The natural is what can be sensed on this Earth, but what do we consider the things that go bump in the night? The door that creaks when nobody is there, the footsteps you hear to turn around and find nobody behind you, the voices you hear, and more are all experiences that are considered supernatural. These encounters are widely unaccepted because it goes against our idea of reality. The reality of the supernatural is hidden to the human eye because of the lack of acceptance of others’ dark emotions. Poe uses the supernatural in order to project his inner thoughts while using his own life experiences as inspiration.
Edgar Allan Poe is considered to be one of the most famous gothic writers, which begins leaving people with questions, such as where his creativity stems from. Poe’s life was extremely depressing, which helped inspire his creepy and unique style of writing, leading to his fame. One example of a similarity between Poe’s life and his literature is in “The Masquerade of the Red Death.” In this story, a common man is being haunted by a deadly infestation called the red death. The symptoms of the disease were excruciating pain, dizziness, and blood seeping from pores. The disease is very similar to tuberculosis, which was a very important disease in Poe’s life considering this mother and wife died from the disease. Another motivation towards his creative style is alcohol. Poe’s depression and madness lead him towards heavy drinking. In the story “The Black Cat”, the narrator attacks and injures his cat because he is under the influence of alcohol, which is supported by the quotation, “One night, returning home, much intoxicated, from one of my haunts about town, I fancied that the cat avoided my presence. I seized him… The fury of a demon instantly possessed me. I knew myself no longer… I took from my waistcoat-pocket a pen-knife, opened it, grasped the poor beast by the throat, and deliberately cut one of its eyes from the socket!” (Poe 5). The quotation shows how his drunkenness causes destruction towards the things he loves. It is apparent in many of his stories and poems that his past traumas had a huge impact on his strange, gothic writing style.
Similarly, Poe uses his psychological traumas and disorders in order to convey the supernatural themes and characters in many of his stories. From the beginning, “The Fall of the House of Usher” is given a supernatural and unusual atmosphere. The mansion is referred to as melancholy, which could be interpreted as the house being in a state of depression, as seen in the quotation “With the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I say insufferable; for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because poetic, sentiment with which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible.” (Poe 1). The quotation describes how the narrator was feeling when first encountering the house, which was hopelessness and doom. Poe also incorporates mental illness in the story when describing Roderick, the owner who became one with the house. He reads a poem called “The Haunted Palace”, which describes his madness and instability. A stanza from the poem “And travellers now within that valley, Through the red-litten windows see Vast forms that move fantastically To a discordant melody; While, like a rapid ghastly river, Through the pale door, A hideous throng rush out forever, And laugh—but smile no more.” (Poe 15) is used to describe the isolation and emotional distress that Roderick feels after losing his twin sister. In the end, the reader acknowledges that Roderick was linked with the house and can conclude that Roderick’s depression and isolation caused the house and himself to be torn down. The supernatural drove him to madness, leading to his downfall.
Poe uses natural beings to portray unnatural feelings in “The Black Cat”. The black cat that lives with the narrator is seen as supernatural, causing the fear from the wife. Supported by the quotation, “…my wife, who at heart was not a little tinctured with superstition, made frequent allusion to the ancient popular notion, which regarded all black cats as witches in disguise.” (Poe 4), relates to the wife’s fear that the cat was involved in witchcraft and was also disguised as something it really wasn’t. The cat’s name was Pluto, which is known to Greek mythology as the king of the underworld. The name of the cat is used to promote the theme of death in the story. The theme of supernatural is consistent throughout this story, even supernaturalness being supported by the title, since there are many superstitions involving witchcraft and black cats. In the story, the narrator kills his cat by hanging it in a tree and cutting his left eye out. After murdering his beloved cat, the narrator was followed with nothing but bad luck, such as his house burning down. While going through what was left of his house, another black cat appears and the narrator hears the cries from the cat, claiming they came from its grave. The quotation “But may God shield and deliver me from the fangs of the Arch-Fiend! No sooner had the reverberation of my blows sunk into silence, than I was answered by a voice from within the tomb!—by a cry, at first muffled and broken, like the sobbing of a child, and then quickly swelling into one long, loud, and continuous scream, utterly anomalous and inhuman—a howl—a wailing shriek, half of horror and half of triumph, such as might have arisen only out of hell, conjointly from the throats of the dammed in their agony and of the demons that exult in the damnation.” (Poe 14), describes how hearing the cat’s cries drove the narrator insane and also convinced him that the cat was a demon. In reality, the black cat symbolizes the narrator’s soul, which is slowly being deteriorated by his abuse of alcohol.
In conclusion, Poe uses the ideas of the supernatural to reflect his internal thoughts and feelings to the world. Many things that are not considered natural on the Earth are used as main characters in Poe’s writings, and are also symbols of his insanity. The past traumas of his life are considered to be the inspiration behind his famous works. According to “The Supernatural Psychology of Edgar Allan Poe.” Poe used the supernatural in order to portray many psychological diseases, such as social anxiety and madness. For example, the diseases of depression and madness are portrayed in “The Fall of the House of Usher” by using a possessed house as the main aspect. The house is used to symbolize the narrator’s inner feelings and thoughts, which is proved when the house crashes as Roderick dies. Similarly, Poe uses the superstition of black cats to portray the theme of death. Witchcraft is also a major characteristic that conveys the message of the supernatural in “The Black Cat”. Lastly, Poe uses his psychological disorders to convey his dark thoughts and strike fear through the reader.