15 November 2012
Edgar Allan Poe Literary Analysis
Edgar Allan Poe is often regarded as the most skilled American poet and short story writer, and it is no wonder because every literary work created by Poe is written with such proficiency, that even readers today are awe-struck. In Poe’s short stories and poems, one will find the same few themes in his works, such as women, the color red and a variety of horror themes, however one theme that is very repetitive is his employment of death. This theme is used in many novels today, and is also a popular theme in books, television shows and videogames. In fact, since the 1800s, people have become increasingly appealed by death. Death was one of Poe’s favorite themes, and is a big reason why Poe’s literary works are still read today.
In Poe’s short story “The Masque of the Red Death”, the theme of death often brought up, such as when the fatal “red death” sickness was described: when contracted, its host would feel “sharp pains, and sudden dizziness” (1), and its host would have “profuse bleeding of the pores” (1). The red death was a widespread disease, but Prince Prospero’s castle was safe from the red death because the disease couldn’t get past the abbey gates. In his happy mood, the Prince organized a ball, this ball was not an ordinary ball, but it was a masquerade, in which the guests would wear masks and costumes. This story ends in an extremely violent manner, in which every masquerader succumbs to the red death. The theme of this masquerade was gruesome; many masqueraders wore very graphic outfits, which foreshadow the horrible end of this story.
Another one of Poe’s works, “Annabel Lee”, was actually based on his wife, Virgiania Eliza Clemm Poe, and in the the poem, Annabel is killed by the angels above that were jealous of the love between Annabel and Poe. So one night, at the peak of their jealousy, the sent out a cloud “Chilling and killing” (4.6) Poe’s Annabel Lee. The theme of death is very obvious in that Annabel Lee dies in the poem, and the main character is filled with an infinite sadness, that he even sleeps by the grave. What’s ironic about this poem is the fact that Annabel dies from a chilly wind, and Virginia, in her last stage of consumption, dies cold, and Poe, so poor, was unable to afford a blanket for her, a simple luxury that would have brightened her mood just a bit. “The Fall of the House of Usher” is a unique short story in that it was one of the first “haunted house” stories of it’s time. This story was about a man who was invited by his friend, Roderick Usher, to cheer Usher up. The main character soon arrives at the Usher manor, which once was beautiful, now is an old run-down mansion. The only two Usher family members that are still alive are the twins, Roderick and Madeline, and both of them suffer from peculiar diseases, Roderick suffers from a “morbid acuteness of the senses” (3) and Madeline seemingly suffers form a type of immunodeficiency, in which she gets deathly ill often. The first appearance of the theme of death is when Roderick states Madeline as “dead” and subsequently buries Madeline prematurely. Roderick is aware of this, and near the end of the story, Madeline breaks out of her coffin and “with a low moaning cry, fell heavily inward upon the person of her brother,” (10) killing Roderick, another appearance of death. At the very end, the manor disappears, symbolizing the death of the Usher bloodline. The theme of death is apparent in this short story, so this theme is not only a coincidence.
Many of Poe’s stories include death, and “The Black Cat” is no exception. This story is one of his more brutal stories in that the main character first hung his favorite cat, Pluto, and then “buried the axe” (4) in his wife’s head. The final death is that of the main character, when he is sentenced to hang for his atrocious deed of murder. This theme of death is proved as a common theme now, as it is in at least four of Poe’s...
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