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A literary comparison of Edgar Allan Poe´s "The Black Cat" and "The Tell-Tale Heart"

Hausarbeit 2011 18 Seiten

Amerikanistik - Literatur

Leseprobe

Table of contents

I. Introduction

II. Definition of Gothic Fiction

III. The Black Cat
- Speech and story devices
- The Narrator
- Story Structure
- Images and motifs
- Black/The Black Cat
- The Eye
- The Imp of the Perverse
- Religious Motifs

IV. The Tell-Tale Heart
- Speech and story devices
- The Narrator
- Story Structure
- Images and motifs
- The Heart
- The Evil Eye
- Time

V. Comparison and Conclusion

VI. List of Literature

I. Introduction

And much of Madness and more of Sin And Horror the Soul to the Plot.’[1]

This line taken from Edgar Allan Poe’s poem ‘The Conquerer Worm’ perfectly describes the essential elements featured in many of Poe’s poems and stories, on which I am about to write in particular. Madness and horror, sins and the ‘Imp of the Perverse’ - The Evil, which lies within all of us - are popular and frequently recurring motives in Poe’s literary works and thereby create a mood and atmosphere quite dark and nightmarish. The reader is offered a deep glance into the abyss of the human mind and psyche.

In this term paper I’m going to draw a comparison between two of Poe’s short stories, which both deal with the above mentioned concepts and images and therefore, are counted to the Gothic Genre - ‘The Black Cat’ and ‘The Tell-Tale Heart.’ The main focus of my work will lie on the similarities of the storytelling structures and the speech Poe uses to convey this certain feeling of suspense, horror and thrill. I will examine which further motives and images Poe uses in this two stories and which function they fulfil.

I’m going to carry out my researches primarily with the help of the books: ‘Poe’ by Walter Lenning, ‘Poe – A Biography’ by Frank T. Zumbach, ‘The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction’ by Jerrod Hogle and ‘The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Writings’ by Edgar Allan Poe.

II. Definition of Gothic Fiction

Gothic Fiction and the Gothic Novel both belong to the European Romantic Period and usually contain pseudo medieval aspects, as well as an atmosphere of mystery and terror.

‘Gothic fiction is […] an entirely post-medieval and even post-Renaissance phenomenon.’[2]

One of the first works of this Genre was Horace Walpole’s ‘Castle of Otranto’, written in 1764.[3] Though, counting to the Period of Rationalism it contained ‘scenes of mystery, horror and wonder.’[4] All three mentioned aspects of ‘Castle of Otranto’ are important and often used devices in almost every story belonging to the Gothic Genre.

The term ‘Gothic’ itself derives from the Gothic style of architecture, which can frequently be found in Gothic Fiction. The above mentioned pseudo medieval aspects of the stories refer primarily to the settings of the stories. ‘The Gothic tale usually takes place (at least some of the time) in an antiquated or seemingly antiquated space - be it a castle, a foreign, palace, an abbey, a vast prison, a subterranean crypt.’[5] Such gloomy, run-down and mysterious settings convey a certain feeling of uneasiness and suspense to the reader.

Further typical aspects of the Gothic Novel, besides the gloomy settings are an atmosphere of mystery and suspense. Usually there are supernatural elements like ghosts, bad omen, apparitions or old legends involved to create a plot which tries to discover the secrets behind the creepy or even frightening events.

‘Within this space, or a combination of such spaces, are hidden some secrets from the past that haunt the characters psychologically, physically. […] The hauntings can take many forms, but they frequently assume the features of ghosts, specters, or monsters.’[6]

But there is another aspect to Gothic Fiction but just a nice thrill to the reader:

‘Since Gothic fiction focuses on the seamy side of human behaviour, it lends itself to – and begs for – psychoanalytic investigation.’[7]

Gothic Fiction usually depicts stories of unbelievable terror. Not only the reader feels terrified while reading the stories, usually the protagonists of the stories feel this certain terror and inner turmoil themselves – a lot of emotions are involved and triggered. As Jerrod Hogle puts it in the above mentioned citation, the characters are ‘haunted psychologically and physically.’

The darkest abysms of human nature are depicted in a very drastic kind of way and often the haunted protagonist of the story shows the readers how a perfectly normal person might be driven to the edge of sanity. It can be said that there is more to the Gothic Genre but pure thrill because many Gothic stories contain very minutely detailed psychological profiles of their protagonists.

III. The Black Cat

The short story ‘The Black Cat’ was published in 1843 in ‘United States Saturday’ and depicts the story of a murder in cold blood which is eventually discovered due to destiny, bad luck and the acts of the murderer himself.

- Speech and story devices

Narrator

In this short story Poe uses a nameless I-narrator who tells the story in the retrospective and who appeals several times directly to the reader: ‘I neither expect nor solicit belief.’[8] This gives the reader a very personal view of the events of the story and the psychological problems of the murderer because the murderer and the narrator are one and the same person. Not only does this convey a very strange feeling to the reader – who has to try to understand the thoughts of a killer – furthermore, there can’t be a guarantee that the narrator is reliable. In fact the nameless I-narrator directly tries to influence his readership in the kind of way he tells the story. He attempts several times to convince his readership that he is not mad and that everything in the story really happened just the way as he describes it. ‘Yet, mad am I not – and very surely do I not dream.’[9]

This is a very special way to write a story because it ‘provokes the so called ‘common sense’. The reader is forced to identify himself with a mad person.’[10] The reader is often tempted to sympathise with the narrator because he reflects on his own actions several times and commits that he is doing brutal, wrong things:

‘My general temper and character […] had (I blush to confess it) experienced a radical alteration for the worse.’[11]

[...]


[1] Poe, Edgar Allan: The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Writings, Backcover

[2] Hogle, Jerrod E.: The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction, p.1.

[3] Cf. Hogle, Jerrod E.: The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction, p.1.

[4] http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/239776/Gothic-novel

[5] Hogle, Jerrod E.: The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction, p.2.

[6] Hogle, Jerrod E.: The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction, p2.

[7] Cameron, Ed: The Psychopathology of the Gothic Romance – Perversion, Neurosis, and Psychosis in Early Works of the Genre, p.1.

[8] Poe, Edgar Allan: The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Writings, p. 271.

[9] Poe, Edgar Allan: The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Writings, p. 271.

[10] Zumbach, Frank T.: Edgar Allan Poe – Eine Biographie, p. 469.

[11] Poe, Edgar Allan: The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Writings, p. 272.

Details

Seiten
18
Jahr
2011
ISBN (eBook)
9783656497011
ISBN (Buch)
9783656497547
Dateigröße
511 KB
Sprache
Englisch
Katalognummer
v233119
Institution / Hochschule
Universität Paderborn – Institut für Anglistik/Amerikanistik
Note
2,0
Schlagworte
comparison edgar allan poe´s black tell-tale heart

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Titel: A literary comparison of Edgar Allan Poe´s "The Black Cat" and "The Tell-Tale Heart"