Some might often wonder who or what is an Edgar Allen Poe? What was he or she known for? Edgar Allan Poe was well known as a journalist, editor and literary critic for his stories. Little known fact, just at the age of three, Edgar Allen Poe was an orphan. His alcoholic father disappeared, and his mother died of a slow tuberculosis death. Edgar Allen Poe was then brought up by a charitable Richmond couple who, consumed no children of their own, but curiously refused to adopt Poe. Poe was later on in and out of the Virginia University, West Point, and the U.S. Military in his previous teens, leaving behind a list of unpaid betting debts. Throughout these years, Poe inputted a series of devastating romantic disorders, all of which ended either in his beloved’s rejection or slow death, and so Poe then lost his much-loved foster mother to a surreptitious disease that lasted. Suddenly, a dark side after slowly took a toll on the sophisticated Edgar Allen Poe who he began to grown into.
Poe was most known for his short stories. Most of Poe’s short stories investigated in one of the main characters a psychological problem. The psychological problem being that it was often the narrator or main character in Poe’s short stories who struggled with either mental illness or who was obsessed with some type of seeking revenge. Patterns in Poe’s narratives are mostly male characters with some type of nervous disorders, “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat.” Both stories contained elements of murder and insanity. Both had nighttime scenes that were creepy and frightening. Besides, the characters of both stories seem to have very little in common at first glimpse. They are very different in their marital status, living conditions, and personal responsibilities. Furthermore, if the readers look closer into the stories, the two men appear more and more alike: they both share their criminal history in flashbacks, thus exposing their motivations and confessing to their crimes.
“The Motive and Meaning: The Mystery of the Will in Poe’s The Black Cat” written by Joseph Stark. Joseph Stark states Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Black Cat presents the reader with a troubled tale of homicide, presumably given to place before the world, plainly, succinctly, and without comment, a series of mere household events” (Stark, 255). It begins with the nameless protagonist who defends his narrative’s truth in “The Black Cat.” Whereas committing murder, he expresses his story from a prison cell. Still, his victim was his wife. The narrator tells us how very happy he was with his wife and how they adored and loved a number of pets together.
As a reason for his actions is he puts the blame on alcohol. He faults, however, an unconscious spirit of stubbornness that he claims has forced his hand. “In other words, by depicting a motiveless murder whose actions cannot be sufficiently explained, Poe “place [d] before the world… without comment, difficulties in both scientific and religious thought and ironically upheld the mysterious nature of the human will in a time dominated by intellectual rationalism” (Stark, 255). In the story he notes, both hands led him to kill his once beloved black pet, a shockingly big and beautiful (cat), after a night of corruption, he decides to cut off the cat’s eye from his socket with his pen-knife. “Evangelicals emphasized the power of the human will to overcome sin and crime (culminating perhaps most dramatically in Finney’s belief in perfectionism), while scientific examination narrowed the gap between the rational human and irrational animal, and thereby posited a kind of naturalistic determinism” (Stark, 257).
He eventually kills the cat to get rid of the pet’s ghoulish face which reminded him of his own reflection, by hanging the black cat from a tree in the yard. Not long after the black cat was killed and so was his wife who he shoved into a wall, then decides to bring home a new cat who almost to the likeness of his former animal resembled the one he previously killed. Which leads to Starks position of “Instinct vs. Reason: A Black Cat, in which he discusses the mysterious line between the seeming instinct of an animal and the reason of a human. Such instinct, he comments, is referable only to the spirit of the Deity itself, acting directly, and through no corporal organ, upon the volition of the animal” (Stark, 257-258). Eventually, the narrator becomes terrified of the series of events that occurred by this new cat’s white splotch of fur because he gets flashbacks.
By signifying that, the failure to escape the hauntings of this new cat, the narrator innocently portrays his own insanity. Moving forward, in order for the narrator to portray, determined and defend his own kind of sanity, it often leads him to explain his actions. The narrator uses that as some kind of confession form. The unsuspecting acceptance of the new cat, still, with the changing of its fur, the lack of guilt for this type of action and the crimes he committed, leads to the self-destructive behavior with which he eventually surrendered demonstrate his distorted outlook and untrustworthy narration.
