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Analysis of Edgar Allen Poe as a Gothic Writer

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Do you know the features of Gothic literature and who are Gothic writers? The origin of Gothic literature is Gothic architecture which is a kind of medieval architecture of several significant cathedrals and churches built by the style in Britain and France they emphasize verticality and light, height suggests aspiration to heaven, and the buildings represent the universe in microcosm and the geometrical nature of the construction is the image of an orderly universe. The features of Gothic architecture are pointed arches, gargoyles, flying buttresses, ribbed vaults, and large stained-glass windows. Gothic literature originated in Germany and was popular in the 18th and 19th centuries when these medieval constructions were ugly, obsolete, dirty, dreadful, and to some extent destroyed; therefore, the common features of Gothic literature are castles and haunted buildings, emphasizing the presence of evil and ghosts, spirits, and other supernatural elements. mansions in Gothic are isolated and cursed locations exposed to a lake, which is a large size for inhabitants with passages and secret rooms. The Gothic genre is dark, and mysterious, often containing elements of terror, horror, and the bizarre. Common themes of the Gothic include confinement and isolation. Gothic vocabularies describe pain, gloom, mystery, and horror. The language used to describe these typically Gothic settings is always vivid, appealing to our senses and drawing us into an unknown world. Edgar Allan Poe is regarded as a Gothic writer because he applies some of these features in his tales. In “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Fall of the House of Usher” the way of describing characters, the way of the horror genre, and the way of using vocabulary ensure us that Poe is a Gothic writer.

The main characters of Poe’s tales usually suffer from depression or a kind of mental disease like melancholy or paranoid schizophrenia. Sometimes similar to Poe, they are sensitive men, poets, musicians, or painters. They are damned by forces beyond their control. In “The Fall of the House of Usher” the main character is Roderick Usher who suffers from “excessive nervous agitation”, his complexion is cadaverous, his eyes are unusually bright and he avoids food, light, and sound except in their mildest forms. The narrator is the Usher boyhood friend and he is controlling the consciousness of the tale. He is the representative of the larger world of humanity and has been drawn into the weird world of the mansion. The reader enters that world with him at the beginning of the story and leaves it at the end. So the readers must accept his judgment of the story’s actions and the characters. To him, Roderick Usher is both fascinating and frightening. He stays with his friend and tries to help him but never comprehends his engagement with supernatural speculation. He continues to the end to play down the horror in which he is involved, and when the usher points out the luminous mist outside the mansion, he tries to explain it as an electrical phenomenon. He does not want to relate the strange events to the forces beyond the analysis of reason. He is not imaginative and the readers measure his sanity against the madness of usher. Usher is not an ordinary man. His personality is not attractive but the focus of the story is on what he has committed to, what he is suffering from, and his surroundings. Similar to other Poe heroes, he adapted to the world beyond the understanding of the common people. For him, this world is much more real than that of everyday life. That is the world of spirit, that is understood by the sensitive man. Usher is a poet, a musician, and a painter. He is too sensitive to beauty. He uses his intuition and sensibility which are superior to reason. He is a predictor and seer but neurotic and is dominated by an unmanly fear. The evil atmosphere that emerged from the mansion and the surrounding bog destroyed him. Madeline Usher is Roderick’s sister and is seen twice in the story. Once she passes like a ghost through the room in which Roderick and his friend are reading and at the end of the story, she falls on her brother horribly. She is suffering from the family curse the same as his brother. She is the negative character we do not see her in-depth and she suffers from a strange malady that is the result of the gaseous exhalation of fungi and vegetation. Some critics believe that the description of Roderick Usher is a self-portrait of Poe at the age of thirty and when he was feeling he was damned by forces beyond his control. At the end of the tale, Madeline’s death is the other feature of Gothic literature that describes murders, death, or crimes. In “The Tell-Tale Heart” Poe uses his main character as a first-person narrator, an unnamed character, to heighten suspense and draw readers into the character’s situation. he revolves the plot around a raving individual who insists that he is sane, murders an old man because of his “vulture eye”. As the narrator sees the old man’s ‘evil eye’ wide open on the eighth night, he decided to open the lantern. the narrator hears the old man’s heart beating, which gets louder and louder. This increases the narrator’s anxiety to the point where the narrator decides to strike. He dismembers the body and conceals the pieces under the floorboards and ensures the concealment of all signs of the crime. the old man’s scream causes a neighbor to report to the police but he claims that the scream heard was the narrator’s own in a nightmare and that that the man is absent in the country. Then police chairs are placed on the very spot where the body is concealed. Then the narrator feels uncomfortable and notices a ringing in his ears. As the ringing grows louder, the narrator concludes that it is the heartbeat of the old man coming from under the floorboards. The sound increases steadily to the narrator, though the officers do not seem to hear it. Terrified by the violent beating of the heart and convinced that the officers are aware not only of the heartbeat but also of the narrator’s guilt. the narrator breaks down and confesses. The narrator tells them to tear up the floorboards to reveal the remains of the old man’s body. “The Tell-Tale Heart” uses an unreliable narrator. The execution of the crime was evidence of his sanity, revealing his monomania and paranoia. The narrator is assumed to be a male but no pronounces are used to clarify one way or the other. The story is driven not by the narrator’s insistence upon his/her “innocence” but by his/ her insistence on his/her sanity (self-destructive). His/ her denial of insanity is based on his/her systematic actions and his/her precision, as he/she provides a rational explanation for irrational behavior. There is a lack of motive and despite this he /she says, the idea of murder “haunted me day and night”. It is difficult to understand the narrator’s emotions about the blue- eye man because of the contradiction. It is also possible that the narrator suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. He /she experiences auditory hallucinations that are from his/her own head. The relationship between the old man and the narrator is ambiguous. Their names, occupations, and places of residence are not given, contrasting with the strict attention to detail in the plot. The narrator may be a servant of the old man or his child. The vulture eye of the old man symbolizes parental surveillance. The murder of the eye is a removal of conscience. In “The Fall of the House of Usher” the narrator claims to suffer from hypersensitivity. The old man may represent a rational mind, while the narrator may stand for the imaginative.

