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Edger Allan Poe

.. the inevitable appearance of the red death. Poe, for the most part, uses an allegory as the literary theme in “The Masque of the Red Death.” I do not see the story as one intended to scare or keep the reader in suspense, however, more to leave the reader with a message concerning death, and trying to prevent the inevitable. Very little description is used throughout the story, excluding the description the most important roles in the story; the seven rooms, and the “Red Death.” I believe this is written the way it is in order to keep the reader focused on what is important, what is underneath the surface. The Tell Tale Heart The story covers a period of approximately eight days with most of the important action occurring each night around midnight. The location is the home of an elderly man in which the narrator has become a caretaker. The main scene takes place on the eighth night of the story, starting at twelve o clock at night and ending some time after four thirty in the morning. This story contains a nameless narrator, an old man and the police who enter near the end of the story after the mention, that they were called by a neighbor whose suspicions had been aroused upon hearing a scream in the night.

The narrator however, becomes the true focus of the tale. This narrator may be male or female because Poe uses only “I” and “me” in reference to this character. It can be assumed by the readers that the narrator is a male because of a male author using a first person point of view; however, it is quite possible that the narrator might very well be a female. Poe was creating a story whose impact could be changed simply by imagining this horrendous and vile deed being committed by a woman. The theme of this story is based around the idea that human nature and morality can force a person to feel a guilt so strong, that it might force you to believe things that are not so. Human nature is a delicate balance of good and evil. Most of the time this balance is maintained; however, when there is a shift, for whatever reason, the dark side tends to surface.

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How and why this dark side emerges differs from person to person. What may push one individual over the edge will only cause a minor distraction in another. In this case, it is the vulture eye of the old man that makes the narrator unable to bare his presence for much longer. It is this irrational fear which evokes the dark side of the narrator, and eventually leads to murder. The narrator plans, executes and conceals the crime.

However, it is not to be concealed for long, for the constant nagging of the narrators deed is soon to evoke a confession. The conflict in “The Tell Tail Heart” is not only between the old man and the narrator, however it is also between the narrator and his or her own self. The conflict between the narrator and the old man is more of a one sided disharmony. The narrator finds the, what is to be believed, dead eye to be intolerable, however, the old man is unaware of these feelings. The conflict is between him or her self and the eye of the old man.

That dispute seems to be settled after the murder of the old man by the narrator. However, it is soon seen that the conflict, after all, was between the narrator alone, not anything, or anyone else. The narrator thought that the murder of the old man would rid him or her of the dilemma of the evil eye, this, as was seen is not true. Even after the death, the narrator feels the presence, and hears the heart of the old man beating. As in almost all of Poes works, suspense is used plentifully throughout the story. It is used very strongly with towards the end of the story, during the part concerning the dead heart beating.

Irony, however, is also used, although sparingly. The perfect murder, as it was thought by the narrator, on the contrary, it failed due to a hasty confession. The Cask of Amontillado The story begins around dusk, one evening during the carnival season in an unnamed European city. The atmosphere is set along the lines of the period of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The location quickly changes from the lighthearted activities associated with such a festival to the damp, dark catacombs under Montressor’s large estate which helps to establish the sinister atmosphere of the story.

The change from the lively carnival progressing in the streets, to the menacing catacombs leaves for an interesting setting change. Although several characters are mentioned in this story, the true focus lies upon Montresor, the diabolical narrator of this tale of horror, who pledges revenge upon Fortunato, a long time friend of his for an insult, said long ago, that was misinterpreted. When the two meet during the carnival season, there is a warm greeting with excessive shaking of hands which Montresor attributes to the fact that Fortunato had been drinking. Montresor also appears to be happy to see Fortunato, although it is in false pretense. Fortunato’s clown costume is appropriate for the carnival season. however, also ironic, for what is to take place, is anything but a joke.

“The Cask of Amontillado” is a sufficient tale of revenge. Montresor pledges revenge upon Fortunato for an insult. He intends to seek vengeance in support of his family motto: “No one assails me with impunity.” It is important for Montresor to have his victim know what is happening to him. Montresor will derive pleasure from the fact that his victim, Fortunato, will suffer the pain of being buried alive, and be aware of the fact all along. Poe does not intend for the reader to sympathize with Montresor because he has been wronged by Fortunato, but rather to judge him. In structure, there can be no doubt, that both Montresor’s plan of revenge and Poe’s story are carefully crafted to create the desired effect of pure evil. The conflict in this story is the bond that holds the story together.

