Poes Short Stories
The Unpredictable Map: Unreliable Narration in “The Black Cat”
When you are trying to find treasure, you follow the map. When you read a story, you listen to the narrator. Once you get to the final destination, you might not find treasure, a disappointment which would mean that you had a deceptive map. Similarly, the events might not come out to be as you predicted, so the narrator would be unreliable. You have to dig deep in the ground so that you can find out if the treasure is truly there. In the same way, as a reader, you have to dig deeper and read critically to figure out whether the narrator is reliable or not. “The Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe concerns a narrator who is telling the reader his story about how he ended up where he is: in jail. It all starts when he gets a cat named Pluto that loves him until it gets abused which leads to many other horrific events. It becomes obvious that the narrator has no conscience because Poe reveals the type of character he really is. In “The Black Cat,” the narrator indicates many signs of being unreliable, as he makes the reader question which details to believe, denies being insane, and states how he became perverse.
To start off, the narrator starts to tell the reader his story with some details that might, in and of themselves, not be trustworthy. He begins to inform the reader what the story is about by stating that his story is “without comment, a series of mere household events” (Poe 3). This means that the events that follow up to explain his situation are absolutely normal and relatable for others. While reading, the reader remembers this and discovers that that is not the case, and ordinary events are not told. Additionally, the narrator blames one and only one thing for the cause of all the situations he has been in: alcohol. He said, “But my disease grew upon me – for what disease like Alcohol” took over and made him ill-tempered (Poe 5). The night that he was intoxicated, Pluto bites the narrator which makes the narrator furious who ends up cutting one of Pluto’s eyes out. With many events like that, the reader can judge his actions and conclude that alcohol was not the cause of every problem. Instead, it was the root of his downfall and led to all the bad habits he ended up with. Even if it did cause every problem, the reader cannot trust everything that is narrated because he was probably not in his senses and half of his story would just be assumptions. In general, many statements are false, but the narrator mentions them to convince the reader to believe him.
Moreover, another thing the narrator does is claim that he is not mentally ill right at the beginning. He had to say, “Yet mad am I not – and very surely do I not dream” right off the bat because he believes it is essential that the reader should be able to trust him since the things he says are abnormal (Poe 3). However, it is an obvious sign that the narrator is insane because of the fact that he is trying to prove that he is not. Even though he just said he is not crazy, the narrator tells the reader “to-morrow I die, and to-day I would unburthen my soul” (Poe 3). He wants to be relieved and begins to confess all of the horrendous crimes that he had committed. This becomes suspicious since it is not expected for him to try and convince the reader of his sincerity after telling them he is going to die for his actions. An implication can be formed about the narrator not delivering the right facts about the circumstances which would inform the reader to disbelieve his words. To sum up, the reader cannot trust the narrator’s words as he is mentally unstable and is telling an ambiguous story.
Finally, more unreliability comes from the narrator when he declares that he has become wicked. As time passed, the spirit of Perverseness took over and the narrator defended himself by questioning “Who has not, a hundred times, found himself committing a vile or a stupid action, for no reason than because he knows he should not?” (Poe 6). He wanted the reader to have some sympathy because people can do stupid actions because of the same reason, but it was not acceptable. He thought it was okay to hang the cat that had once loved him so much. The reader cannot trust the narrator now because he knew he had committed a crime, but it had not bothered him when doing so. Moreover, he did not have a conscience when he killed his wife and walled her up with pleasure because she seemed like an obstacle. Once he got rid of her, he had admitted “…I soundly and tranquilly slept; aye, slept even with the burden of murder upon my soul” (Poe 13). There was no sign of guilt after he had done something totally unnecessary, but what he had considered worthwhile. The reader cannot believe someone who is a criminal wholeheartedly because none of his actions bothered him. Rather, the narrator was proud of what he had done. In conclusion, the words of a wicked criminal cannot be plausible since that is not sensible.
Overall, the narrator of “The Black Cat” is not trustworthy because he confuses the reader with his words as he tells the story, states that he is not crazy, and has a natural maliciousness inside of him. He reveals statements about him that could be beneficial because the reader could believe him. The narrator also denies that he is mentally ill even though he is getting punished for his crimes. His crimes were an effect of his soul being evil. His actions were not morally right, but he did not even feel guilty. The reader can infer all of this about the narrator because they dig deep into the story to figure it out. So the next time you read, make sure you dig all the way, because you may not have a foolproof map to the real state of affairs; you could be dealing with an unreliable madman of a narrator.
Psychoanalysis of “MS. found in a Bottle”
The opening words of the story “MS. Found in a Bottle” by Edgar Allan Poe are a quote from the French opera Atys, “Qui n’a plus qu’un moment a vivre N’a plus rien a dissimuler” (Poe 1). This translates roughly to the idea that a man who is dying or in the final moments of his life will nothing to hide. Whether the truth comes out voluntarily or involuntarily, the man has no reason to lie. This quote can be interpreted differently in relation to Poe’s story. A man who perceives himself as close to death, or a man who is feeling suicidal and alone has no need to lie. The truth could even feel like a call for help at that point. Outside of the psychoanalytic lens, at the surface level the opening serves as a foreshadow to the narrator’s demise and proves his reliability. Psychoanalytic criticism “attempts to… provide a psychological study of an individual writer” (Smith 304). When a story is analyzed psychoanalytically, it can reveal quite a bit about an author’s mind. “Writers reveal instinctual or repressed selves in their books” (Smith 305). Deep inner feelings come through in the work of an author. Fear, anger, and sadness (in the form of loneliness) are the predominant emotions that the narrator feels throughout the story. Through a psychoanalytic lens, the story “MS. Found in a Bottle,“ reveals to readers that Edgar Allan Poe once survived a trauma in his lifetime that changed him and continued to affect him throughout his lifetime. His subconscious feelings of loneliness, fear, and frustration both during and after the event manifest in the story where he is ultimately writing about himself.
The first hint that the story is actually about a traumatic experience survived by Poe is the fact that the story is about a surviving one. The shipwreck is a terrifying ordeal that the narrator has survived. He experiences it with only one other person, the Swede. “We soon discovered that we were the sole survivors of the accident” (Poe 2). They were together “for five entire days and nights” (Poe 2). This Swede was the only other person who felt the same terror, who lived that same experience. He was the only one that could possibly understand how the narrator felt about it. Then the Swede dies, leaving the narrator alone in the aftermath of the accident. He is the lone survivor of the wreck that he does not expect to survive at all. In fact, he is prepared for death: “I awaited fearlessly the ruin that was to overwhelm” (Poe 4). He survives the trauma but it alters him, and his view of his surroundings. He enters into a new and foreign setting immediately following this. The second ship as “a ghastly thing that inspired [them] with horror and astonishment” (Poe 5). The idea of moving forward seems unfathomable and frightening. On the second ship there are reminders and triggers everywhere. His anxiety is consuming.
Poe writes details about the narrator’s constant and growing state of fear throughout the story which ends in a psychotic break that throws his mind back into the traumatic shipwreck. He focuses considerably on the discomfort the narrator experiences for the entire story. His stress levels are noticeably high from the very beginning and grow into an inescapable terror as the story progresses. He was terrified of the things that seem to foreshadow the destruction of the first ship: “my uneasiness, however, prevented me from sleeping” and he had “a full presentiment of evil” (Poe 8). The obliteration of the ship soon after validated his anticipation. This validation drives his panic higher on the second ship. He begins to relive the moments before the first wreck and recreate that sense of anticipation. The mention of how “the wind is still on our poop” (Poe 8) is almost identical to the earlier “the flame of a candle burned upon the poop without the least perceptible motion” (Poe 2). He starts to have the same thoughts as before when he is triggered. It pushes him into a panic. He writes about how threatening the waves feel: “the colossal waters rear their heads above us like demons of the deap, but like demons confined to simple threats” (Poe 8). These crashing waves seem terrifying to the reader through the narrator’s eyes but in reality, without the menacing nature projected onto them by the timid survivor, they are just waves that do not reach the deck of the ship. In his mind the waves seem like a very serious threat but his mind is blowing them out of proportion as they do not actually pose one. Even small things can be triggering if they are a reminder of the past. He is truly surprised that the ship’s “enormous bulk is not swallowed up at once and forever” (Poe 7). Survival seems like a miracle with all of these supposed threat around him. These dangers are not perceived by those around him. “ I find it impossible to maintain a footing although the crew seems to experience little inconvenience” (Poe 7). He also notes the “whirlpool” in the beginning and the end. All of this shows the reader that the narrator is seeing threats to his safety that nobody else is seeing. There are imagined dangers all around him that bring his mind back into the state of mind from the initial trauma. The striking similarities between start and finish show that Poe has experienced the cyclic nature of a memory induced fear. He wrote the second whirlpool and shipwreck to represent a hallucination or nightmare as a result of the lasting mental effects of the initial tragedy, and exposure to emotional triggers.
The loneliness that Poe writes into the story is possibly the most important aspect to examine. At the beginning of the story the narrator feels separate from his family and his country (Poe 1). He feels quite alone in the world. Though, due to the narrative style, he is actually writing this and feeling this way after the shipwreck occurred, and while he is hiding in the second ship. The shipwreck, a traumatic event that is causing him to have feelings unlike any he has felt before: “A feeling, for which I have no name, has taken possession of my soul -a sensation which will admit of no analysis, to which the lessons of bygone times are inadequate, and for which I fear futurity itself will offer me no key” (Poe 5). Poe is writing about the loneliness and other new feelings he has experienced. His mind is doing things it hasn’t ever done before, in wake of the tragedy. He feels that regardless of how much time he is given, he will not be able to name the feeling. This portrays a feeling hopelessness and an inability to ever feel different or get out of the low place he is in.
