Edgar Allan Poe's Short Stories and Their Characters

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Edgar Allan Poe’s deliciously creepy short stories contain characters whose lives are turned upside-down at the hand of Poe’s imagination. Theses wild thoughts are structured in such a way that the characters are completely unaware of their fates, allowing Poe to manipulate and shock even the audience. Each of the characters is different, but in the same way, each is lead to believe in their success, only to be met instead by failure and doom. This arrangement is particularly evident among the narrators of the Tell-Tale Heart and the Black Cat, and also serves purpose in the Fall of the House of Usher. Poe allows each character to complete their mission – the elimination of another person or animal – allowing them a few moments to taste success, followed by misery, despair, catastrophe and fatality. Ultimately, almost every fate is an “overthrow” of the “spirit of perverseness” – usually known as Death.

This Death is what the narrator of the Black Cat is immediately facing – writing to us that “To-morrow [he] dies”. His story, believed to be a depiction of “mere household events”, is one that truly saddens the soul. From “infancy” this man was tame, being “especially fond of animals” and “noted for the docility and humanity” of his heart. It was unthinkable that such a man could become so intemperate and violent. Nevertheless, this “disease” – the “Alcohol” – gave the narrator the “fury of a demon”, allowing him to maltreat his beloved pets and even offer “personal violence” to his dear wife. A combination of superstitious beliefs and the “Fiend Intemperance” is what then enticed the narrator to persecute and murder his “favourite [feline] pet and playmate”, Pluto. “For months” after the event, all was calm, until one drunken night, the narrator meets Pluto again. This triggers such great fear within the narrator that he attempts all in his power to be rid of the cat – to the extent that he buries an axe into his wife’s brain. Following the concealment of...
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