Posted: November 27th, 2013
On Edgar Allan Poe
The period in which he wrote was when more and more states were joining the union, such as Illinois in 1818, Arkansas 1836 and Michigan 1837. It is also during the time which industrialization heightened, partly due to cotton demand. Several wars took place, and Poe had joined the army after traveling from Europe. Poe was a writer of short stories and poems, from 1809 to 1849. He is widely recognized for writing famous stories such as “The tell-tale heart”, and poems such as “the raven”. In addition, he is famous for writing gothic stories concerning murder, revenge, torture, being buried alive and insanity. Most of his work is considered exceptional, on strange concern about life, terror, and a unique way of death theme. He used economic characters in narrating his stories.
The tell-tale heart
The tell-tale heart has the theme of death, where the story is about murder mystery, and we know the killer except for his motives. It creates a fear of death, where the narrator explains that he knows that the old man is afraid of death. The story shows the fear of people to die, and the tension of both the victim and the murderer. Poe brings out the theme of death with much suspense, creating paranoia in the story. Many have criticized that the story in its narration, which is quite horrific, and the narrator does not connect well with the real world. One of the critiques says that, “At the same time that the narrator obsesses over the eye, he wants to separate the old man from the Evil Eye in order to spare the old man from his violent reaction to the eye” (SparkNotes Editors, 2002)
In The tell-tale heart, the eye has been used as a symbol, where the narrator says, “I think it was his eye! Yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture –a pale blue eye, with a film over it,” (Poe, 1843). Considering that a vulture will feed on the dead or dying, the narrator could have felt like the prey, since the eye gave him a cold shrill in his blood, and in the marrow. Since the old man has never done any wrong to him, probably his inner vision of the world may have been the issue. Critiques also argue that the heart seemed to be the bodyguard of the eye. When the narrator shines the beam of light on the open eye, the heart sent an alarm, where he says he was afraid that it could be heard, and still hears it when the police come, and decides to confess. The watch has also been used as a symbol, where the narrator mentions it severally to symbolize it as the watcher of death, where each tickling takes him closer to the death, and after the work, the clock again rang, maybe to signify it is over. In addition, I think the tickling of the clock signified the pace at which he would do his action, since he was quite patient.
In The Raven, Poe brings out the theme of death, yet again, using first person just like in “The tell-tale heart,” where the narrator talks about the death of his wife, which he cannot overcome. The poem is about the sorrow of losing a loved one, as the narrator says that the visitor at the door can wait until tomorrow since he cannot overcome the death of his wife. This is an illustration of what death causes, since the man was so bereaved that he is depressed, and probably becomes mentally unstable. More so, he had lost his mother at an early age, causing him sorrow at a tender age, and again, he is left by his wife at a young age.
In the poem, symbolism has been used, according to several critics, which says that the raven was a representation of evil. In one critique, it has been described as, “Our final image of the bird is that of a sleeping demon with burning eyes. He casts a shadow over the whole room, and completely terrifies our poor narrator. Starting out as a sort of funny bird with a strange way of walking into a room, he’s now the symbol of pure satanic evil,” (shmoop.com, 2011). In my thinking, ‘the raven’ represents the sorrow that is never going to end in him, and at the same time, the word nevermore meaning the loved one will never be coming back again. The narrator uses the phrase “night’s plutonian shore” (shmoop.com, 2011), to highlight the mysterious sorrow and gloomy atmosphere and ghostly symbol. More so, some critiques suggest that the shore in the phrase emphasizes mystery, and symbolizes the night as an ocean in his chamber. In addition, the use of the word chamber instead of bedroom fits the atmosphere of the poem.
The Cask of Amontillado
In “The Cask of Amontillado”, the theme of death is illustrated by the desire of revenging that result to death. The theme has been highlighted by the use of bones of long dead people, which show death. However, many critiques feel that the theme of death is not well evident but rather, it is hidden in the revenge.
Symbols have been used in the story, to indicate the theme of the story, which is death, such as the bones though Fortunato does not realize despite the catacomb looking quite gothic. The coat of arms symbolizes the whole theme in the story, where the snake is shown biting the foot, and the foot is crashing the snake. The fangs of the snake being in the foot symbolized Fortunato, who had treated Montresor badly on several occasions. The foot crashing the snake symbolized what Montresor would do to Fortunato. Some more critiques say that Fortunato was dressed like a fool, to symbolize his foolishness, that leads him to his death despite noticing the over lacking danger highlighted by the gothic interior of the catacomb.
The three pieces of literature from Poe have a sense of horror, and the theme of death, which is recurring in all of them. Poe has used symbols quite well to emphasize the themes in the stories and the poem. He also happens to choose his titles according to the theme, such as ‘the raven,’ which was symbolic, and the other titles too, which relate to the theme of the works. It is also important to note that he uses the same style in all the work, such as first persona, tragic and lack of self-realization in relation to the real world. More so, Poe has used words economically especially in The tell-tale heart, where he created paranoia.
Poe, Edgar. “The tell-tale heart.” xroads.virginia.edu, 1843. Web. 27 June 2011.
shmoop.com. “The Tell-Tale Heart Symbolism, Imagery & Allegory.” shmoop.com, 2011. Web. 27 June 2011.
SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on Poe’s Short Stories.” SparkNotes.com, 2002. Web. 20 Jun. 2011.
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