Coupled with his loneliness, the narrator feels completely detached from his surroundings as well. This is especially apparent in his interactions with the crew of the second ship. This ship is representative of life among other people after a traumatic affair. He is surrounded by crew members that he paints as some type of ghostly untouchables with “the peevishness of second childhood, and the solemn dignity of a God” (Poe 6). He cannot relate to the people around him. The are unreachable and out of touch with him. He feels thoroughly ignored: “they paid me no manner of attention, and, although I stood in the very midst of them all, seemed utterly unconscious of my presence” (Poe 7). He survived something terrifying but he isn’t finding anyone to speak with about how he is feeling or how he has been affected. He feels that he is not on the same plane as those around him. They are outsiders in his eyes after the shipwreck, similar to how he wrote about having little regard for his family or country. He feels separate from others and unable to connect with them.
In conclusion, Edgar Allan Poe subconsciously writes about his own feelings following a trauma by creating a story about a man who survives a shipwreck. The initial shipwreck in the beginning of the story is a traumatic event that represents the one Edgar Allan Poe survived. After the narrator survives this, he is thrown into a new situation full of triggers and people who he cannot relate to. The narrator perceives threats that do not actually exist. The people around him do not see these threats and seem to be able to function in ways that he cannot. The narrator hides himself away and feels isolated. There are feelings of utter terror every time he sees the ocean or things that remind him of the feeling of doom he once felt. He believes that it is going to swallow him up, this also means that the stress, panic, and possibly the idea of death are overwhelming him. The stress of being surrounded by triggers and with no understanding people or a safe environment leads him to a psychotic break. Poe wrote about these feelings of loneliness, fear, and isolation from a deep subconscious place perhaps without ever realizing that he was actually writing a story about his own emotions and experiences. Though “MS Found in a Bottle” could be read outside of a psychoanalytic lens as a ghost story with a ghost ship and crew, it can also be viewed through the lens. The psychoanalytic criticism ties the work more closely to its creator. This allows the reader to view the narrator not only as a survivor of a terrifying and traumatic ordeal but also as someone suffering from the lasting effects of a mental illness and a character that Edgar Allan Poe created in his own image.
A Psychoanalysis of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Ligeia” and “The Fall of the House of Usher”
Often, the elements of the mind and past developments play a key role in understanding events and writings. In Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories “Ligeia” and “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Poe crafts tales that reveal the inner cravings that motivate action and perception. In “Ligeia,” Poe orchestrates his story to comment on his own family history as well as to demonstrate the intricate elements of a mother to child relationship. His themes of love and obsession suggest an Oedipus complex in his narrator which creates a further convoluted story that demonstrates the complexity of family. Additionally, Poe’s three characters in “The Fall of the House of the Usher” represent the three elements of the human mind: the id, ego, and superego. This demonstration of psychoanalytic motivation explains the functions of the mind and suggests the strength of desire.
Edgar Allan Poe led a tumultuous life filled with loss. At a very young age Poe lost his mother, and while still in his youth, Poe’s foster mother died. This tragic life lead Poe to have a strong craving for motherly love which can be seen in his literary works (Jones 446). In Edgar Allan Poe’s “Ligeia,” Poe creates a form of the Oedipus complex between the narrator and his wives. Although the story does not involve a mother and son relationship, Poe creates a mother-and-child-like relationship between the narrator and both his wives. Poe uses themes of obsessions and jouvenial word repetition in reference to the narrator to emphasize the women’s roles as motherly figures. Through the characterization of Ligeia and Rowena, Poe depicts a loving, interesting mother and an uninvolved, careless mother. This dynamic stems from Poe’s unresolved difficulties with his own parents and implies the complexity of the relationship between a mother and son. Throughout the story the narrator assignes himself childlike qualities asserting his role as the child in his and his wife’s relationship. When talking about Ligeia’s vast knowledge he explains that, “[I] resign myself, with a child-like confidence, to her guidance” (Poe 8). This is a very common feeling of trust for a child to have towards their mother, but does not depict the traditional standings of a husband and wife. Later, after Ligeia’s death, the narrator admits that, “Without Ligeia I was but as a child groping benighted” (Poe 12). The speaker explains his complete dependence upon Ligeia just as a child must completely depend on its mother to sustain its life. The narrator continues, stating again that he “gave way, with a child-like perversity”(Poe 13) This repetition of the word child in reference to the narrator portrays the dynamic of the relationship and implies that the narrator relates to his wife the way a child relates to his mother. The narrator is dependent on Ligeia and needs her guidance. The speaker expresses feelings of obsessions and clinginess towards the motherly figure, which Freud explains as the beginning steps of the Oedipus complex. When describing Ligeia, the narrator uses words such as “majesty,” unequalled beauty, and “spirit lifting vision” (Poe 3). These words reflect strong adoration and suggest that the narrator views Ligeia as somewhat divine. This description closely aligns with Freud’s view of how children view their parents. A child sees its mother with unwavering love and supernatural qualities. The narrator associates himself with youthful language and respects Ligeia as a child would a mother asserting his role and emphasizing Poe’s allusion to the complexity of family dynamic. An additional element that suggests the narrator and his wife’s relationship represents a mother to son relationship is found in the first line of the text. The speaker admits that “I cannot, for my soul, remember how, when, or even precisely where, I first became acquainted with the lady Ligeia” (Poe 2). This is a very odd sentiment to express about a wife, yet a very natural relationship to have with a mother. Individuals can not recount the moment they met their mother, yet nearly everyone has a meaningful story that describes meeting their significant other. This oddity suggests that a traditional relationship does not exist between the narrator and his wife but rather one of maternal influence.Once establishing this relationship, it is clear that Ligeia represents a preferable mother while Rowena represents negligence. When describing Ligeia, the narrator spends paragraphs praising every feature of Ligeia, but when referring to Rowena, the speaker explains “that she shunned me and loved me but little” (Poe 21). This dynamic strongly references Poe’s relationship with his foster mother. Lorine Pruette, writer in A Psycho-Analytical Study of Edgar Allan Poe expresses that, “[Poe’s] foster mother provided his wants… but seemed in no way to have satisfied his passionate desire for love and approval” (Pruette 378). Poe grew up yearning for the relationship an approval of a caring mother and projects these feelings of inadequacy and abandonment into his writing. Using characterization, Poe demonstrates feelings of obsessive love as well as feelings of neglect which alludes to Poe’s own feelings about the motherly figures of his childhood. Poe expresses a confused view of maternal relationships playing into Freud’s beliefs about children having feelings of love, jealousy, and obsession towards their mothers. Just as the character’s actions and feelings in “Ligeia” draw upon the functions of the human mind and instinct as explained by Freud, the motivations of the character in Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” can be explained by Freud’s belief that the mind is made up of the id, ego and superego. The narrator, upon approaching the house explains that, “with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit” (Poe 3). This house represents its tenants, and the narrator’s aversion to the dark, gloomy house is based in the fact that the narrator embodies opposing qualities such as goodness and morality. This characterization implies that the narrator is the superego and symbolizes the unconscious part of the brain which psychologists describes as the “system within the total psyche developed… by incorporating moral standards of society” (Strunk 318). The narrator represents societal rules established about goodness and opposes selfish desires. The juxtaposing element of the unconscious mind is the id which is defined as,“the division of the psyche from which blind, impersonal, instinctual impulses that lead to immediate gratification of primitive needs” (Strunk 317). This portion of the mind is represented by Madeline and represents instinctual, selfish desires. Although her physical character is seen in the story very little, the malignant effect Madeline has had on her brother, Roderick, is very evident throughout the entirety of the tale. Roderick is the owner of the house and represents the ego or conscious part of the mind. The ego regulates between the id and superego, balancing innate desires with social morality. In Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Poe constructs a story where the id has taken control of the ego leading to complete demise. Roderick represents an individual whose id has dominated his superego. At the beginning of the story, the narrator of the tale and superego, has received a letter of, “wildly importunate nature” that expressed Roderick’s sickness and, “earnest desire to see” the narrator in person (Poe 4). This implies that Roderick has been overwhelmed by his id and is now slipping into sickness and defeat. In an effort to create balance and save himself, Roderick invites the narrator to compensate for the effects of Madeline. Once the narrator reaches the house, Roderick explains, “that much of the peculiar gloom which thus afflicted him could be traced to… [his] tenderly beloved sister” (Poe 10). This further portrays that Roderick’s id is represented by his sister, Madeline, who has caused Roderick’s sickly condition. As the story continues, Madeline dies and Roderick and the narrator place the body in a vault (Poe 17). This action symbolizes Roderick’s attempt to rid himself of the id and escape it’s desires. Roderick locks his id away in a natural effort to resist the powers of human desire. In the end, the ego is unable to avoid the id’s grasp on desire which is represented by Madeleine’s grasp on Roderick’s physical body. Madeline breaks out of her vault, alive, and rushes to Roderick. Madeline collapses and dies causing Roderick to also collapse and die of fright (Poe 25). Madeline is the cause of Rodericks sickness and eventual death representing the id’s ability to take over and destroy the mind. Roderick is unable to elude his innate desires and this kills him. He attempts to compensate by reacquainting himself with his superego but it is too late and Roderick is overcome. Poe assigns overwhelming strength to the darker aspects of the mind and suggests that the id is unable to be buried or resisted by the ego.Both “Ligeia” and “The Fall of the House of Usher” as well as many more of Poe’s short stories, center around themes of death and regeneration. These themes derive not only from the death of Poe’s mother and foster mother, but the writer also survived the deaths of his friend Jane Stith Stanard and his wife Virginia Clemm. Poe himself wrote, “I could not love except where Death / was mingling his with Beauty’s breath.” (Jones 446) This considerable loss inevitably played an emotional role in Poe’s writings. Freud explains that part of human’s death instinct is a need to express aggression revolving around the emotions of death. This expression can generally take place internally in the form of self-sabotage or externally in the form of violence towards others. Poe demonstrated various forms of aggression towards himself and others throughout his life, but his writing is another form of processing the death instinct detailed by Freud. Despite this preoccupation with death, frequently Poe’s writings about demise are intermixed with some sort of rebirth of life. Pruette explains that this repetition of story theme in Poe’s writing alludes to the idea that Poe believed “that the dead are not wholly dead to consciousness” (Pruette 378) This can be seen in Ligeia’s take over of Rowena as well as in Madeline’s escape from the vault. In both these cases, character are able to achieve a type of life after death questioning the finality of death. This notion is supported in Freud’s belief that in “our unconscious we are immortal.” Both these suggestions made by Freud and Poe imply that there is more to the mind than life and death and explain themes of life returning after death in Poe’s work.
