Narrative Techniques Of Poe Essay, Research Paper
Narrative Techniques of PoeThe short story writer which I have chosen to research is Edgar AllenPoe. After reading one of his works in class, I realized that his mysterious styleof writing greatly appealed to me. Although many critics have different views onPoe’s writing style, I think that Harold Bloom summed it up best when he said,”Poe has an uncanny talent for exposing our common nightmares and hysterialurking beneath our carefully structured lives. ” ( 7) For me, this is done throughhis use of setting and narrative style. In many of Poe’s works, setting is used to paint a dark and gloomy picturein our minds. I think that this was done deliberatly by Poe so that the reader canmake a connection between darkness and death. For example, in the “Pit andthe Pendulum”, the setting is originally pitch black. As the story unfolds, we seehow the setting begins to play an important role in how the narrator discoversthe many ways he may die. Although he must rely on his senses alone to feelhis surroundings, he knows that somewhere in this dark, gloomy room, thatdeath awaits him. Richard Wilbur tells us how fitting the chamber in “The Pitand the Pendulum” actually was. “Though he lives on the brink of the pit, on thevery verge of the plunge into unconciousness, he is still unable to disengagehimself from the physical and temperal world. The physical oppreses him in theshape of lurid graveyard visions; the temporal oppreses him in the shape of anenormous and deadly pendulum. It is altogether appropriate, then, that thischamber should be constricting and cruelly angular” (63). Setting is also an important characteristic is Poe’s “The Fall of the Houseof Usher”. The images he gives us such as how both the Usher family and theUsher mansion are crumbling from inside waiting to collapse, help us to connectthe background with the story. Vincent Buranelli says that “Poe is able tosysatin an atomosphere which is dark and dull. This is one of the tricks whichhe laregely derived from the tradition of the Gothic tale” (79). The whole settingin the story provides us with a feeling of melancholy. The Usher mansionappears vacant and barren. The same is true for the narrator. As we picture inour minds the extreme decay and decomposistion, we can feelas though the lifearound it is also crumbling. Narration is also an element in Poe’s short story style that appears to linkall of the stories together. He has a type of creativity which lets the reader seeinto the mind of the narrator or the main character of the story. Many of thecharacters in Poe’s stories seem to be insane. The narrator often seems to havesome type of psychological problems. For exapmle, In Poe’s “The Cask ofAmontillado, ” the story opens with a first person narrator (Montresor) speakingabout the planning of Fortunato’s death. By the anger and remorse thatMontresor has for Fortunato, one might think that this was a recent incident. It isnot until the very end of the story that we realize, that the entire event occurredfifty years ago. David Herbert Lawrence says, “To the characters in Poe’s story,hate is as inordinate as live. The lust of hate is the inordinate desire to consumeand unspeakably possess the soul of the hated one, just as the lust of live is thedesire to possess or be possessed be the beloved, uterly. ” (33). Poe’s storiesoften have narrators that feel extreme hate or extreme love for another characterin the story. Another example of Poe’s narrative style is seen in his story entitled,” The
Black Cat”, where the narrator seems to have an obsession with pets. He hasone “special” pet which is a black cat. Although their original relationship witheach other is one of respect and love, the situation soon changes. The narratorbecomes somewhat possessed with the hate for the car. He turns against hiswife and stabs his cat in the eye. By the end of the story, he killed his wife in anattempt to kill the cat. Afterwards, the narrator does not even feel remorse forthe wrongful death of his wife. Instead, he is just happy that the catdissapeared. This is just another instance in which the reader wonders what isthe driving force begins the narrator’s insanity. Buranelli, “In both Poe’s “TheCask of Amontillado” and his “The Black Cat”, the barrators act withoutconscience. There are no doubts, hesitiations or second thought to impede thenarrative. Both narrators just sought revenge” (77). Even though there are many more elements to Edgar Allan Poe’s shortstories than just his creative use of narration and setting, these arecharacteristivs which has attracted the most attention. Poe has a way of writingin which he does not have to reveal too much, or paint a pretty picture for thereader in order to attract his attention. In D.H. Lawrence’s Studies in ClassicAmerican Literature, the author states, “Poe’s narrowness is like that of a sword, not that of a bottleneck: it is effective rather than constricting. Nothing adventitious is in his great stories, only the essentials, the mininum of characterization, plot, and atmosphere. By ridding himself of everything except what is precisely to the point, he achieves unity of effect. ” (66). There is also a prominent distinction between right and wrong in Poe’stories. Viscous characters tend to come to a bad end. This lets the readeraccept these endings as a triumph of good over evil. As stated by Buranelli:”He has created a universe, given it psychological laws without denying the existence of the moral law, and peopled it with characters appropriate to such a universe. Puttng overt mortality out of bounds helps to give him uniqueness” (74). After researching Edgar Allan Poe more in depth, I now have a muchgreater respect for him and a slightly different perspective of his stories. While itis still evident to me that narrative style and setting have a great deal to do withthe development of Poe’s short stories, I also realise now that we can’t overlapand intertwine with other aspects of the story, making them equally as important. I will end with a quote found in Vincent Buranelli’s Edgar Allan Poe: “Even though Poe is often looked upon as a gifted psychopath who is describing with consumate artistry his personal instablities and abnormalitiesm the fact remains that his superiority is more than a matter of art. There is a violent realism in his macabre writings unequaled by the Americans who worked in the same genre.”Bibliography1. Bloom, Harold, Ed. Modern Critical Views on Edgar Allan Poe. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1985. 2.Buranelli, Vincent. Edgar Allan Poe. Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1977. 3. Lawrence, D.H. Studies in Classic American Literature New York: The Viking Press, 1961. 4.Lawrence D.H. Modern Critical Views on Edgar Allan Poe. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1985. 5. Wilbur, R. Modern Critical Views on Edgar Allan Poe. Ed. Harold Bloom. NewYork: Chelsea House Publishers, 1985. 6. Pickering, James. Fiction 100: An Anthology of Short Stories. NJ:Prentice Hall, 1995. 7. Poe, Edgar Allan. The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. New York: Vintage Books, 1975.