Edgar Allen Poe And O. Henry (As Told By Poe And Exjambaum) Essay, Research Paper
In both of the articles, each author is trying to share his view, or theory on the short story. The view of Edgar Allen Poe is very pessimistic toward the novel and other forms of long fiction, while B.M. Ejxenbaum takes a more analytic approach.
Poe writes, The novel certainly requires what is denominated a sustained effort but this is a matter of perseverance, and has but a collateral relation to talent. Is the main difference between the authors of short stories and those of novels that the novel writers are just non-talented over-achievers? Indeed, it does take talent to be able to convey a story with little or no build up, character development or falling action, but it also takes talent to do so, and the effort you put into a work, such as a novel, is your talent, and it is directly related through thought and emotional drive.
Ejxenbaum uses much less opinion in his explanation of the differing styles of short fiction and those of novels. The novel is based off a history, or of travels, while the short story, which is generally more fundamental in form, is based off folklore and anecdotes. The short story must be written on the basis of a contradiction or contrast, and carries the weight of the story at the ending. The action of a novel falls before the ending, with a falling action following.
Poe speaks of unity of effect, and how it is not appreciated or understood by the common mind, but also how it is important to the story for the central effect to gravitate toward the end. This finale must make sense with everything which came before. Ejxenbaum quote Poe several times to give insight into how Poe created his unique and famous effects and moods.
Poe was a master at creating effect, in most cases one of mystery and gloom, which drove his poems and short fiction. But he also was a storyteller, and like any good storyteller, he forms plots. And with those plots, he forms his moods and effect. Ejxenbaum sums up this idea with, The particular attention paid to the unexpected in the finale and, connected with it, a story structured on the basis of a riddle or and error which holds back the significance of the plot mainspring until the very end. The effect cannot exist without the plot, and the plot cannot exist without the effect.
In closing of his articles, Poe comments upon other aspects of his form of short story, with more essays such as mystery, and the philosophy of composition, which tie into his ideas about creating moods and effects. He also speaks more of the importance of effect, and writes of totality. According to Poe, if a work is too long to read in one sitting of about two hours, totality is destroyed. This means that outside factors will be able to control how the reader feels about the work while the reader is away from the story. Poe believes brevity is essential to create a lasting effect, and to alone control the mood of the reader. Poe writes, . . . The brevity must be in direct ratio of the intensity of the intended effect . . . Thus, the shorter the work, the more intense the effect must be to be effective.
Ejxenbaum sums up the characteristics that often appear in American short stories, which were the types of stories Poe wrote. Ejxenbaum concludes that, American literature is that type of story built on the principle of structural unity with centralization of basic effect and strong accentuation on finale. This form changes in the eighties, when the surprise ending becomes a play on the plot scheme, and on the reader s explanations. The stories become simpler and more basic in their structure and motivation. O. Henry wrote in this style, which contrasted greatly from the style of Poe, who wrote with psychological analysis, deeper moods and less formal structure.