In Edgar Allan Poe’s “Ligeia” and “The Fall of the House of Usher,” elements of the mind are displayed through characterization. In “Ligeia” Poe expresses the complicated relationship between mother and child and projects his own feelings of discontentment towards the motherly figures of his life upon the character. Similarly, “The Fall of the House of Usher” explores mental elements such as the id, ego and superego portraying the role and strength of each. In both of these works, Poe explores themes of love, life, and death suggesting the complexity of each and illustrating that all are key constructs of the conscious and unconscious mind.
Freud, Sigmund. “Our Attitude Towards Death.” II. Our Attitude Towards Death. SigmundFreud. 1918. Reflections on War and Death, 0ADAD, www.bartleby.com/282/2.html.Jones, Llewellyn. “Psychoanalysis and Creative Literature.” The English Journal, vol. 23, no. 6,1934, pp. 443–452. JSTOR, JSTOR.Pruette, Lorine. “A Psycho-Analytical Study of Edgar Allan Poe.” The American Journal ofPsychology, vol. 31, no. 4, 1920, pp. 370–402. JSTOR, JSTOR.Poe, Edgar Allan. Ligeia. Generic NL Freebook Publisher, n.d. EBSCOhost.Poe, Edgar Allan. Fall of the House of Usher. Generic NL Freebook Publisher, n.d. EBSCOhost.Strunk, Orlo. “Religion, the Id, and the Superego.” Journal of Bible and Religion, vol. 28, no. 3,1960, pp. 317–322. JSTOR, JSTOR.
The Reincarnation of Officer Oldeb: Character Relationships in “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains”
In “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains,” by Edgar Allen Poe, an unknown narrator recounts the circumstances that led to Augustus Bedloe’s mysterious death. The equally strange Dr. Templeton treats Bedloe, who suffers from neuralgia, using the practice of mesmerism along with high doses of morphine. During the course of the story, Bedloe experiences a dream-like vision where he is transported to India in the midst of a battle, taking the place of a young officer and undergoing death as if it was real. Even more bizarre is that once Bedloe returns from his fugue state, Dr. Templeton has written his version of the same war, in which his dearest friend, Oldeb, dies in the exact same way. The final turn of events occurs near the end of the story, when Dr. Templeton “accidently” kills Bedloe with a poisonous leech to the temple, identical to where Oldeb was struck with an arrow fifty years earlier. The obituary reveals another similarity, as Bedloe’s name is missing an e―thereby spelling Oldeb in reverse. The reader is left with many perplexing questions, the most obvious being: did Dr. Templeton actually mean to kill Bedloe? Given the magnetic rapport connecting the two, the inexplicable resemblance between Bedloe and Oldeb, and the validity of Bedloe’s dream, it’s safe to guess that Dr. Templeton discovered that Bedloe was indeed an incarnation of Oldeb, and killed him in order to release his old friend’s trapped soul.
Throughout the tale, Poe provides contextual clues to the reader that suggests the supernatural link between Bedloe and Oldeb. The narrator describes Bedloe as a young man, yet at certain moments, imagined him “a hundred years of age” (1). Furthermore, Bedloe’s eyes often gave off “the idea of the eyes of a long-interred corpse” (1), as if implying that Bedloe is just a body entombing Oldeb’s soul. Dr. Templeton also notices these peculiarities, admitting “When I first saw you, Mr. Bedloe, at Saratoga, it was the miraculous similarity between yourself and the painting which induced me…to bring about those arrangements which resulted in my becoming your constant companion” (6). In his account of the insurrection of Cheyte Sing, Dr. Templeton reveals that he tried desperately to “prevent the rash and fatal sally of the officer who fell…my dearest friend…Oldeb” (6) Templeton’s real motive behind treating Bedloe was driven by a “regretful memory of the deceased, but also, in part, by an uneasy, and not altogether horrorless curiosity respecting yourself” (6). Templeton clearly felt guilt over not preventing the death of his friend, and utilized the interconnection between Bedloe and Oldeb to make things right and set Oldeb free. Upon hearing Bedloe’s dream, Dr. Templeton was convinced of the metempsychosis between the two men, and ultimately murders Bedloe intentionally for his own peace of mind.
The magnetic relation that Dr. Templeton establishes with Bedloe serves to substantiate the idea that Bedloe’s death wasn’t on accident at all. Dr. Templeton used the combination of magnetism, morphine, and bodily control to test his hypothesis, extricating Bedloe’s memories of his past life and combining them with his own through some sort of telecommunication. As Bedloe relays his dream, Templeton is visibly unnerved from reliving the war, illustrated when “he sat erect and rigid in his chair- his teeth chattered, and his eyes were starting from their sockets” (5) Bedloe’s dream thus confirms Dr. Templeton’s suspicions, acting as the final nail in the coffin that proves the transmigration of Oldeb’s soul into Bedloe. Dr. Templeton even acknowledges this act, proposing “let us suppose only, that the soul of the man of to-day is upon the verge of some stupendous psychal discoveries” (6). Templeton himself demonstrates the notion that Bedloe is Oldeb reborn. The idea of rebirth is most commonly found in Hinduism, which corresponds with the setting where the vision takes place; the Indian city of Benares. It’s impossible to say with absolute certainly why he felt the need to kill Bedloe. The most likely explanation is out of guilt for his inability to save Oldeb, or perhaps Templeton simply got what he wanted from Bedloe, and saw no need to keep the ailing man around. Poe does insinuate, however, that it’s unlikely Dr. Templeton unintentionally killed Bedloe. Even by choosing the name ‘Templeton,’ Poe foreshadows how both Oldeb and Bedloe will die from wounds inflicted to the head. He supplies the reader with another clue, disclosing “the poisonous sangsue of Charlotsville may always be distinguished from the medicinal leech by its blackness, and especially by its writhing or vermicular motions, which very nearly resemble those of a snake” (7). It’s highly doubtful that Templeton, as a medical practitioner, would confuse the two leeches. Therefore, Dr. Templeton committed premeditated murder on Bedloe, most likely planned once he affirmed his theory of metempsychosis.
Bedloe’s dream is a perfect chronicle of the riots that took place in 1780, thus providing evidence for Dr.Templeton’s speculation. Even Bedloe himself understands how dubious his dream sounds, which is why he “entered into a series of tests” (4) that prove he was actually awake. When Bedloe dies in the battle, he has an out-of-body experience, in which he feels “a sudden show through my soul, as if of electricity” (5) Soon after, he “again experienced a shock as of a galvanic battery” (6). These two shocks were conceivably Oldeb’s soul entering and leaving Bedloe. Since Dr. Templeton had mastered the “sleep-producing magnetic somnolency” (2), he too must have been able to feel the shocks, and validate what he had been thinking all along. Given the combination of the soul wandering, the morphine, the magnetism, and Bedloe’s weakened state, it should come as no surprise that Templeton was able to hack into Bedloe’s visionary memories, and confirm his suspicions. After he was able to relive the battle, it’s possible Dr. Templeton saw it fit to kill Bedloe just as Oldeb was killed.
In “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains,” the mystery behind Augustus Bedloe’s death is left for the reader to decipher. Poe equips us with hints throughout the tale, which lead us to realize that Bedloe and Oldeb are the same person, two bodies that share one soul through the process of reincarnation. Just like the reader, Templeton’s mission is to prove this metempsychosis. By becoming Bedloe’s doctor, and his one true confidant, Templeton is able to hack into his mind and live through his experience again in Bedloe’s memories. Templeton, flashing back to 1780, remembers how he failed to save Oldeb from the poisoned arrow. Out of guilt, or perhaps a wish for another chance to save his friend, Templeton kills Bedloe by attaching the poisonous leech to the very same place that Oldeb was fatally shot. This similarity, along with many othes, presents proof that Bedloe was the incarnation of Templeton’s old friend. Templeton, seeing his friend trapped within another’s body, could not stand being tormented in that way, and immediately knew what had to be done. Dr. Templeton was forced to kill Bedloe to liberate the long-since departed Oldeb.
Science and Art in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Purloined Letter”
In one of the first detective stories, “The Purloined Letter”, E. A. Poe creates an extraordinary character with a powerful personality, a master of ratiocination, and he lets the reader take part in the intriguing process of finding a missing letter hidden in plain sight. The originality and superiority of Dupin, the sleuth, his ability to solve mysteries which seem inaccessible to others lies in the quality of his mind – of being, at once, that of a poet and that of a man of science, thus being able to challenge opponents with an equally brilliant capacity of reasoning.
