On October 7, 1849, the nineteenth-century poet and author Edgar Allan Poe died on his death bed in Washington College Hospital (later Church Home and Hospital) in Baltimore, Maryland. Few of his contemporaries, let alone himself, could have imagined his pervasive and lasting presence in nearly every field of art and literature. The classic and grandiose life-sized statue unveiled in his honor in 2014 on the intersection of Boylston and Charles streets in Boston, where he was born, is perhaps the most indelible mark of Poe’s legacy. That a man, who is today regarded almost as a distinct form of fiction than the novel and he was also at the forefront in declaring that, in order for a story to contain a potent influence on the reader, every point in the story should contribute to influencing the reader (Flores). Currently, in this peculiar American genre, Poe’s narratives and criticism are used as guidelines by other authors. Anybody involved in the short-story form cannot neglect his ideas or fiction since there is a possibility of an adverse effect on their writing (Flores).
Poe’s initial literary works were critiques in form of customary reviews. He always began his reviews by reflecting on the fundamental poetry styles and short fiction and thereafter he advanced the theoretical analyses of the two genres (Hester, and Segir). He formulated his ideas from both the English criticism of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the German criticism of A.W. Schlegel. Poe’s most significant benefaction to criticism is his informal debate of the specific generic distinctions of short films in his illustrious review of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s literature called Twice-told Tales (Hester, and Segir). Poe shared very satisfying insights for the organic unity of short fiction, he debated passionately for its dependency on a unified effect and distinctly stated the manner with which it was closely related to the poem than to the novel (Hester, and Segir). His insights on the brief narrative have swayed literary critics and short-story writers ever since.
Poe is criticized for making the blunders and misconception about his personal character. There were claims that he was a sex pervert, an alcoholic, a hack and addicted to drugs. Because of these fallacies, fibs, and oversimplifications, earnest readers are often unwilling to study his work (Hester, and Segir). However, there is minimal ambiguity that Poe, both in dark metaphysically mysterious narratives and criticism, aided in creating a literature that transformed American writing into an essential writing culture force (Hester, and Segir).
The Fall of the House of Usher
The Fall of the House of Usher is Poe’s most recognized and admired narrative. This is due to the fact that it proficiently merges all his captivating themes in an economical and powerful way (“The Fall of the House of Usher”). This unique trait of the narrative intelligently emulates his aesthetic theory that all the components of a literary work need to supplement the single unified effect or distinctive style of the work itself. The principal mystery in the narrative relies on the nature of Roderick Usher’s sickness. Even though its diagnostics is comprised of an acute sensitivity to all sensory stimuli and a potent unmotivated fear, Poe does not mention its reason except to refer to some dark family curse or genetic sickness (“The Fall of the House of Usher”).
The household in which Roderick resides in is like an artwork, a building that endures by dint of its exclusive makeup. When the narrator sees it for the first time, he notices that it is a mixture of elements that establishes its enigma and that a dissimilar arrangement of its features would be enough to change its ability to contain a sorrowful impact (“The Fall of the House of Usher”). In addition, Usher has a feeling that it is the structure and substance of his family manor house that hinders his morale. He concludes that, as an aftermath of the pattern of the stones, the mansion has taken on life. All of these elements indicate Poe’s own aesthetic theory, that the life whatever artwork does not arise from its mimicry of external reality but rather from its structure (“The Fall of the House of Usher”).
The Roderick’s twin sister is exclusively the hold he has on the external world. His twin sister is less an apparent person in the narrative than the last manifestation of Roderick’s bodily nature (“The Fall of the House of Usher”). By inhuming her, he alienates himself from the actual world. However, physical life is not readily abolished and Madeline comes back to life from her tomb to combine her dying body with Roderick’s idealized spirit. As the narrative comes to its terrifying climax, reality and art become more associated. As the narrator unravels to Roderick from a gothic romance, sounds indicated in the narrative are repeated in actuality as the inhumed Madeline breaks out of her vault and walks up the steps to scorn her twin brother (Pang, Wenfang et al.). Roderick, Madeline and the mansion fall together into the dark tan, the abyss non-existence, and it is as if they had not existed. In Poe’s aesthetic universe, the penalty the artist has to pay for alienating himself from the external world is annihilation (Pang, Wenfang et al.).
The Murders in the Rue Morgue
‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’ merges terrifying, mysterious occurrences with amazing stunts of deductive arguments. The storyteller, the predecessor of Dr. Watson of the Sherlock Holmes narratives, encounters Auguste Dupin in this narrative and beforehand realizes that he has an alter ego, a bi-part soul since he is both incredibly imaginative and coldly investigative (“Figure-Ground Characteristic Of Detective Mystery The Murders In The Rue Morgue By Edgar Allan Poe”). The reader’s first experience with Dupin’s deductive capability occurs when Dupin appears to be reading his comrade’s mind, replying to something that only the narrator had been reflecting on. Dupin, as he expounds the painstaking method whereby he observed the narrator’s thought processes by taking note of fine details and connecting them, is the foremost of a long history of fictional detectives who enjoyed describing the process they used to solve a hidden conundrum (“Figure-Ground Characteristic Of Detective Mystery The Murders In The Rue Morgue By Edgar Allan Poe”).
