Edgar Allan Poe is perhaps one of the best writers of suspense novels that there has ever been. Poe’s works are widely known due to his technique of writing. Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher and The Black Cat are perfect examples of his suspenseful writing technique that grabs his audience, holds on to readers throughout the entire story and leaves the audience on the edge of their seats.
Edgar Allan Poe’s stories are always thought of as being suspenseful and extremely dramatic. The Fall of the House of Usher is an excellent example of Poe’s writing technique and style. This style has been a topic that is frequently discussed in literature classes. In this work, Poe is able to manipulate everyday language and turn it in to words that send chills up and down the audience’s backs. Sentences such as, “What was it-I paused to think-what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of the House of Usher?” (Poe, 110), can only be perceived the way that Poe intended when he wrote The Fall of the House of Usher. This ability Poe mastered and took advantage of. Poe’s suspenseful works have been said to be the driving force behind Alfred Hitchcock’s movies.
To achieve the suspense in his works, Poe uses gothic imagery to help add an unknown, eerie effect. As he first describes the house his use of gothic imagery is apparent, “…with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit” (Poe, 109). This is an excellent example of capturing the audience and actually painting the specific image that Poe wishes for his readers to have. Poe is able to “establish a parallel between the narrator’s experience and his reader’s. Much as the narrator enters the gothic by entering the home, the reader enters the gothic by reading the story” (Hayes). This statement is completely accurate in the sense that Edgar Allan Poe’s technique used to compose The Fall of the House of Usher forces the audience to become submerged in the story itself. The words that Poe uses to gain control of the audience are the same words that hold readers to the story without allowing much outside thought about the story until reaching the conclusion of the work.
During Poe’s time period, there was a great “quest” for American literature created by using American scenery. Poe, however, thought the idea was not the proper way to go about forming true American literary works. Instead, he sought out to continue to create works that were uniquely different than most of the other works of the time period. By not taking note of this new trend, Poe retained his dark, mysterious settings. This decision allowed Poe to write better suspense filled works. He does, however, inadvertently mention things in The Fall of the House of Usher that suggests the work was in a modern (for Poe’s time period) time setting, such as the book titles that Roderick is said to enjoy. By doing this, Poe enlarges the possibility that the story could in reality be factual, which enhances the disturbing factor in the story.
Poe’s technique for writing The Fall of the House of Usher carries over to his The Black Cat. The Black Cat does not consume the audience as quickly as The Fall of the House of Usher. However, from the start of The Black Cat, it is apparent that the story is going to be one that is disturbing. Poe starts this story with, “For the most wild yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief” (Poe, 99). Beginning the story this way puts the audience in the mindset that they are about to be taken on another suspenseful journey with Poe’s narrator. Poe uses different literary techniques in this short story than he used in The Fall of the House of Usher. For this story, Poe starts with “normal” characters that through a series of events turn to the main character having multiple mental health issues. This essentially forces the audience to begin to sympathize with the main character/narrator.
Poe overly emphasizes the narrator’s problems and turns them into sort of a fear for the audience. He gives both the narrator and the cat basically the same issues. “Both the narrator and the cat have problems with their oral zones” (Ki). This statement brings to light that it is not only the narrator that brings forth suspenseful activities in the story, but also the cat that is just as unpredictable as his owner. “I fancied that the cat avoided my presence. I seized him; when, in his fright at my violence, he inflicted a slight wound upon my hand with his teeth” (Poe, 101). The narrator’s sudden change in character came as a surprise to the cat, as did the actions of the cat came as a surprise to the narrator. That being said, there is no signs before this event that either character would take these actions. Poe’s ways of presenting events in this story (or for that matter not presenting anything leading up to events that happen) keep the audience on their toes.
Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most well-known authors today. Poe’s writing techniques and ability to keep his audience hooked and hanging on the edge of their seat, is the main reason he is such a great author. He is able to manipulate regular, everyday words and turn them into sentences that send chills of terror through the audiences’ spines. Poe’s writing style and technique is the foundation for many other literary works as well as movie.
Poe, Edgar. The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Tales. New York: Signet Classic, 2006. Print. Hayes, Kevin J. “The Fall of the House of Usher.” American History Through Literature 1820-1870. Ed. Janet Gabler-Hover and Robert Sattelmeyer. Vol. 1. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006. 400-404. Student Resources In Context. Web. 2 Apr. 2013. Ki, Magdalen Wing-Chi. “Diabolical evil and ‘The Black Cat’.” The Mississippi Quarterly 62.3-4 (2009): 569+. Student Resources In Context. Web. 9 Apr. 2013.