At the beginning of the short story, the “mock didactic motto” (Peiu 40) states that “Nothing is more hateful to wisdom than too much cleverness,” which immediately gives the reader a hint that a certain character in the story might fail in his actions because of the means he employs. That character turns out to be, in accordance with the layout of detective stories, the Prefect, who, regardless of the countless attempts to find the letter, searching the minister’s house and the “two houses immediately adjoining” (Poe 423), showing a scrupulosity out of the ordinary, found himself having wasted three months and still not having solved the case. The prefect made a show out of this thoroughness, describing all the methods through which he had been able to discover possible secret hiding places in objects that others would have ignored or to observe if even a speck of dust had been moved from its place. His search method is made to seem so scientific and perfected, that one might wonder how it is possible for such an investigation lead to a dead end.
In contrast with Minister D, the Prefect seems to be, at first, the ideal scientist, mocking the former for being “not altogether a fool […] but then he’s a poet, which I take to be only one remove from a fool.” (Poe 421) But what the Prefect fails to realize is that the poet’s mind and the scientist’s mind are complementary – and this might be one of the main reasons for which he is mocked by Dupin. His “too much cleverness” turns him into a caricature, and his science ultimately becomes bluntness, the inability to see anything outside his own frame of mind, which definitely strays away from the wisdom to which any detective should aim at.
While the Prefect boasts with his intelligence and perseverance, Dupin listens – and thinks. His point of view is that the Prefect’s approach is too complicated for a problem which might be “too plain” (Poe 417). But even the simplest of problems cannot be solved when one is narrow-minded. Dupin’s trail of thought, ratiocination (“the game of the mind operating with (literary) abstractions” – Peiu 37), means more than deducing the actions of the suspect through reason and logic, as it also involves “an identification of the reasoner’s intellect with that of his opponent” (Poe 427). Dupin’s mind is perfectly rational, he is an undeniably talented logician, mathematician, but at the same time a genius artist, understanding all the hues of the human essence, for he also writes poetry, enjoys literature and very artistically managed to mimic the seal on the letter with a piece of bread. In this way, he is able to understand what other people are thinking and to temporarily shift perspectives, watching the world from behind their eyes.
An answer as to why such a comprehensive view of the world can only be acquired by joining art and literature can be found in Aldous Huxley’s “Science and Literature”, in which he tackles the relation between the two, stating that the scientist deals with matters of quantity, while the artist, with matters of quality. The scientist’s role is to analyze the world, repeat experiments as often as possible and on as many subjects as possible, and draw a universal conclusion, while the artist’s object is a single element which should be analyzed in accordance to what makes it different from the world.
Regardless of the thoroughness of the Prefect’s work, his investigation was, largely, a matter of quantity. The fact that he searched for the letter for as much as three months, using the same mind-set and trying to reach a certain conclusion through mass repetition shows that the inability to find the letter is due to his faulty approach. His error lay in his belief that there is only one way to solve a problem, not that for every problem, there is a different solution. As Huxley pointed out, “[the scientist’s] primary concern is not with the concreteness of some unique event, but with the abstracted generalizations, in terms of which all events of a given class ‘make sense’” (Huxley 6). Nonetheless, given the unpredictability of human nature and the various approaches one might take, quantity is no substitute for quality when resolving a case, and Dupin showed how adopting a different strategy can lead to a successful end.
Thus, he decided to focus on the individual, not the universal – on quality, and not on quantity. Through keen observation and identification with his opponent, he managed to track his trail of thought, which, quite naturally, led to solving the case. And even though Dupin uses logic as his main weapon in his deductions, he is also an artist, for which “outer reality is constantly related to the inner world of private experience, shared logic modulates into unsharable feeling, wild individuality is forever breaking through the crust of cultural custom.” (Huxley 6) The sleuth wonderfully combines art and science, and their combination “reinforce[s] other basic dualisms, such as the organic/mechanical, synthetic/ analytic and emotional/intellectual”. (Deery 24)
Moreover, Dupin focuses on the larger process and not on the result of the search. The Prefect left the room as soon as Dupin gave him the letter, without waiting for an explanation, which shows how utterly uninterested about the process he actually was and how his only goal was to reach the desired result. In contrast, Dupin seems completely unpreoccupied with the fate of the letter – he is more interested in the strategies he used and he is more than willing to share them with anyone who is sensible enough to listen.
Still, Dupin is not the only character whose mind combines art and science – his opponent, Minister D, can be considered a reflection of the sleuth. Detective stories usually culminate with the criminal being exposed, but in The Purloined Letter, the culprit is well known, and not only to the reader, but also to Dupin, who had met Minister D in the past and has a certain history with him regarding the battle of the minds. Therefore, Minister D’s intelligence is no surprise to Dupin and no impediment either, but rather a hint into solving the mystery. The two share a lot of qualities, not just their initial which, according to “certain critic’s approaches”, might point to “the possibility that [they] be actually brothers.” (Peiu 41)
The most striking feature that is common to both of them is, of course, the ability to deduce and to identify with other people. D knew what means would be used by the Prefect in his search and he outsmarted him – but he did not outsmart Dupin, who became his match in slyness and intelligence. The game of identification began when D managed to foresee the actions that the prefect was to undertake – and he could very easily avoid falling in his very predictable and repetitive traps, changing the appearance of the letter and placing it such a way that was certain to be ignored by the narrow-minded policemen. Nonetheless, he failed to predict Dupin, who, by the same means of ratiocination, by reflecting upon the “daring, dashing, and discriminating ingenuity of D” (Poe 433), reached the conclusion that the hiding spot could not possibly be an ordinary one, and that for such an unusual perpetrator, equally unusual means must be employed, even radical ones, such as doing the opposite of hiding the letter: revealing it.
Just as Dupin, Minister D dares things that are at once “unbecoming” and “becoming a man” (Poe 419), and although the reader is not let in into D’s good deeds, his attention is turned to the more dark side of his actions, stealing of the letter which would ultimately lead to blackmail. Dupin also resorts to theft, although for a reason altogether different. They used the same technique when stealing the letter, cunningly replacing it with a similar one. And most importantly, they both write poetry, activity frowned upon by the Prefect, while they are also familiar with the science world. The two characters, Dupin and Minister D, are extraordinary because of their both scientific and artistic minds. Therefore, for the two of them, the game of intellects is not as easy as the one between Minister D and the Prefect. The battling minds are equally shrewd and cunning.
Still, regardless of his genius, Minister D failed in his attempt to keep the letter safe. The reason for this is the impossibility of him seeing the entire picture – he could only predict the Prefect looking for his letter and could not foresee the third variable, Dupin, coming into play. The detective, on the other hand, already had the entire image presented to him, so he had the advantage of being omniscient in the “spatial dimension common to the three characters [D, Dupin and the Prefect]” (Bellei). On the contrary, “the Minister sees a partial context and presently becomes part of a larger context which is apprehended by Dupin only” (Bellei)
Furthermore, the ending places Dupin on the higher ground when he ingeniously replaces the letter with another one, mirroring D’s theft. The epitaph brings a new element into the two characters’ play, which is the final touch of Dupin’s revenge on D, by not only ruining his plans, but writing a personal letter of retaliation. Through his last line, “Un dessin si funestre,/ S’il n’est digne d’Atrée, est digne de Thyeste” (Poe 437), he invites the audience, which is the narrator and, by extension, the reader, to apply the same strategy of identifying with the other person’s mind and imagine what Minister D thought after opening the letter and realizing he had been tricked. Thus, while the reader is astonished by the Dupin’s wit, he can continue the game of ratiocination himself, and this “makes this letter, unlike the one D originally substituted, meaningful and important” (Plochocki 29).
In conclusion, Poe demonstrates that wisdom cannot exist without a larger approach which involves both science and art, and that an “exaggeration of the application of the principle of search” (Poe 428) can only bring failure. Dupin’s capacity of ratiocination and ability to see the world from different perspectives and through different eyes make him the ideal detective.
Bellei, Sergio L. P., “ ‘The Purloined Letter’: A Theory of Perception”, Poe Studies, December 1976, Vol IX, No.2, 9:40-42 http://www.eapoe.org/pstudies/ps1970/p1976202.htm
Deery, June, Aldous Huxley and the Mysticism of Science, Springer, New York: 1996
Huxley, Aldous, Literature and Science, Harper and Row, New York: 1963
Peiu, Anca, Five Versions of Selfhood in 19th Century American Literature, C.H.Beck, Bucharest: 2013
Plochocki, Maria, Body, Letter, and Voice: Constructing Knowledge in Detective Fiction, Peter Lang, Pieterlen: 2010
Poe, Edgar Allan, Tales of Mystery and Imagination, HarperCollinsPublishers, London: 2011, pp 416-437
Hawthorne and Poe take us to Hell
In both “Young Goodman Brown” and “The Cask of Amontillado”, evil is something that the characters carry with them throughout the stories. The revelation of their personal evil is a journey that begins with the ostensible picture of faith and good will and as the stories progress; the characters strip their masks in the journey into darkness and chaos. At the end of the stories, the characters return to a place of structure but something is broken.
The first thing to note about the structure of the stories is that they are both purposefully modeled from Dante’s Inferno, which was based in the “journey to hell” genre so popular in the Middle Ages. What distinguishes Dante from the countless other poets and writers is that Dante has a psychological component to his journey into hell. The journey into hell is both a literal journey and a psychological journey into the darkest and grimmest parts of Dante’s soul. The major difference between Dante and the works of Poe and Hawthorne is that Dante moves through Purgatory and Heaven in order to rebuild his fractured soul. In both Poe and Hawthorne, the return to normalcy is only superficial. Upon confrontation with their evil natures, the characters never get to rebuild themselves. They just look like they are normal.
