The Dark Side of Poe
During a life marked by pain and loss, Edgar Allen Poe wrote haunting tales in which he explored the dark side of the human mind. For Pow, it was only extreme conditions in which people revealed their true nature. His short stories leave readers with a sense of uneasiness. The settings of his stories, characters in the stories, and the plot all relate to his insane use of gothic elements. The Gothic dimensions of Poe’s fictional world offered him a way to explore the human mind, and peer into the darkness of the supernatural.
Primarily, Poe creates the single effect of an eerie and ghostly atmosphere by emphasizing physical aspects of various structures. The setting should take place near or in some sort of decaying, or medieval estate. It should also seem gloomy, with rain and storms. For example, in the story “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “during the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country and the length I found myself, as the shades of evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher(1).” By creating this eerie atmosphere Poe removes the reader from his or her everyday environment. In the story the location is never directly mentioned. The tone or feeling of the story should be mysterious resulting in suspense or fear. More mystery is better for the setting. Often in gothic stories, the gothic characters seem to possess some sort of psychic communication. Poe’s characters in “The Fall of the House of Usher” comprise of a male, who is most likely insane, and a female who is beautiful, dead, or dying. We see communication between Roderick and his twin sister, but never between the narrator and Usher. This makes the narrator a questionable character. For example, “It was thus that he spoke of the object of my visit, of his earnest desire to see me, and of the solace he expected me to afford him” (180). Poe’s lack of human relations in real life most likely affected his way to portray a real conversation in many of his short stories. The gothic elements he used to create the characters shows why he was the master of gothic forms. Poe, a dark, twisty man, wrote most of his stories about his feelings of sadness and depression. His plots included murder, live burials, and physical and mental torture, and even retribution from beyond the grave. In “The Fall of the House of Usher” the narrator and the brother bury his sister alive. For example, “but then without those doors there did stand the lofty enshrouded figure of Lady Madeline Usher. The brother, who is not mentally sane, in the middle of the night concluded that Madeline, who suffered from a disease that paralyzes her whole body, was dead. The narrator knew she had suffered from this disease did not even question why her cheeks were still rosy red and she had a faint smile. A poor girl, who suffered from a disease, suffers the price by Poe’s insane gothic elements to kill. Poe is so insane and so depressed that his fictional world is actually his real world. His settings emphasized physical aspects of various structures. His characters possess some sort of psychic communication. The plots he came up with often included live burials, and mental and physical torture. The use of gothic literature really raised the bar for many other authors to compete with. Since he was so called insane in his actual life, it was probably quite easy to come up with these terrifying stories. Do you think Poe portrays himself in all of his short stories?