Poe's Madness

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Poe’s Madness
Jeffrey Joseph
Mrs. Kawalick

Edgar Allen Poe was a man that is undoubtedly one of the greatest writers ever to live. Throughout his life he created many stories, poems, and tales of madness and mystery, that can arguably be stated were thoughts of his own life. “The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat” are two short stories that can be compared and contrasted to show how Poe incorporated his own madness into his tales of death and despair.

There is a mysterious style that Edgar Allen Poe uses when writing his stories. Poe has a way of grasping one’s own nightmarish thoughts and pulling the reader into the story. Many critics have different views on the style of Poe, but Harold Bloom in my opinion has the best analysis by saying Poe has an uncanny talent for exposing our common nightmares and hysteria lurking beneath our carefully structured lives (7). Poe uses the first person narrative in a sense to get the reader to feel what the character is feeling. The fear, the growing tension, and the shock the character feels can only be fully conveyed in a first person narrative. In “The Tell Tale Heart”, the main character starts you off in the madness circling around in his mind. The first few sentences actually set you up in his neurotic behavior, “TRUE! --nervous --very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?” The same is evident in “The Black Cat” as the main character starts the story, “FOR the most wild, yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief. Mad indeed would I be to expect it, in a case where my very senses reject their own evidence. Yet, mad am I not.” This leap into the mind of the madman is in some way a leap into the mind of Poe. According to author Petri Liukkonen, Poe suffered from bouts of depression and madness, and he attempted suicide in 1848 (online). This further proves that maybe Poe’s creativity came from his own misery.

Another main similarity in both stories is that the being that is killed is someone revered by the narrator. The main character’s love of the old man in “The Tell Tale Heart” is seen as the narrator repeats that he had no problems with the old man besides his pale blue eye. An eye that he becomes so fixated on that it leads him into an out of world experience that eventually leads to him killing. He becomes so obsessed with the pale blue eye of this old man he loved that he separated the eye itself from the old man. He was able to say he loved the old man, but in the process had no problem killing him as shown in:

… It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture --a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees --very gradually --I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever. (“The Tell Tale Heart” 1)

In “The Black Cat”, the main character loved his pets, his cat, and his wife. The narrator states this as “I married early, and was happy to find in my wife a disposition not uncongenial with my own. Observing my partiality for domestic pets, she lost no opportunity of procuring those of the most agreeable kind. We had birds, gold-fish, a fine dog, rabbits, a small monkey, and a cat.” In a way, Poe might have a deeper meaning underlying these deaths. Although both different in reasons, they both are death’s of someone the main character love’s. This is a small insight into Poe’s actual life out of stories. Almost everyone in Poe’s early life either left him, or passed away. Poe’s father had abandoned their family 1 year after his birth and his mother had passed on a year after that. Years...
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