The stories begin with the character in a state of innocence or what seems to be a state of innocence. In Cask, the narrator states that he was pretending to be a friend to the doomed Fortunato. “He did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation.” (Poe) In the Poe story, the mask is one that the protagonist perceives and accepts as his wont. By contrast, Young Goodman Brown does not perceive that his happy home life is a delusion that he must constantly maintain. At the beginning of the story, Goodman Brown prides himself in his piety. Beyond the highly symbolic name of Faith for his wife, Brown begins his journey into the dark woods declaring “My father never went into the woods on such an errand, nor his father before him. We have been a race of honest men and good Christians since the days of the martyrs; and shall I be the first of the name of Brown that ever took this path” (Hawthorne)
In both stories the journey into darkness becomes the journey into truths, truths that the protagonist will only admit in the darkest places. Even in these journeys, there is a degree of conspiracy theory in order to assist the protagonist. The protagonist of Cask convinces his victim that he’s a mason and even produces the trough to prove it. By contrast, Young Goodman Brown believes that he sees a witch’s coven and every member of the town is gathering to celebrate the wickedness that flows through everything.
Yet, these far-reaching conspiracies turn out to be mere window dressing for the actual revelation. In the case of Cask, the narrator is using the trough to build a wall so that Fortunato will be trapped behind brick indefinitely. In the case of Goodman, the hooves and the townspeople coming to the dark woods are merely speaking the words that Goodman has in heart. When the dark figure states: “This night it shall be granted you to know their secret deeds: how hoary-bearded elders of the church have whispered wanton words to the young maids of their households; how many a woman, eager for widows’ weeds, has given her husband a drink at bedtime and let him sleep his last sleep in her bosom; how beardless youths have made haste to inherit their fathers’ wealth; and how fair damsels–blush not, sweet ones–have dug little graves in the garden, and bidden me, the sole guest to an infant’s funeral” (Hawthorne) he is admitting to himself things that he already knows.
No community is completely innocent of sin and there are always going to be scandals and problems. Goodman Brown is a zealot whose faith is based on everyone in his community being just as sanctimonious as himself. When he goes into the dark woods and sees visions of the townsfolk gathering to worship at a witch’s Sabbath, he is admitting that he lives among people who are sinful and capable of evil deeds. Instead of integrating that revelation in his daily life, he becomes hardened. When one grows up in a certain community with high standards and thinks that the community is perfect, only to learn that it’s not, one has two choices. The healthy individual will stop being so hard on himself and have compassion both for himself and for those around him. The unhealthy individual – as Goodman Brown turns out to be – will become more judgmental and rigid, not only in his own behavior but in his judgment of others. At the end of the story, Goodman Brown has shut himself off from the rest of the community through emotional and psychological issues.
By contrast, in Cask, the narrator is literally building a wall against Fortunato. As he reveals himself to be planning the murder of Fortunato, a murder and a revelation that can only take place in the darkness of the cellars. The scene where the narrator is bricking up Fortunato serve as a return to structure, that bricks up both his victim and his own sense of guilt. One of the funniest lines is “My heart grew sick; it was the dampness of the catacombs that made it so. I hastened to make an end of my labour.”(Poe) Whether or not that sick heart has anything to do with the guilt, it’s covered up in the process of killing Fortunato.
Both stories depict evil as a secret life that the characters will not show to the world and the very secrecy makes the evil powerful.
The Metaphorical Trifecta in How to Write a Blackwood Article
Poe’s How to Write a Blackwood Article portrayed a symbiotic relationship between the soul, the body and money that drove the Victorian audience to search for an unattainable form of happiness in literature. Poe described the sought-after exhilaration in contemporary trends—at that time—to be so far extricated from real life that desperate writers would risk their well-being for a profitable story. And he questioned the reasoning and purpose behind the pursuit of such experiences with little sustainable contribution to culture and society, other than pure entertainment. The life-threatening stakes posed in How to Write a Blackwood Article were metaphorical to the quixotic themes writers pursued, which to an extreme extent could threaten the collapse of Gothic literature. Poe had not exempted his own work in this satire—guilty—but had advocated grounding this literary movement back to relevant cultural, historical and political context.
From the beginning, Zenobia reaffirmed the “Greek” beliefs throughout, alluding to iconic philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato and Socrates who debated the topic of dualism between soul and body. However, the mind creates the imagination, comparable to how the body is a vessel for the soul. Basing off this assumption that the soul and the imagination as one, the metaphor between the current literary trend’s sole focus on the imagination and Zenobia’s claim that she was “all soul” (278), neglecting the presence of the body, exemplifies the main themes of this essay: specifically, the lack of balance in literary trends that glorify fantasy and overlook the realistic problems or aspects in literature. Zenobia’s staunch belief would be disproved throughout the essay with scattered bodily imagery correlated with the soul, establishing that the mind is a hybrid between the soul and the body.
For instance, in the scene of the dancing dogs, Zenobia relied on her visual senses as well as her mind to process these images into emotions, “In such a mind, I repeat, what a host of recollections stirred up by a trifle!” (288). The main problem in Zenobia’s claim was one major purpose of following the current literary trends to earn money for bodily nourishment, which then allowed the imagination to flourish. All three components of the imagination, the literary trends—or, business—and the body were crucial in creating a successful work of literature.
Also, there were repeated sets of three throughout the article, and Zenobia especially underscores this detail that she, Pompey and Diana are “three”. These sets of three provide a metaphor to the body, soul, and mind—the latter which processes these sensory experiences. How to Write a Blackwood Article describes a related trio that arises from the newfound popularity of sensory-based literature.
Even the name Dr. Moneypenny suggests that many writers base their careers according to trends. Furthermore, the metaphor between the separation of the mind from the body compared to the current focus on the imagination without regards to facts could be seen in the imagery. Diana’s appearance, whose “head was somewhat bigger than her body…” (page 288) illustrated this problem in the form of a disproportionate poodle. Furthermore, Poe always separated “every body” and “any body” throughout the text. The tone between the body and the imagination is tense, fighting for authority. In one instance, Zenobia lost control to her imagination when the latter assumes greater agency than she is physically capable of. “The dogs danced! I—I could not!” (page 288). To this observation, the narrator exhibited extreme anguish, which prompted whether the identity is located in the soul or body. Even in the imaginary scenario with Pompey and Diana, the narrator is constantly hindered by her body; she mentions that she had to stop for a breath, and that she could not do certain tasks, even though she could picture them well.
Perhaps Poe had feared that the absence of substantial foundation for imaginative writing, similar to the lack of a body in an excellent writer, would preserve an inaccurate image of this cultural time period. Although How to Write a Blackwood Article appeared to be a success in its widespread availability, its audience could deduce very little from that era based on works similar to this article, other than its obsession with sensory experiences in its literature. And Gothic literature in itself already defined itself from its focus on stimulating emotions such as terror and horror, and emphasizing more on this aspect would be excessive.
Perhaps Poe hoped to return Gothic literature back to its original intentions, which Davison summarized as, “a form that serves as a barometer of socio-cultural anxieties in its exploration of the dark side of individuals.” (Davison, 124). In Lionizing: Poe as Cultural Signifier Peeples summarized Doctorow’s commentary, ““Poe’s writing defies the usual assessments of literary merit, making him impossible to rank…” (page 127). This observation suggests that Poe made efforts to improve and refine the Gothic literary movement, having been recognized as its mascot, as Peeples described Poe’s presence in his work as both paralleled to his personal life—known to the public—as an addict and a “Gothicist” (page 126). By interweaving these satirized techniques into the story, such as the ever-shifting tone, Poe’s satire itself provided a fascinating story as well as a great success. This proved that these techniques were indeed effective. However, in previous revisions of Poe’s work, critics had revealed that Poe was the master of all techniques satirized in How to Write a Blackwood Article. (Fisher 26) For instance, on his apparent discouragement of impracticality, Poe demonstrated a different aspect on his previous works. Fisher noted that, “Other revisions show us how sensitive Poe’s ear was to the appropriate sound effects of his prose.” (Fisher 27). Furthermore, Poe included a French idiom in “Usher”—a trope he had satirized in How to Write a Blackwood Article. Clearly, Poe had mastered the literary techniques, plot, and substantiality to be a literary success of that time. Perhaps he expected more from himself and his readers by satirizing the techniques he had mastered and perhaps relied on for success.
Moreover, Gothic literature had been founded on “impractical” details. Porterfield’s Gothic as an Undergraduate Study stressed on how this literary movement was defined by keen attention to details in word choice contextually instead of individually. If Poe had been striving towards a new, reformed literary movement, the audience could see his critique of the traditionally defining characteristics of Gothic literature in the dialogue between Zenobia and Mr. Blackwood. The extremely meticulous diction—such as Mr. Blackwood’s insisting of referring to “oatmeal” as “buck-wheat cake”—could point to the overly picky attention to spelling changes in Gothic Literature—as Porterfield mentioned earlier, of how the length difference of a certain syllable could prompt two different meanings of the same word. (page 79).
“How to Write a Blackwood Article” has raised the standards for Gothic Literature by raising the importance of cultural, political and social context into works of vivid imagination. Zenobia’s staunch removal of herself from her body and devotion to the soul is a satire that reveals the codependent cycle involving the imagination, the body, and surprisingly—business that would create canonical literary works.