“The Tell-Tale Heart” which was created about a confession by a murderer who kills an old man who he once lived with. “The Tell-Tale Heart: The Life and Works of Edgar Allan Poe” by Julian Symons presents “The real challenge for the biographer of Poe lies in bringing some understanding to the dark side of Poe’s personality that propelled him through his disturbed adulthood, and that was clearly the source of his genius” (Symons, 43). The narrator tells us he had no reason to want the old man to be killed. Truly, he claims the fact that he never been wrong with the old man and that he loved him and didn’t want his money.
Except because of how the old man looked, that petrified the narrator. “He gives us all the evidence. But the mystery of Poe is not easily solved; a summary of the evidence is not enough to suggest a solution” (Symons, 43). This indicates that the narrator is terrified of the so called “vulture eye” because of how he saw his own image in his external ugliness; the narrator was ridiculous and repulsive inwardly because he planned and executed murder; his heart is more repulsive than the face of the old man. Readers then can interpret and take a closer thought of the “vulture eye” not as just an organ of visualization, but as the homonym of “I.”
So, what the author actually wishes to kill is the self, and is subjected to this desire when he was no longer able to grasp his intense sense of guilt and yielded to the law, exposing the remains of the old man hidden under the floor boards. Symons suggest that “No more helpful with the question of Poe’s drinking. Poe was no Ordinary alcoholic… Remains steadfastly superficial throughout his treatment of the life. Most often he is content to describe the ups and downs of Poe’s life as “hard” periods, “happy times”, or “very strange” events (Symons, 43). Which all of that can reflect back to Poe’s short stories. He now reveals the disturbing specifics of his crime, determined to defend his safety. His irrational fear of the cat’s “vulture eye,” the violent substance of his admission, and his self-destructive behavior undermines his effectiveness as a sound narrator.
The short stories, “The Black Cat” and “The Tell-Tale Heart” have a lot to do with each other. Both of them are the same kinds of scary twisted story as the twisted justice trademark of Edgar Allen Poe. The first person relates the two stories. This gives the reader some insight into what’s happening in the main character’s heads. It can be very useful if not necessary in stories with very twisted characters like Poe’s. The first person view has the reader interested in every moment of the life of the characters from an entertainment perspective. You even sometimes find yourself talking to the characters as a reader reading the story in the first person.
The opening for both is a main feature at the beginning of each of the stores. Both start with the main character offering up to date an overview of their lives. It offers the reader a brief description of where and what the story is about. Twisted is the conclusion of each of the stories. We both make the reader think they’re wondering, “What the heck just happened here.” Poe will surprise his two stories at the end. Between “The Black Cat” and “The Tell-Tale Heart”, both characters implicate themselves. To the fact they seek to teach the readers a lesson about our own consciousness, is Poe using this? Fear is the most effective of all of Poe’s techniques. Poe appears to be a master at it. He may write a whole novel, all based on fear. Fear is what makes the poetry of Poe memorable and classic.
With his extreme writing circumstances, Poe will always be remembered. Poe’s writing style was brand new up to this period. “Known for his black attire and self-destructive tendencies, Poe experienced difficulty during his first several attempts to publish his short stories” (Renfro, 5). Since America was still a growing country, there is no question why this major change in literature has led many people to fail to grasp it and therefore not as a genre except it. “With his nods to Gothicism and his macabre and even ‘unsavory’ subject matter, readers were so intrigued that Poe began to build many of his stories in an almost formulaic matter” (Renfro, 5). A formula that allowed him to establish manifestations of aberrant psychological tenderness and explore the problem of the reaction of man to the unknown. Poe’s “The Black Cat” and “The Tell-Tale Heart” brought so much attention to what was considered right and wrong, morals and ethics.
- Marshall, Megan. “The Tell-Tale Heart: The Life and Works of Edgar Allan Poe.” New Republic, vol. 179, no. 9/10, Aug. 1978, pp. 42–44. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=11102131&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
- Renfro, Alexis. “Metaphysics of Mania: Edgar Allan Poe ‘ s and Herman Melville’s Rebranding of Madness during the American Asylum Movement.” Metaphysics of Mania: Edgar Allan Poe ‘ s and Herman Melville’s Rebranding of Madness during the American Asylum Movement, 2017, pdfs.semanticscholar.org/3e4c/67c93595d22338bcf53e0f67521c60610f2b.pdf.
- Stark, Joseph. “Motive and Meaning: The Mystery of the Will in Poe’s ‘The Black Cat.’” Mississippi Quarterly, vol. 57, no. 2, Spring 2004, pp. 255–263. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=14856337&site=ehost-live&scope=site.