Depiction Of Madness In “Berenice” And “The Tell-Tale Heart” By Edgar Allen Poe
Throughout many texts Edgar Allen Poe has shown that he is afraid of those who are mentally insane yet truly believe that they are rational, reasonable people. While reading the short stories “Berenice” and “The Tell-Tale Heart” you can see his fears come through in somewhat irrational ways.
In “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Poe writes about a man who becomes obsessed with a man’s eye. The old man is blind and so there is a blue haze over his eye. The narrator decides he needs to kill the man to be free of it, so he sneaks into his room every night for a week. One day the old man wakes up and the narrator lunges at him and suffocates him. Once he hears his heart stop beating he removes the mattress he used to suffocate him. Once he sees that the man is dead, he cuts his body up and puts it under the floor. One of the neighbors called the police because they heard screaming, so when the police showed up the narrator convinced them that everything was all right. While they were talking the storyteller got a sense of guilt and confessed to everything, showing them where he buried the body.
The storyteller was a normal man who would not be classified as mentally unfit. He was a mentally sane man who become obsessed with something out of the ordinary. He was so obsessed that he became mentally ill and did not know it. He thought it was rational to sneak into the man’s room for eight days. He realized after he murdered the man and the police talked to him that it was not sane for him to murder the man over his eye being clouded over. Once the man realized what he had done he became riddled with fear and guilt. In this text you can see Poe’s fears of those who do not know what they are capable of until it happens.
In the short story “Berenice,” Poe talks about a man named Agaeus, who is in love with his cousin Berenice. The both suffer from disorders. She has a form of epilepsy; whenever she has an episode she falls unconscious and looks like she has died. Agaeus suffers from an obsessive disorder. Berenice becomes ill and the only thing that has not been affected by it are her teeth, so one day she walks in to talk to Agaeus and smiles and he becomes obsessed with her teeth. He focuses so much on that, that he ends up blacking out and not remembering any of what has happened in the lapsed time. In that time Berenice has an episode and everyone thinks she is dead, so they bury her. The next thing that Agaeus remembers is his maid running in and screaming that someone has desecrated Berenice’s grave. They look over and see the muddied shovel and clothes and he becomes so distraught when he sees a container by him. He tries to grab it a to see what is inside, but he drops it and her teeth scatter across the floor. Agaeus seems to be mentally together, but he becomes so focused on certain things in his life that days will pass by without him realizing. Days had gone by with him being so focused on Berenice’s teeth, and he had not realized until his maid snapped him out of it. Once he snapped out he realized that he had done something horrible. While in his “day dream” he had dug up Berenice’s grave, where she was buried alive, and ripped her teeth out of her head. We know she was still alive, because he was covered in claw marks from when she tried to stop him.
Poe indirectly talks about the fear of those who are deranged, but they don’t realize it. He talks about how there is evil in all of us and our hearts can become corrupted easily. In each story that he writes, he talks about the person becoming obsessed with some element in their life that drives them crazy. All of them started off as normal, active people in society until they let the darkness into their heart and were driven mad by it. They did not realize that they were going crazy until it was too late and there was irreparable damage caused by it.
I understand why Poe is afraid of those who do not see their madness. If you do not see it then there is no way for you to learn how to control it. You do not understand what you are doing wrong either. You are caught in an endless loop of pain and misery because of it.
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