Poe, Edgar. “How to Write a Blackwood Article”. Baltimore, Maryland. 1838. Davison, Margaret. “The Victorian Gothic [And Gender].”
The Victorian Gothic: An Edinburgh Companion, edited by Andrew Smith and William Hughes. Edinburgh University Press. 2012, pp. 124-141. JSTOR. www.jstor.org/stable/10.3366/j.ctt3fgt3w.12
Peeples, Scott. “Lionizing: Poe as Cultural Signifier”. The Afterlife of Edgar Allan Poe. Boydell & Brewer, Camden House. (2004). JSTOR. Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt81xm9.8
Palma dos Reis, Maria. A Reading of “How to Write a Blackwood Article” as an Exercise in Irony, Authorial Self-Consciousness and Tuition for Creative Writers. The Edgar Allan Poe Review, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Spring 2010), pp. 142-151. Published by: Penn State University Press. JSTOR, https://www.jstor.org/stable/41506396 Fisher IV, Benjamin.
“How to Write a Blackwood Article”: Revise, Revise, Revise. Interpretations, Vol. 12, No. 1 (July 1980), pp. 22-30 Published by: Scriptorium Press. JSTOR. https://www.jstor.org/stable/23240547
Porterfield, Allen. Gothic as an Undergraduate Study. The German Quarterly, Vol. 11, No. 2 (Mar., 1938), pp. 78-86. Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Association of Teachers of German. JSTOR. https://www.jstor.org/stable/400964.
Edgar Allan Poe’s “Tales of Terror” as Tragic Drama
The literary compositions of Edgar Allan Poe, especially his short stories of terror based on supernatural or psychological manifestations, continue to be highly praised by a select group of readers who relish the dark, nightmarish worlds of human existence with their roots firmly established in the ancient past. Edgar Poe’s uncanny ability to transcend reality and inject the reader into the domains of the macabre and the weird is the most compelling reason for his enduring popularity, not only in America but throughout the world. In his “tales of terror,” such as “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Black Cat,” “The Premature Burial” and “The Fall of the House of Usher,” a strange, unnerving familiarity with the characters and situations can be sensed which allows the reader to subconsciously relate to the macabre experiences and thoughts of the main protagonists. This ability to pass beyond the veils of reality and suspend the reader’s disbelief is most closely related to Poe’s application of tragic drama in his prose writings.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle defined tragic drama as “a power capable of raising pity and fear, or terror. . . to purge the mind of these passions. . . to temper and reduce them. . . by reading or seeing those passions imitated,” i.e. tragedy gnaws at one’s emotions, thus bringing about a release, or purgation, when the tragic figure is triumphant or victorious over his oppressors or the object of his frustrations. Since Aristotle’s time, literary purists have devised exclusive definitions of what constitutes tragic drama, yet Poe’s interpretation of tragedy stems from his inner self where primordial emotions rise from the deepest recesses of the human soul which he described as “the reproduction of what the senses perceive in nature through a veil. . . the naked senses sometimes sees too little–but then they always see too much” (Foye 51).
If the essence of Poe’s tales of the macabre and the uncanny resided in his inner soul, then a portrait of this essence can be understood via the following scenario: an individual perceives he is trapped in a hostile environment beyond his control which produces great apprehension despite the lack of specific causes for his dread. On occasion, he suffers from real threats in his daily life and confronts these threats with ingenuity and courage, at times even overcoming his fears by retaliating against an innocent victim, either violently or through mental torture. Afterwards, he feels remorse for his actions and is emotionally moved to atone for his guilt through confession or by exposing himself to official punishment or self-inflicted agony. This invariably indicates a form of moral inadequacy in the afflicted individual, for “within the limits of his human nature, he is incapable of dealing with certain tasks and situations” (Lesky 7).
In a number of Poe’s “tales of terror,” the protagonist migrates through one or more segments of the above scenario. In “The Pit and the Pendulum” (1842), the protagonist, while under the clutches of the Spanish Inquisition, is presented as the suffering victim; in “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat” (1843), the protagonist becomes the aggressor who attacks an innocent victim, feels remorse for his act and then absolves his guilt by confession or exposure to punishment. In “The Cask of Amontillado” (1846), the Montresor both suffers and retaliates against seen or imagined threats. In all of these tales, the fears or hostilities of the protagonists are brought to a diminished or final climax resulting from a tragic flaw which “dooms him. . . to catastrophe because of his own shortcomings” (Grebanier 227).
But in reality, many of us are frequently at the mercy of some unexplained anxiety brought about by certain circumstances which are difficult, if not impossible, to deal with in a logical manner. As seen with a quick reading of any of the tales mentioned, the origin of the protagonist’s terrors are described graphically, as in a maleficent pit, the beating of a dead man’s heart, an ominous yet domesticated creature or even the most dreaded of all, premature burial. These terrors, however, are usually withstood by the protagonists despite the expected downfall or fatal outcome of the situations. The need to wait in helpless abandonment, as is often the case in reality, is thus eliminated.
In “The Pit and the Pendulum,” the unknown protagonist, upon being given “the sentence, the dread sentence of death” by the Inquisition, is imprisoned in a dark, foreboding dungeon with no apparent exit. His initial fear that he has been buried alive soon dissipates upon discovering he is trapped in a prison. After discerning the size of this dungeon, he accidentally falls and finds himself lying at the brink of a bottomless pit. He then falls asleep and awakens sometime later to discover, while strapped to a framework, that a pendulum of glistening steel is suspended above him, hissing back and forth as it descends within inches of his body. For him, death seems inevitable until the pendulum suddenly ceases its movement and withdraws into the darkness. His situation then becomes more ominous as the walls of “burning iron” close in on him, causing the dungeon to squeeze into a lozenge2E As his foothold shrinks to nothing, a hand reaches out and rescues him from the hands of his enemies.
Poe’s most celebrated protagonist, Roderick Usher in “The Fall of the House of Usher” (1839), not only suffers as a victim of “the grim phantasm, Fear,” but also inflicts his madness, a “morbid acuteness of the senses,” upon his sister Madeline who is slowly dying from the result of some unidentified “family evil.” The unknown narrator in this tale attempts to comfort Usher by suggesting his fears are unfounded, but Usher is convinced that death is imminent, whereby Madeline abruptly dies (“the lady Madeline was no more”). Usher proceeds to inter Madeline in the family crypt and soon imagines he hasaccidentally buried her alive. His fears of premature burial are soon realized, for he begins to hear odd movements in the house. Madeline then appears in Roderick’s chamber, where she falls dead into his arms as “a corpse, and a victim to the terrors anticipated.” The narrator quickly flees from the house as the “deep and dark tarn” swallows up “the fragments of the House of Usher.”
In “The Tell-Tale Heart,” perhaps the most famous of Poe’s “tales of terror,” the protagonist is beset by fears with no discernible foundation; his paranoia is unfounded, yet he suffers under these false delusions. As a result, he proceeds to vent these fears upon an innocent “old man. . . who had never wronged me. . . never given me insult.” He then realizes his fears are directly related to the “Evil Eye” of the old man (“One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture–a pale, blue eye, with a film over it”) which prompts him to “take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.” The victim is then murdered in his sleep and his dismembered body ends up beneath the floor of his bedroom. But the protagonist succumbs to his guilt and confesses his crime to the local police–“I admit the deed!–tear up the planks!–here, here!–it is the beating of his hideous heart!”
A similar plot is played out in “The Black Cat” in which the protagonist is haunted by maddening, hostile feelings with no recognizable cause. His wife is congenial and happy and she shares his love for animals, especially for their pet cat Pluto. The unnamed narrator begins drinking to excess, “for what disease is like Alcohol!,” and his disposition radically deteriorates. He mistreats his wife and their numerous pets, including Pluto, for after arriving home late one night from the local tavern, he seizes Pluto and cuts out one of its eyes with a knife. He then wanders outside and hangs Pluto from the limb of tree. His home quite unexpectedly catches fire and burns to the ground; shortly after, he obtains another cat much like Pluto with the exception of a white patch on its belly. He becomes fond of the new cat but soon begins to despise it due to the white patch taking on “the image of a hideous–of a ghastly thing–of the Gallows!” He subsequently attempts to kill the new cat with an axe, but when his wife interferes, he turns on her and buries the axe in her brain, whereupon she falls “dead upon the spot without a groan.” He then walls up her body in the cellar in an attempt to conceal his ghastly crime. Four days pass and he is happy and at peace and sleeps well “even with the burden of murder upon my soul.” The local police become suspicious of his wife’s disappearance and commence to search the premises. Ending up in the cellar, they suddenly hear the screams of an unknown entity; the protagonist, upon hearing the screams and knowing they are real, admits his guilt as the police tear down the wall–and the black cat, howling its revenge, sits atop the head of the victim (“I had walled the monster up within the tomb!”).
As previously pointed out, certain literary critics subscribe to the idea that tragic drama must involve a hero, such as in Sophocles’ Oedipus or Antigone, Aeschylus’ Orestes or particular dramatic plays by Shakespeare. In these works, the hero usually creates havoc and misery for all the other characters, a major trait of true tragic drama. The literary purists, for example, argue that a victim cannot be a tragic hero, for the majority of heroes or heroines fall prey to their fatal flaws, whether physically or psychologically manifested. For instance, Oedipus, who kills his father King Laius and marries his mother Jocasta and later blinds himself, and Antigone, Oedipus’ daughter, who commits suicide after being imprisoned by King Creon, are not heroic figures due to their failure to overcome their fatal flaws.
