American Literature to 1870
4 December, 2012
Instilling Fear in the Hearts of Readers Everywhere
Whether it be a story or poem about a tragic love or a murderous housemate or even an old friend, Edgar Allen Poe seems to be able to make anything mysterious and creepy. Through his writing his audience can imagine the terror in the atmosphere, but more importantly, they can almost even feel it. Some of his tales such as the “Tale-Tell Heart” talk directly of the terror created. Others are much more subtle such as the “Fall of the House of Usher.” But then, there are those few that only have an undertone of terror but it still gives the audience the creepy feeling, for example “Annabel Lee.” Poe’s writing keeps his readers interested because of the strong emotions of fear he is able to make them feel.
First, Poe is able to directly make his readers be able to see the terror. In the “Tale-Tell Heart,” the narrator, though we do not know whether the man sees it in his mind or if its real, describes the old man’s terror as he sat up in bed, looks around, and comforts himself into going back to bed. Poe wrote, on page 1046 of our textbook, The Bedford Anthology of American Literature, “I knew that he had been lying awake since the first slight noise, when he had turned in the bed.” Obviously, the man was terrified because he had felt another’s presence. Another creative way Poe was able to create an atmosphere of horror is the fear the narrator, himself, has towards the old man’s eye. The eye had done nothing to him but he lived in deep fear that the eye was always watching him. I believe, as the audience, when I read the story, I felt fearful of how crazy the narrator seemed even though he tried desperately to convince himself he was not mad. Many people are scared to even be in the same room as someone who is mentally insane, therefore narrating the story through the mad man is a great technique to instill terror.
Unlike the “Tale-Tell...