The theme of the narrative is not the action of the criminal offenses but rather Dupin’s ability to expound in what manner he unraveled it (Hayes, K. J.). The insights about the murder that shocked the police are particularly the same ones that caused Dupin to understand the case; the difference in the testimonies of a couple of neighbors who narrated hearing a voice in a several differing foreign languages and the truth that there appears to be no possible way exiting or entering the room where the murders occurred (Hayes, K. J.). Dupin solves the first mystery by concluding that the criminal was an animal; the second scenario he explained by using a method of reasoning established a procedure of elimination to conclude that this scenario that seemed impossible to solve could actually be cleared up. Once Dupin discloses that an orangutan which had gone astray committed the murder, the Paris Prefect of Police resorted to complaining that Dupin should consider minding his personal business. Dupin feels a sense of accomplishment having outsmarted the prefect in his own department; the kinfolk of Dupin have been outsmarting police inspectors ever since (Hayes, K. J.).
The Tell-Tale Heart
Poe is mostly considered to be an author of narratives about people who are mad and murderers but rarely do people pay attention to the psychological attributes of the madness in his narratives (Pritchard, Hollie). ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ is among the best narratives about murderous madness and is also considered to have psychological complexity (Pritchard, Hollie). This narrative is shared in first person voice by the murderer, who has evidently been imprisoned or is in a mental asylum for a criminal offense. He commences by discussing that he is mentally upright and that the relaxed way we executed his crime and can now talk about in order to show his rationality (Pritchard, Hollie).
The leading problem of the narrative is the narrator’s cause for murdering the old man. He starts by stating with confidence to his listeners and readers that he cherished the old man, he did not wish for his gold and the aged man had not offended him. Neither desire for material things nor hatred caused him to commit the crime but it was the aged man’s eye (Pritchard, Hollie). He claimed that when the old man looked at him, his eyes frightened him thus made up his mind to murder him so that he can get rid of this irritant feeling forever. Since the narrator does not explain why he disliked the eyes, the reviewer must attempt to interpret the motivation for this insidious act by observing the details of the narrative and trying to figure out what thematic association they have to one another (Pritchard, Hollie).
In addition to the theme of the eye, which lies as a core obsession and is reiterated throughout, another main theme of the narrative is the narrator’s identification with the aged man (Pritchard, Hollie). As he plans his criminal offense by putting his head inside the aged man’s bedroom every night, he adds that then aged man is seated in his bed listening, similarly to what he does every night. Furthermore, he shares that the aged man’s groan is a familiar sound because in numerous nights he has had the same experience in terms of groaning (Pritchard, Hollie).
Lastly, the tell-tale heart itself is a theme which means that a heart that shares a tale (Pritchard, Hollie). Even though the surface plot of the narrative, the storyteller believes that it is the aged man’s heart that tells a tale on him once the police arrive to investigate on a reported scream to them, it is evident that it is his heart that he listens to beating (Pritchard, Hollie). When we focus on the psychological level, the tale compares the heartbeat to the ticking of the clock to mean that for every minute that passes, it bridges the gap to our death (Pritchard, Hollie).
“The Fall of the House of Usher”. Poe Studies, vol 31, no. 1-2, 1998, pp. 20-26. Wiley-
“Figure-Ground Characteristic of Detective Mystery the Murders In The Rue Morgue By Edgar
Allan Poe”. International Journal of Advancements in Computing Technology, vol 4, no. 22, 2012, pp. 291-299. AICIT, doi:10.4156/ijact.vol4.issue22.32.
Flores,. “Edgar Allan Poe by Eduardo Mendoza”. The Edgar Allan Poe Review, vol 15, no. 2,
2014, p. 211. The Pennsylvania State University Press, doi:10.5325/edgallpoerev.15.2.0211.
Hayes, K. J. “Mrs Gore and ‘The Murders in The Rue Morgue'”. Notes and Queries, vol 58, no.
1, 2011, pp. 85-87. Oxford University Press (OUP), doi:10.1093/notesj/gjq219.
Hester, and Segir. “Edgar Allan Poe”. The Edgar Allan Poe Review, vol 15, no. 2, 2014, p. 175.
The Pennsylvania State University Press, doi:10.5325/edgallpoerev.15.2.0175.
Pang, Wenfang et al. “Gothicism in the Fall of the House of Usher”. Advances In Literary
Study, vol 03, no. 01, 2015, pp. 15-20. Scientific Research Publishing, Inc,, doi:10.4236/als.2015.31003.
Pritchard, Hollie. “Poe’s the Tell-Tale Heart”. The Explicator, vol 61, no. 3, 2003, pp. 144-147.
Informa UK Limited, doi:10.1080/00144940309597787.