Yet as Albin Lesky maintains , the tragic hero “appears against the somber background of inevitable death, a death which will tear him away from his joys and plunge him into nothingness. . . into a mouldering world of shadows” (2). In light of this, the “old man” in “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the murdered wife in “The Black Cat,” the wine-maddened Fortunato in “The Cask of Amontillado” and the tortured narrator in “The Pit and the Pendulum” are all tragic heroes, due to their untimely deaths at the hands of their deranged opponents. But as readers of these “tales of terror,” we come to appreciate the fact that “tragedy shows us pain and gives us pleasure. . . The greater the suffering depicted, the more terrible the events, the more intense our pleasure” (Hamilton 229).
Foye, Raymond. The Unknown Poe: An Anthology of Fugitive Writings by Edgar Allan Poe. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1980.
Gargano, James W. “The Cask of Amontillado: A Masquerade of Motive and Identity.” Studies in Short Fiction. Vol. IV (1967): 119-26.
Grebanier, Bernard. The Enjoyment of Literature. NY: Crown Publishers, 1975.
Hamilton, Edith. The Greek Way. NY: Norton & Co., 1942. (Ch. 11 “The Idea of Tragedy”).
Lesky, Albin. Greek Tragedy. Trans. H.A. Frankfort. 3rd. ed. NY: Harper & Row, 1979.
The Complete Poems of John Milton. Vol. 4. NY: P.F. Collier & Son, 1909. (Milton’s Introduction to Samson Agonistes).
The Unabridged Edgar Allan Poe. Philadelphia: Running Press, 1983.
Comparisons of Edgar Allen Poe’s two Gothic tales, “Ligeia” and “The Fall of the House of Usher”, reveal a volume of similarities and some notable differences. From characters, language, settings, literary approach, even plot devices, “Ligeia” and “Usher” have many striking connections that point to a common author. With the exception of themes and plots the differences between the stories can be fairly subtle. In “The Fall of the House of Usher” the narrator visits an old friend who may be going mad. Roderick Usher and the narrator entomb Usher’s sister prematurely. In the end, when this misdeed is revealed, both siblings die. The narrator escapes in time to see the house collapse and slide into the lake. In “Ligeia”, a man marries a mysterious woman who inspires him. Upon her death bed she makes avowals that death will not hinder her deep devotion to him. He is distraught by her death but marries another woman though there is a lack of affection between them. After some mysterious occurrences, the second wife falls ill and dies. After a night of reviving and faltering, the narrator finally reveals that the now re-animated corpse standing before him has the features of, and in fact is, his first wife, the deceased Lady Ligeia. Both stories are told in first person and are told as a past event. “Usher” is told by Roderick’s visiting friend. “Ligeia” is also told in first person from the perspective of Ligeia’s and Rowena’s husband. Each story has three characters. “Usher” has Roderick, Lady Madeline, and the narrator. “Ligeia” has Ligeia, Rowena, and the husband who narrates the story. Poe’s descriptions of some of the characters are very similar. Roderick Usher is described as having eyes that are “large, liquid, and luminous” (Poe 2500) with “a nose of a delicate Hebrew model” (2500). Ligeia’s eyes are “large and luminous” (2489), her nose is like the “graceful medallions of the Hebrews” (2488). Both are also made to seem of some other “race”. (2501)(2488).Poe uses his superb understanding of nuance and connotative power of words to set the tone. Many of the same words (or forms of them) occur in both stories: decay, desolate, emaciated, melancholy, sorrow, perverse, ancient, ghastly, corpse, and phantasm. Two phrases that occur in both stories yet are not necessarily Gothically inspired are leaden-hued and stringed instruments. In “Usher”, leaden-hued describes the “vapor” (2499) of the lake. In “Ligeia” it describes the window glass of the bridal chamber. Roderick Usher favors “stringed instruments” and Ligeia’s eyes inspire similar feelings as those of “stringed instruments” (2489).The settings bear remarkable similarities as well. The setting of the House of Usher is dreary from the “extraordinary dilapidation” (2499) and “extensive decay” (2499) of the building. Usher can be found in a room with “somber tapestries” (2499) and a “vaulted and fretted ceiling” (2500). The narrator of Ligeia meets her in a “old, decaying city near the Rhine” (2487) but after her death he moves to a “gloomy and dreary” (2492) abbey in the “wildest and least frequented portions of…England” (2492). The bridal room is described as having a “ceiling…lofty, vaulted, and elaborately fretted” (2493) with a “heavy and massive looking tapestry” (2493). Edgar Allen Poe uses extensive foreshadowing in “The Fall of the House of Usher”: the title, the melancholia presented by the house, the ghastly, “remodeled and inverted images” (2498) of the “black and lurid tarn” (2498), the “barely perceptible fissure” (2499), the “faint blush” (2506) on the body of the dead Lady Madeline. This foreshadowing is fulfilled in the end when Lady Madeleine proves to not be dead (yet) and the “fissure rapidly widen[s]….and the deep and dank tarn” (2510) swallows the House of Usher. Foreshadowing in “Ligeia” comes from the last muttered words of Ligeia herself, “Man doth not yield him to angels, nor unto death utterly, save only through the weakness of his feeble will” (2492) (2489) (2487). A line, purportedly by Joseph Glanville, that is repeated three times in the story. Ligeia does apparently overcome a feeble will to return to her beloved. Both stories contain Poe’s poetry, in comparable forms, presented as a creation of one of the characters. “The Haunted Palace” (2504) is Roderick Usher’s poetic tale of a monarch and his decaying castle; an eerie reflection of the past and current state of the House of Usher. The poem is six octets with ababcdcd rhyme schemes. “The Conqueror Worm” (2491) are Ligeia’s “verses composed by herself not many days before” (2491) through which the death of man is a sad play for angels. “The Conqueror Worm” is five octets (allowing that the third and fourth octets are combined) also with an ababcdcd rhyme scheme. Beyond the similarities in physical descriptions, “eyes” and “sight” play significant roles in both stories. In “Usher”, eyes become the windows on the soul. The eyes trace the progress of Roderick Usher’s deteriorating mentality. After the entombment of Lady Madeline, “the luminousness of his eye had gone out” (2506). On the last bizarre night at the House of Usher “there was… mad hilarity in his eyes” (2507). As the sounds of the re-animated Madeline come ever nearer, he reacts with “wide and rigid opening of the eye” (2509). Even the House itself has its “vacant eye-like windows” through which the world may view the House of Usher. This view of the House is reflected in Roderick’s poem “The Haunted Palace”. At one time, the world might “through two luminous windows” (2504) see “spirits moving musically” (2504). Now, “through red-litten windows” they see “forms that move…to discordant melody” (2504-2505). Also, there is a sense of blindness or inability to see throughout “Usher”. The fissure of the house requires “the eye of the scrutinizing observer… The eye…struggled” (2500) to see the corners of Usher’s room. Roderick’s eyes are “tortured by… faint light” (2501). Even the narrator is overcome by a “stupor” when watching Madeline. The eyes play a different role in “Ligeia”. Her husband sees divinity or mysticism in her eyes. He sees revelations of the mysteries of life and science in her eyes. When she falls ill, her “eyes shone less and less” or “blazed with a too—too glorious effulgence”. When she is gone he cannot understand any of his scholarly pursuits without the “lustre of her eyes” (2490). With the loss of Ligeia’s guidance the narrator feels that his “vision grew dim” but consoles himself with “visions of Ligeia”. In the end, it is the “the full… the black… the wild eyes of …Ligeia” that the narrator uses to fully identify the re-animated corpse of Lady Rowena. Questionable sanity is a part of each story. Roderick Usher has “an excessive nervous agitation“(2500). His sister, Lady Madeline, suffers “a settled apathy” (2502). Lady Rowena is driven mad by a room that the narrator claims was capable doing just that. The narrator of Ligeia seems mentally unstable, caused by the loss of his beloved Ligeia, perhaps by his opium use, or perhaps by the grim setting. The madness serves to make dubious the insights of the characters. Despite these remarkable similarities “Usher” and “Ligeia” are different in theme, plot and other subtleties. Thematically “Usher” deals with family or generational sin. “Ligeia” touches more upon themes of obsession and overcoming death. Although the plots are different there are still some odd similarities. Both stories involve women meandering through the house only vaguely noticed. Ligeia “came and departed as a shadow” (2487) while “the lady Madeline… passed slowly through a remote portion of the apartment, and… disappeared” (2501). A woman dies and returns to life in both stories. The sense of hearing things and not really wanting to admit to the presence of such sounds builds suspense in both stories. It is important to note that variances occur within the similarities between the stories. The point of view is first person, but in “Usher” the narrator is not a member of the doomed and maybe mad Usher family. His observations seem reasonable and believable. In “Ligeia”, the narrator is the husband of both women and his words are biased.Opium is referred to in each story, but the level of importance varies. In “Usher” the narrator merely mentions that that Roderick had the nature of an “irreclaimable eater of opium” (2501). After Ligeia’s death, her husband, the narrator, becomes “a bounden slave …of opium” (2493). He designs the horrific bridal chamber as inspired by “the excitement of…opium dreams” (2494). Because of his admitted addiction, the reality of the narrator’s tale is always in doubt.One major difference between the stories is the endings – primarily that “Usher” has an ending. There is nothing left to be said and done about the House of Usher. “Ligeia”, however, is an open-ended story. The narrator, speaks as if this occurrence happened in the past, so what became of Ligeia? Did she truly return from the dead? Was the narrator insane? Was it all an opium addict’s illusion? Poe ends the story at the shock of recognition. Ligiea has an opulent feel, with thick environmental descriptors and exotic references that are not as prevalent in “Usher”. Starting out on some unnamed city on the Rhine, there are many references to historic figures: ”Cleomenes” (2488), Homer (2488), “Democritus” (2489), “Leda” (2489), ancient deities: ”Ashtophet”(2487), “Azrael” (2490), and unusual locales ”valley of Nourjahad”(2488), “Luxor”(2493), “India” (2494), and ”Venice” (2493). The plot of “Ligeia” is more strongly based in the environment; the mysterious occurrences, the room that drives people insane, seem much more possible with the distinct atmosphere provided by abundant description and exotic references. The stories are different but in many ways they seem to be written from the same recipe. Many of the startling similarities between the characters, language, setting, foreshadowing, madness, and death can be attributed to Poe’s staunch representation of the Gothic tale. Some of the exactitude of language does point to a single author. There are also certain aspects that are quintessentially “Poe”. The reference to opium always invokes the name of Poe. The use of “eyes” as a significant role in the story, the references to music and instruments, are not common to every Gothic tale but are not unfamiliar in Poe’s writings. Edgar Allen Poe enjoyed a reputation as a pioneer of Gothic tales. That he had a certain standard for his Gothic tales is obvious in the similarities of these two stories. The differences in Poe’s stories reflect a master’s vision for the details and an inspired method of weaving suspense and dark ambiance into his Gothic stories. Works Cited Poe, Edgar Allen. “The Fall of the House of Usher.” The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Paul Lauter. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009. 2497-2510. Print.- – -. “Ligeia.” The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Paul Lauter. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009. 2487-97. Print.