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Edgar Allan Poe is talented to provoke fear or terror in readers, usually through something demonic. In “The Fall of the House of Usher” on a dull, dark, and soundless day, the narrator visits Roderick Usher, his boyhood friend. The house of Usher looks out upon a “black and lurid tarn” and is surrounded by decaying vegetation. The image of the house is reflected in the water and it seems there is an atmosphere peculiar to the whole area, “a pestilent and mystic vapor, dull, sluggish, faintly discernible, and leaden-hued.” Before entering the mansion, the narrator notices that its entire front is covered by minute fungi. A valet leads him through intricate passages to the rooms of Roderick Usher. The narrator notices that Usher has greatly changed and realizes that he cannot cheer him who has entered purposefully into a world of strange spiritual reality. Roderick is a musician and painter. One of his poems, titled “The Haunted Palace” speaks of evil things which overthrow a kingdom of wisdom and light. The lady Madeline dies, and at Usher’s request his friend helps him to enter the coffin in a vault in the basement of the mansion. they open the coffin for a last look and notice “a faint blush on the bosom and the face”, a characteristic that a narrator tells us of death due to catalepsies. In the days following, the interment of his sister, Roderick ignores his ordinary occupations and wanders through the house aimlessly. at times he appears to be listening in profound attention to some sound that only he can hear. On a stormy night, the narrator is unable to sleep and Usher comes to his room in a distraught condition. it points to a window and perceives that “a faintly luminous and distinctly visible gaseous exhalation” hangs about the mansion. The narrator attempts to relieve the hypersensitivity of his friend and reads to him but is interrupted by a knock at the door. Usher cries out that it is his sister at the door, whom he knows they had put living in the tomb. The lady Madeline enters, bloody and emaciated, and falls upon her brother who dies of fright as they collapse to the floor. The narrator rushes from the mansion and he is riding away there is a sound “like the voice of a thousand glasses of water” and the house of Usher sinks below the tarn. In “The Tell-Tale Heart” Poe utilizes various elements commonly found in horror stories to depict how a deranged murderer kills a helpless old man in the middle of the night and proceeds to dismember his body before eventually confessing his crime to authorities after experiencing overwhelming guilt. By making the mentally-unstable murderer, the narrator of the story, Poe gives the readers access into the mind of a madman, who continually attempts to prove his own sanity as he recounts his horrifying tale. Poe uses some Gothic elements that contribute to the horror story genre, such as the ominous, threatening mood, the old man’s evil eye, the brutal crime, the nightmare setting, and present elements of fear throughout the story. Similar to many horror stories, the readers experience suspense and mystery as the narrator waits to attack the old man on the eighth night. Every time the narrator goes into the room to look at the man, he always describes the room as being “pitch black”. Even he takes extra precautions so as not to give off any light in the room. When he goes into the room, he takes a lantern with him but keeps it covered. The only time the lantern gets to shine is when the speaker wants to look at the man’s face. In the end, when he pulls the boards from the floor to reveal the old man’s hacked body, he says he did it because the old man’s heart kept on beating and the sound was getting to him. Poe creates a creepy, scary mood through the narrator’s denial of madness and the description of the old man’s eye.

