Edgar Allan Poe – Fascination
“Edgar Allan Poe had a fascination with death due to the people in his life dying around him. Poe is known for writing gothic horror stories that involve elements of the supernatural and nature. He often writes disturbing poems and stories about life that is filled with chaos and sadness. His stories revolve around murder, suicide, and an overall morbid feel. These stories are animated with haunting imagery and dark portrayals of human nature. Many of Poe’s stories have an unmanned, unreliable and psychotic narrator. These narrators tell throughout the story how they came to commit the crime with a justification for it. Edgar Allan Poe’s stories, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Cask of Amontillado,”and “The Black Cat” have a theme of death and madness.
The short story “The Tell-Tale Heart” is one of Poe’s most famous stories. It is about a haunting story about the narrator’s desire to murder an old man because he finds the old man’s eye unsettling. The main themes in this short story is madness and death. From the beginning of the story, Poe’s narrator shows madness by ranting, “”How, then, am I mad? Hearken! And observe how healthily–how calmly I can tell you the whole story” (Levine, 667). The narrator insanity continues as he explains he has no ill feelings toward the old man but still wants to murder him because of the “Evil Eye” (Levine, 667). The narrator argues with himself if he should kill the old man or not but eventually he ends up killing the old man because of his madness. The narrator planned the death for weeks and eventually, “dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done” (Levine, 668). The fact that Poe had the narrator smile after killing the old man proves the narrator’s madness. The effects of the death and madness beginning to show when the police arrive to the home. Poe’s narrator begins to hear the heartbeat of the old man he just killed. From the guilt of the obsession with death and his madness, the narrator confesses his crimes.
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Poe’s “Cask of Amontillado” theme of death is driven by revenge. This story has a fixation of death, bones, and corpses. The short story is about the narrator, Montresor, and his revenge on Fortunato. Montresor felt like he was insulted by Fortunate and believed it was his duty to kill Fortunato. “He did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation” (Levine, 69). The idea of Fortunato’s death makes Montresor smile. Montresor plans takes Fortunato down to his family catacombs and kill him there. The catacombs represent death because it a resting place for the death in Montresor’s family. Poe’s obsession with death shows when Montresor plans Fortunato’s death perfectly. He planned for Fortunato to get drunk and brought him to the farthest ends of the catacomb. Throughout the catacombs there are signs of death, “its walls had been lined with human remains, piled to the vault overhead” (Levine, 700). The narrator plays with the idea of death by taunting Fortunato and sitting on the bones in the catacomb. The narrator’s insanity causes him to feel no guilt or stress over killing Fortunato. Now that Fortunato is dead, his bones will be resting with the rest of Montresor’s family and Montresor’s revenge is completed.
Death is the central focus of Poe’s story “The Black Cat.” The story is about a man and his cat. The narrator starts the story by saying, “but to-morrow I die, and to-day I would unburthen my soul” (Levine, 671). His death the following day was due to the murder of his wife and then he goes on to a flashback this event. The narrator was described to be a happily married and a gentle and kind man towards animals. His favorite animal was a cat named Pluto. Although he was generally nice, when he drank he was violent. After a night of drinking the narrator gouged out one of Pluto’s eye. After this event, the narrator began to resent the cat. Due to the resentment, he decided “one morning, in cool blood, I slipped a noose about its neck and hung it to the limb of a tree” (Levine, 672). He hung the cat because the cat loved him but the narrator couldn’t return that feeling. At this point of the story the narrators madness kicks in. He begins to see a cat that looks like Pluto starting to follow him around. Due to his madness, the narrator kills his wife by “buried the axe in her brain” (Levine, 675). The narrator begins to feel guilt over the murder of his wife and Pluto. Towards the end of the story the narrator’s crime is exposed. This could be seen as the cat’s revenge and now due to death, madness, and guilt the narrator will be hung for his crimes.
The theme of death is not limited to these stories but is a major theme in all of Poe’s work. Death in the stories is usually caused by madness or the desire of revenge. Poe tries to depict the darker side of humanity. “Allen Poe understands human’s violation of reasons and indulgent of vulgar desires; on the other hand, he’ll let disasters fall on those characters once they take actions against reasons” (Lin, 176). Death is a part of life and Edgar Allan Poe understanding of it helps create gothic horror stories that everyone loves to read.”