The Calamitous Characteristics of Romantic Corruption
In modern society, “corruption” connotes financial bribery, dishonest proceedings, or underhanded deals in business or politics. The perpetrators might waste others’ money and will supposedly suffer emotionally, but Romantic literature points out the more dangerous effects of internal corruption. For example, “The Black Cat” by Edgar Allen Poe and “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne each shed light on the paths of corruption undertaken by the main characters. On the surface, the Narrator of “The Black Cat” and Goodman Brown lead comfortable lives filled with goodness and love; their wives represent these positive ways of living. As each plot uncoils, the characters experience corruption through temptation, thereby causing them to internally change and view the world with a more sinister frame of mind. They both attempt to resist the corruption, but ultimately both submit to the dark force. Although the moral journeys of the two characters appear to mirror each other, in fact, the causes of their corruption and the changes they experience differ remarkably between. Their different ordeals ultimately cause each character to shun others’ love for different reasons. While each author pens a unique story of his character’s demise, Hawthorne and Poe both demonstrate how a primitive human desire can be the ultimate root of temptation and corruption and how its fulfillment may effect adverse consequences.From the beginning, the Narrator and Goodman Brown hold a similar outlook on life. They both hold strongly to certain innate characteristics: the Narrator dearly loves animals and Goodman Brown respects pious people. These characteristics go so far as to be held by their own wives. The Narrator mentions his joy at “[finding] in my wife a disposition with my own” love for domestic pets of all sorts (Poe). Similarly, Brown’s wife, symbolically named Faith, is a “blessed angel on earth” who Brown will follow to heaven (Hawthorne). Both wives equally love their husbands as much as the husbands love the objects of their own affection. In addition, both main characters share a similar contentment with life: the Narrator announces that “never was [he] so happy as when fondling or caressing” animals (Poe) much like Brown states that he will “cling to [Faith’s] skirts” after his evil purpose tonight (Hawthorne). However, as the Narrator and Brown fall into their respective pits of corruption, they both lose their once integral traits. Each goes through an ordeal which changes his perspective on life. No longer are they the innocent all-loving men, for temptation has corrupted them so as to cause each man to suffer traumatically. The Narrator of “The Black Cat” goes through a transformation in which his “general temperament and character… experience[s] a radical change for the worse” (Poe), and on a similar level, Brown doubles back on his previous faith in God and renounces his soul to the devil by shouting “come, devil; for to thee is this world given” (Hawthorne). Both of these changes occur inside of the characters as a result of submitting to temptation. Nothing outside of their own moral beliefs has changed. The characters themselves experience a change in how they view the world, which reworks their beliefs and alters their actions. Eventually, they both come to a state of self-destruction. As a final similarity, neither of the characters silently acquiesces to corruption. Each character resists in some way from continuing down the slippery slope he has started on. Once corruption eggs on the Narrator to mistreat those beings around him, he attempts to “[retain] sufficient regard to restrain me from maltreating” his favorite cat, Pluto (Poe). Over time, the corruption takes over as the “feeble remnant of the good within [the Narrator] succumb[s].” Corruption has defeated the Narrator, and at this point he holds no control over his actions; the Narrator functions as a mindless zombie completely at the fingertips of temptation, which in his case flourishes with his consumption of alcohol. Goodman Brown puts up a much more successful resistance against succumbing to evil. He announces that “with heaven above and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!” (Hawthorne). Only after Brown realizes the ubiquitousness of corruption, does he resign himself to the devil. Most unfortunately, Brown and the Narrator cannot turn back from their resignations. The effects of internal corruption continue to have disastrous effects indefinitely.Perhaps the greatest distinction between the corruption of the Narrator and of Goodman Brown is its origin. The so-called “Fiend Intemperance” plays to the Narrator’s “primitive [impulse] of the human heart… perverseness” and serves to free him from any preexisting moral standards prohibiting spousal or animal abuse (Poe). Through alcohol, the Narrator submits to the temptation of unrestrained freedom. He acts this out on his wife by freely using “intemperate language… [and even offering] her personal violence” (Poe). The Narrator acts the same way with his animals by frequently neglecting or abusing them. The Narrator has submitted completely to the temptation of freedom from morals; thus, he is able to maintain complete level-headedness and objective views of his surroundings. He notices that others attempt to love him, but he allows himself to be sucked into further rage. The Narrator has waded into the great debate of freedom versus stability, and under the influence of alcohol, he selects to live with complete freedom of action without the moral limits set by one’s own conscience. Even though he had no intention, he injures those whom he loves most as he states that:
It was this unfathomable longing of the sol to vex itself — to offer violence to its own nature — to do wrong for the wrong’s sake only — that urged me to continue and finally consummate the injury I had inflicted upon the unoffending brute. (Poe)By hurting others, the Narrator ultimately destroys himself solely because he can — and because he shouldn’t. In “Young Goodman Brown”, on the other hand, Brown has always possessed the desire to be a part of his “present evil purpose” of becoming a cohort of the devil and partaker in wickedness (Hawthorne). Numerous times he attempts to justify his actions by reminding himself of his good wife and the goodness of his upbringing, but he continues on forward in the pursuit of knowledge and truth. Unfortunately, the knowledge that Brown gains undermines his lifelong view of the perfection of Puritan society. He sees the venerable Goody Cloys recognize the devil and utters, “‘That old woman taught me my catechism’… and there was a world of meaning in this simple comment’” (Hawthorne). Brown’s world turns upside-down bit by bit as he finally grasps the pervasiveness of evil, and it passes the tipping point when he sees that the “good [shrink] not from the wicked, nor [are] the sinners abashed by the saint” because everyone possesses the same sinful inner-spirit (Hawthorne). This commingling was unheard of in Puritan times, and its existence opens up Brown’s eyes to the hypocrisy of Puritan wisdom. From then on, Brown holds a despising outlook on life, for though he does not act out his change in viewpoint, he was now “a stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man” repulsed by the dark truth of Puritan duplicity (Hawthorne). Brown learns the truth, but the truth is too painful to bear. As the narratives come to a close, both of the main characters shun others’ love. The Narrator, for example, despises those who love him in part because he feels that he is not worthy of such love. While he may or may not be worthy of such affection, such displays continue to vex him deeply. After killing Pluto, the Narrator obtains a new cat that showers him with devotion. Although he believes he will love the new cat forevermore, the Narrator quickly forges a similar path starting with love, moving to dislike, then to annoyance, to disgust, to avoidance, and finally to hatred. The Narrator does not want to kill the beast, “for although I longed to destroy it with a blow, I was withheld from doing so, partly by a memory of my former crime, but chiefly… by absolute dread of the beast” (Poe). This statement holds great importance, for the Narrator does not fear that the cat will turn him in to the police for a previous crime of animal cruelty; rather the cat holds symbolic power. The cat, and the cat alone, can curtail the Narrator’s new freedom. The cat represents a projection of the Narrator’s conscience into reality — the last portion of himself to put up resistance to free will. As such, any love derived from the cat serves as an obstacle to the Narrator’s ultimate goal of total, unrestrained, immoral freedom. As for Goodman Brown, upon seeing the deception present in the Puritan community, he renounces all forms of love. He loses interest in all areas of life which he once appreciated. Brown’s marital life now lacks love, which he shows by “often waking suddenly at midnight, he [shrinks] from the bosom of Faith” (Hawthorne). Brown’s spiritual life also lacks nourishment, as “when the minster spoke from the pulpit… then [does] Goodman Brown turn pale, dreading lest the roof should thunder down upon the gray blasphemer.” Brown cannot accept any love because he recognizes that he receives tainted love. Brown reacts to the trauma he suffers in searching for truth, but in doing so, he exposes the inner vice held by those who superficially lead lives of purity.To reiterate, Poe and Hawthorne penned two examples of Romantic literature in which the characters suffer from internal corruption; both authors display the myriad of ways corruption can begin, take over, and affect both an individual, and those around him. More importantly, Poe and Hawthorne invalidate a popular notion that man can always better himself by searching inwardly for a final goal — for example, freedom, truth, or knowledge. These two narratives depict how doing so may have disastrous effects.