Analysis of Edgar Allan Poe Short stories

Short story is a form of conveying information to the audience. Writers use short stories to share their views and opinions with the audience.  One of the renowned writers of short stories that this study focuses on is Edgar Allan Poe. This discussion delineates on some of the short stories of Poe. The short stories include The angel of the odd, Berenice, The black cat and The facts in the case of M. Valdemar. The themes in the short stories are related, and talk about horror and death.

There are connections in the themes of various short stories by Poe.  In literary work, the motivation of the writers is different and varies from one to another. In these four short stories, the themes relate to each other and this may be an indication of the experiences and the styles of the writer.  Through the stories, Poe manifests themes relating to anguish, death, sufferings and tragedies. The stories have horror episodes that are narrated by different narrators. The author’s decisions or motivation may be as a result of the experiences in his life, as he had to go through a difficult life.  In the story the Angel of the Odd, he uses unnamed narrator who recounts a story of a man that died after sucking a needle down in his throat.  He thinks that this is a foolish story that does not hold any truth (Quinn 12). The angel of the Odd appears and acknowledges to be the cause of the strange.  Because the man does not believe in this creature, he drives the angel away. This marks the beginning of atrocities and anguish in his way.  The tragedy in this story begins as the house catches fire, before insuring it. The man falls down and gets a fracture as other demises comes to his way. Therefore, this is illustration of horrific situation brought out by Poe.

Likewise, going through the second short story ‘Berenice’, it became evident that Poe’s themes were closely related to his first short story. Even though the plot is not the same, the themes advanced are an indication of hollowness and isolation. There are also some episodes that depict horror and anguish. The story is narrated from the first person’s point of view by unreliable narrator who admits to have mental debility (Allen 23). This acknowledgement helps to make the story appear more credible to an extent. The story of Berenice starts with a sad tone in a gloomy mansion as captured by the narrator’s statement: ‘misery is manifold’.  He goes ahead to state that evil comes from goodness and sorrow comes from joy.  When the narrator falls in love with a beautiful woman who suffers from epilepsy, the woman makes him experience prolonged stupor. The woman’s teeth also obsess the narrator (Sova 21). The image of her teeth keeps on recurring in his mind. This triggers the narrator to remove the thirty-two teeth from the woman. This is a very horrible and sad episode.  It is unimaginable, how it feels to remove teeth in someone’s mouth; the pain is just unbearable. Therefore, this illustrates the horror in this story. The burying of the woman while she is alive is also another horrible situation, or rather episode in the story.  Furthermore, the depiction or use of a narrator who suffers from mental illness and obsession is meant to drive the point home.  Poe tries to bring out the problems and the challenges that the society faces. The narrator is suffering from this problem, which is likely to be obsessive-compulsive disorder that makes him to keep on remembering and thinking about the untarnished teeth of the woman.  This drives him to remove them even after the woman has not yet died. Isolation is also manifest in the story as one of the themes.  Egaeus isolates himself from the rest of the family and spends most of his time in the library. Even after he marries, he still isolates himself from his wife Berenice, implying that he does not love her.  Isolation is a problem that may affect someone psychology and is an indication of the challenges that life brings with it.

 In the short story The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, Poe also explores the genre of horror and death. It is evident that there is no person that is able to escape death. Even as people try all sorts of ways to avoid death, such as freezing their bodies at death, taking extreme diets, exercises, regimes and all sorts of methods, they face death at the end (Cummings 23).  He also depicts horror through the experiments that people do. It is not always the case that these experiments will provide positive results. Some of the experiments and treatments result in deformities, weight loss, and abnormal growth, loss of memory, depression, and even death in some occasions (Poe 34). The experience of a doctor with his patients is also horrible. Using mesmerism technique to treat the patients does not work as the doctor expects it. The patient behaviors are very astonishing. Therefore, this helped the author to bring out the concept of death; that no person is above death regardless of the status or what we do.  When the time comes, even the doctor cannot be able to bring back the life to an individual.

The black cat is yet another short story by Poe that falls in the genre of horror stories.  It takes a mood tone as the narrator narrates the story. The story illustrates the capability of a man to observe his own deterioration and the ability of the mind to comment on its own destruction, even though having to objectively halt or question the deterioration. Although the narrator is fully aware of the mental deterioration, at some point in the story he realizes that the change is occurring within him and then tries to find a solution about the same, but finds himself not able to reverse his falling. It is the pervasiveness of the narrator that led him into committing the offenses that he does. The horrific scenes are clearly manifest in this story as the narrator kills the cat. It is believed that the guilt of being an alcoholic is what directs the narrator to kill the cat.  Furthermore, the guilt about his previous actions leads him to murder his wife who had shown him gallows of the breast of the second cat (Bliss 96).  The book therefore explores the themes of horror as depicted from the murders that occur. The narrator also faces execution because of the crimes that he did. The crime that he committed because of guilt is something that he could have managed to control. This short story therefore resonates with the rest of the stories discussed in this paper.

The dominant themes the author uses are death and horrors scenes.  Life is full of these challenges that people experience.  Even though the short stories were written in different periods, they share the same themes. They also belong to the genre of horror. The stories oscillate on the concept of death and the horror situations. For instance, in the short story of Berenice, the author portrays the horrifying episode of a mentally challenged man causing pain to a woman by plucking her teeth, and then burying the woman alive. Similar episodes are manifest from the rest of the short stories. It is apparent that through these portrayals the author wanted to convey a message to the audience. The message I find in these stories is that life is full of challenges and problems. As human beings, we must go through these situations and we must at some point in our lives die.  I find the stories interesting and at the same time instilling fear because of the concept and the themes that the author uses to  bring out his points of views.

 

Works Cited

Allen, Hervey . “Introduction”. The Works of Edgar Allan Poe. New York: P. F. Collier &            Son. 1927. Print.

Bliss, Ann. ‘Household horror: domestic masculinity in Poe’s the black cat. (Edgar Allan   Poe)(Critical essay).’ The Explicator, 67.2 (2009): 96. Print.

Poe, Harry Lee. Edgar Allan Poe: An Illustrated Companion to His Tell-Tale Stories. New York: Metro Books. 2008. Print.

Sova, Dawn.  Edgar Allan Poe, A to Z. New York: Checkmark Books, 2001. Print.

Quinn, Arthur. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins       University Press, 1998. Print.

Cummings. The facts in the case of M. Valdemar. Web. 2006.

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