Gothic is described as barbaric, rude, and unenlightened. Edgar Allan Poe was fluent in several languages and had a very large vocabulary. Poe uses some fairy obscure words that you may not be familiar with. He usually incorporates many types of literary devices to grab the attention of his readers and to establish a chilling and mysterious effect. He uses alliteration, inversion, and rhythm which are suitable for the horror story. In the first sentence of “The Fall of the House of Usher”, the narrator tells us that the day on which he travels is “dull, dark, and soundless”, that is the use of alliteration. Especially in his poetry, Poe uses alliteration to achieve an extraordinary rhythm. He uses the reversal of the ordinary order of words in a sentence, inversion, to suggest formality and stateliness, and draw attention to what he is saying. He writes “I know not how it was “, not “I do not know”. Poe’s style of writing is more rhythmic than that of other fiction writers. He writes, for example: “It was thus that he spoke of the object of my visit, of his earnest desire to seem, and of the solace he expected me to afford him.” In “The Fall of the House of Usher” we are told that Roderick and his friend read together Directorium /inquisitorial of Eymeric de Gironne, the Belphegor of Machiavelli, and the manual of a forgotten church, the Vigiliae Mortuorum Seeundum Chorum Ecclesiae Maguntinae. The titles are mysterious and supernatural. Machiavelli is associated with evil. Also, the inquisition shows ghastly torture. The technique of using exotic names and titles evokes an atmosphere of horror. In Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” readers have the opportunity to listen to the thought of an insane criminal who kills an innocent person for an outrageous reason, his strange-looking eye. Some of the literary devices that Poe uses in his classic short story “The Tell-Tale Heart” include symbolism, simile, point of view, and imagery. In “The Tell-Tale Heart”, he mentions two main symbols: the old man’s eye and the beating heart. The narrator is obsessed with the old man’s eye and anytime he looks at it, becomes cold and fearful. Eventually, this eye derives the narrator to kill him. So the eye is a symbol of evil. The second symbol is the beating heart, which is the narrator’s conscience. The narrator hears the loudly beating heart of the dead man after killing him. As a result, the loud noise causes the man to feel guilty and pull up the floorboards, and confesses to his crimes. Another literary term he uses in “The Tell-Tale Heart” is the simile. When the narrator enters the old man’s room on the eighth night, he mentions that it is “black as pitch” and uncovers his lantern slightly so that he can see. After that, “a simple dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye.” The use of simile is accomplished very professionally by Poe. “The Tell-Tale Heart” is told from the narrator’s perspective, that is, it is told through the first person point of view. The first-person point of view is very important because it allows readers to see into the mind of Poe’s unreliable narrator. Poe uses unreliable narrator for several reasons: to cast doubt create complex characters, build mood, and add uncertainty and mystery. the other artistic way of using words is by applying the repetition of words that adds to the suspense and creates a terrifying mood. The narrator repeats words as he views the old man to increase the tension and create fear within the reader. The repetition of certain words makes a mood of fear and terror in the minds of readers. For example, the narrator says “so I opened it you cannot imagine how stealthily- stealthily” or “and then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously-oh, so cautiously- cautiously (for the hinges creaked).

Edgar Allan Poe is one of the best-known American writers for his horrific plot and dark themes. He is a Gothic writer because of the way of describing characters, the way of using the horrific plot and dark theme, and the way of using vocabulary. Poe is also referred to as the originator of the detective story and his tales of horror and imagination have fascinated readers for generations.

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Analysis of Edgar Allen Poe as a Gothic Writer. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 22, 2023, from
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