As said before, the insult in-which Fortunato inflicted on Montresor sometime in the past, has led up to this night, in-which Montresor finds adequate to seek revenge. After a friendly meeting, and invite back to his home, Montresor begins to bask in the pleasure of knowing that his foes doom in approaching. Luring Fortunato with a very fine wine, Amontillado, both men make their way to Montresors cask. Aware of the fact that Fortunato is feeling the affects of the alcohol, Montresor makes his move. The story moves to Montresor placing the bricks tier by tier to cover the wall in-which he has chained Fortunato in. As the last brick is places, Fortunato begins to play the whole thing off as a joke, however, he soons realizes it it anything but that.

It grows quite for a short time, but then Montresor hears the sinister laugh of his foe followed by no explanation. Poe, using again a customary literary technique, turns foreshadowing. Although there are hints of other techniques, I feel that foreshadowing is best represented. Throughout the walk towards Montresors casks, he is constantly dropping hints on to what is about to take place ” the cough is merely nothing; it will not kill me. I shall not die of a cough.” ” True, true.” Obviously, Montresor is not intending to give away his plan, however, it seems that he is amusing himself with his clues that Fortunato is not paying any attention to. Although it is hinted in the beginning of the story about what is to be Fortunatos fate, it is never specifically stated. The clues that Montresor drops along the lines of conversation allow us to get a clearer idea of what is to take place.

The Black Cat As the story begins, the narrator is in jail awaiting his execution, which will occur on the following day, for the brutal murder of his wife. At that point, the rest of the story is told in flashback, as the narrator pens. The story moves to the events occurring prior to his crime. The narrator tells of the events occurring, taking place mainly in his home, however, moving only seldomly to other locations, such as the local tavern. Although several characters are mentioned in this story, the true focus lies upon the, again nameless narrator. He speaks of himself with the up-most regard until the events in-which he is focusing on begin to occur.

It is easy to point out that the man’s personality had undergone a drastic transformation which he attributes to his abuse of alcohol and the perverse side of his nature, which the alcohol seemed to evoke. The reader also discovers that the narrator is superstitious. Oddly, he states that he once was especially fond of animals, and he was pleased to find a similar fondness for pets in his wife. The cat was a large, beautiful animal who was entirely black. Pluto, as he was called, was the narrator’s favorite pet.

He alone fed him, and Pluto followed the narrator wherever he went. Two minor roles are played by the narrators wife, and the local police department, whom discover the body of the narrators murdered wife. “The Black Cat” unlike “The Tell Tale Heart” does not deal with premeditated murder. It is explained that the narrator appears to be a happily married man, who has always been exceedingly kind and gentle. He attributes his downfall to perverseness. Perverseness provides the rationale for otherwise unjustifiable acts, such as killing the first cat or rapping with his cane upon the plastered-up wall behind which stood his wife’s corpse.

He had no justification for this, yet proceeded to do so as he wished. It can be argued that what the narrator calls perverseness is actually the working of his conscience. Guilt about his alcoholism seems to the narrator the perverseness which causes him to kill the first cat. Guilt about those actions indirectly leads to the murder of his wife who had shown him the gallows on the second cat’s breast. The narrators feeling of triumph after thinking he had covered his crime perfectly shows his total disregard for the life of his loved one.

Poe uses two literary techniques that in-turn make up the bulk of the story. Foreshadowing and flashback are clearly shown throughout the story. Poe’s pronounced use of foreshadowing leads the reader from one event to the next by using such statements as “one night,” “one morning,” “on the night of the day.” Within the first few paragraphs of the story, the narrator foreshadows that he will violently harm his wife. The most important foreshadowing clue given is the fact that the story starts off with the narrator in prison awaiting his execution, this alone shows that sometime before the conclusion of the story that the narrators fate will take a treacherous turn. The story itself is based upon a flashback. The narrator is writing his story as he awaits his execution, all of what is being told had already occurred.

This leaves the reader to speculate the reasons why the narrator is telling his story from prison. Poe, in his tradition, allows suspense to play a role through telling the story in a flashback style. The conflict, as in “The Tell Tale Heart” is not only between the narrator and an outside character, however, it is also with himself. The obvious conflict is between the two black cats and the narrator. It is stated that the conflict peeked with the minor attack of the cat on the mans hand, however, the narrator is not sure why his feelings towards the animal changed, although he believes that alcohol played a role in that. On the other hand, a conflict, the most important one at that, seems to take place in the narrator himself.

Superstition mixed with the effects of alcohol seemed to place the man in a demented state. Oddly, he committed his most brutal act of killing his wife while he was not under the influence. It is not directly stated what made the man snap as he did, possibly that is what Poe wanted, for us to decide on our own. The wild, eerie and wildly tormented world of Edgar Allan Poe has enchanted the reader of his work since after his death. His achievements are particularly great considering the miserable life he led, both personally and publicly.

Poes stories remain different, yet similar at the same time, able to tie into each other however in a way, completely abstract from any other. Although he was never an acclaimed writer until after his death, his work up to this day and those preceding it, will be remembered as great works.


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