23) (Spivak 34-54).

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Settings in works of art are any persons portrayed in a literal work; often one that has distinctive personal and moral traits within the plot of the work. Settings in works of art especially fictitious ones are the location, time, and all the instances surrounding the occurrence of the story. Images as used in the portrayal and the setting of a literal work; are used to refer to a solid presentation of a feeling, impression, or idea. Often in works of fiction, an image predominates through recurrence or by featuring at critical stages within the work (Zepetnek 12-23).

In the story ‘the mask of red death (1989)’ the settings used by the author to develop the effect of horror includes the “castellated abbey” of the blissful confident and knowledgeable members; at the place that provides hiding for “prince Prospero” and the other high-class people. The setting of this story is a place; where Prospero and as many as a thousand other high-class individuals are taking refuge, from the “red death” a merciful intensive plaque that had been wiping out people inhabiting the fictional land in which the story takes place in. The images used to develop the effect of horror are found in the statement “a terrible gruesome plaque” which is used to give the feeling of how merciless, grisly, and horrible the death of the different people from the plaque was like. Another phrase that can be used to portray an instance of image use and imagery is the phrase where the author denotes that; “True! – Nervous -very, very dreadfully nervous”(pg. 13) they had been, which he continues to say that made him mad about the situation. This phrase is used to portray the feelings of the character at that very moment within the plot of the story. The tool of ‘characters’ is used in developing the effect of horror in that Price Prospero who is the main character within this literal work; portrays the distinctive character traits of declining to accept and bow to death. He is also portrayed as being very arrogant in nature through his way of thinking and using his wealth and influence to appear like a symbol or determinant for those who do not accept to die from the death plaque (Poe 23-45).

The literal tool of eerie and bizarre is depicted from the phrase where the author gives a very unusual description of the nature of the “true! –nervous – very, very dreadfully nervous”. From this point within the story based on the quote; it is clear that the character was intensely frightened, feeling the unexpected unusual feelings; which could only have been sending chills down his spine. It is also clear that any audience, who puts themselves in the position of imagining the feelings of the author at that point, would have chills run down their spine. Another instance within the story that can be used to portray the usage of eerie and bizarre is the very point where the author writes a description of the disease. This is the case because he describes it in an unearthly way in explaining the pandemic; which he describes as one that would cause faintness, sleepiness, and hurt feelings that would be followed by bleeding from body pores. The author goes further to explain that after the alert of the disease from the red spots developed on the body; then death would follow in less than thirty minutes (Poe 23-45).

“The Cask of Amontillado” starts with a very un-predictive setting to trigger the development of a fictional horror-based narration; as the place and when the story takes place is not indicated. The story further begins with one character making an encounter to revenge to an acquaintance who had abused him. The author uses these settings of a lonely, deserted, and fearsome place where the cries of the fortunate could not be heard by anyone till Montesor killed him slowly. The use of eerie and bizarre has also been used within the plot of the story to develop the effect of horror; where the author writes “I thrust a torch through the remaining aperture and let it fall within”; which is at the point where inhumanely Montresor makes the last shot killing Fortunato. The author here is giving an idea of how unusual and frightening the killing was; as even the killer accounts that at that point his “heart grew sick” (Poe 121-132).

The literal tool of images is used in the instance where the author writes “you are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy as once I was”. Here the author is using the imagery and images of the present happy noble nature of one character; to show the contrast with that of the other and relate it with his past. The other tool that the author uses in developing the effect of horror is that of characters; by creating the character of a very distinctively inhuman character in Montresor who kills his friend in cold blood (Poe 121-132).

Having discussed the usage of the different tools in developing the effect of horror in the different works; it is evident, clear, and well-illustrated that the different tools are used and applied at different phases to achieve the overall complete effect of horror within the works. From this deduction, it is therefore clear that the different tools provide a clearer and more distinct picture of horror when used together in works of art.

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Works cited

Poe, Edgar. “The Mask of Red Death”, The Gold bug and other tales. New York: Dover Publications. (1991): 23-45.

Poe, Edgar. “Cask of Amontillado”, The complete short story collection, 1st edition. Hong Kong: C& C Web Press. (2009): 121-132.

Spivak, Gayatri.” Death of a discipline”. Columbia: Columbia University Press. (2005): 34-54.

Zepetnek, Steven. “Comparative literature”, 1st edition. New York: Radopi Publishers. (1998): 12-23.

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