Edgar Allan Poe, the Master of Gothic
Fear, superstition and the feeling of paranoia that attendants experienced on the camp meetings are also the characteristic effects of Gothic fiction. Although according to Allan Lloyd Smith, at first America did not seem to be a perfect place to write Gothic fiction because the country did not have castles and legends like the Europeans, “four indigenous features were to prove decisive in producing a powerful and long lasting American variant of Gothic: the frontier, the Puritan legacy, race, and political utopianism” (163).
Edgar Allan Poe, the master of Gothic, knew very well how to use the given tools to create suspenseful and interesting tales in the Gothic mode. Also, according to Fred Botting, “Poe’s fiction leaves boundaries between reality, illusion and madness unresolved, rather than, in the manner of his contemporaries, domestic motifs or rationalising mysteries” (120). His stories contain supernatural elements such as the returning of the dead, or feature morbid and terrifying scenes, for instance, live burial. For example, in The Cask of Amontillado, Montresor’s vengeance is fulfilled by burying Fortunato alive. The unfortunate victim has to die because of the insults Montresor allegedly suffered from him. Because of his Southern upbringing, Poe is often referred to as the representative of Southern Gothic.
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The Southern Gothic is a variation of Gothic fiction which often exposes the problems of society, featuring racism and unstable characters who reflect the struggle to find a place in society. The protagonists of The Black Cat, The Tell-Tale Heart and the Imp of The Perverse are unstable narrators, while Montresor of The Cask of Amontillado seems to know very well what he is doing to his victim. It is well known, that Gothic tales feature death, supernatural events and usually there is a haunted person, or house. In The Black Cat, the protagonist is haunted by the image of Pluto, his once beloved cat, who has been hanged by the narrator.
In The Tell-Tale Heart, the narrator is suffering from the sound of the beating heart of the victim, who is long time dead, while the protagonist of The Imp of the Perverse all of a sudden starts to think about the crime he committed long ago. None of the narrators can endure the agony, the unexpected visions, and sounds of the victims, which eventually lead them to confess their crimes. These four stories of Poe are all psychological fictions, three of the narrators have to fight with visions and are experiencing supernatural events, which lead them to try to convince themselves that they are not insane.