What have you found interesting about the ways in which Poe makes his murderers tell their stories? How has the writing made you react to
the murderers and the deeds?
Edgar Allan Poe’s stories are of horror, fantasy, and murder, with the theme of death showed in most of his works. Poe takes the subject of death a step further than just the act and explores the techniques and psychology involved. Poe’s stories usually involves the main character getting rid a burden to them, usualy a person. Poe uses humour which is dark, sarcastic and very ironic. In the two stories i am analysing Poe works on the theme of a dark and dreary death. In addition, most of his stories involve an individual who is forever haunted by their actions. In “The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Cask Of Amontillado” we see this theme presented effectively.
“The Tell Tale Heart” is a story describing a case of violence that occurs because of the fear of a person or object. In this story that fear is shown as the “old man’s eye.” “The Cask Of Amontillado” is also a story describing similar feelings towards a person who has insulted and offended the narrator whom feels that revenge is a neccessity.
I have chosen these stories because they clearly represent the way in which the narrators of Poe’s stories tell their own accounts, as if they were out of Poe’s control. However we can tell as we move further into the story that the narrators perhaps reveal more to the narrators than actually intended. The narrators of the stories also use persuasive language in their accounts of the stories in an attempt to almost win over the reader into thinking what they have done is not actually sick and wrong but was the right thing to do.
Immediatly when we begin to read “The Tell Tale Heart” we get the impression that the narrator is not normal in the mind, that he is insane or mad. We get this because of him questioning himself whether he is sane in the head. ‘I am mad?” this affects the reader by them not being able to trust what the narrator says and how it may untruthful but we wll never know this because it is the narrator who is telling the story not Poe. This sense of insanity is also paired with a lack of control expressed in the first sentence of the story. “True! – nervous – very, very dreadfully nervous” the way the sentence is layed out, in short firm strikes, and its contents shows that the narrator has a lack of control and the reader immediatly senses the irrational fear that the narrator is feeling.
There is a contrast between this beginning and that in”The Cask Of Amontillado.” Compared to the lack of control and insanity expressed in the introduction to “The Tell Tale Heart” we see a calmness and perfect sane environment where the narrator is in perfect of control of the situation. “but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.” This relaxed way of recounting his story is the way that Montresor, the narrator, wants the story to be told and shows how it is the narrator who is telling the story not Poe. This quote also shows how Montresor is calculating and planning his murder in a perverse fashion. The reader reacts to this by almost being peruaded that what Montresor is doing is not wicked or corrupt. Montresor flatters and acts concerned about the health of Fortunato when really his only concern is killing him.
The reader reacts to this by seeing how cunning Montresor really is and how he takes advantage of Fortunados’ arrogance. Another example of this technique is when Montresor uses reverse psychology purposely to build suspense and to force Fortunado to come with him, “As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchresi”. As the narrator is telling his own story the reader knows what Montresor is doing, only Fortunado does not, he is “The Fool” and this is shown physically in the story as he is dressed as a jester for it is Carnavall time. The reader reacts to this as if Montresor had calculated even the day he would commit his crime thus showing this obsessive, perverse and calculating plan that Montresor has been concucting.
Probably the strongest theme in the story that is used is Irony. This is shown all throughout the story for example when Fortunato says “Enough, the cough is a mere nothing; it will not kill me. I shall not die of a cough.” The irony is that Fortunato is unknowingly stating exactly what Montressor intends to do. This is shown as another technique and clue given to the reader to show the fate of Fortunado and again shows Fortundo’s arrogance as everyone but him realises this.
While in the wine cellar, Montresor says to Fortunato, “Come, we will go back; your health is precious. You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as once I was.” Montresor is once again using reverse psychology so that Fortunado becomes more intent on moving on. The narrator uses this technique builds up suspense, the reader reacts to this by becoming more intent on knowing the ending and is persuasive to influence the reader to believe that what the narrator is doing is not wrong or corrupt. This is another interesting way which shows how effective it is to allow the narrator tell the story.
Referring back to “The Tell Tale Heart” we see a similar technique being used where the narrator builds up the suspense by using detailed, long-winded description and long calculated actions. “And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it –oh so gently!” I do not believe that the narrator’s long calculated planing was not out of intelligence like in “The Cask Of Amontillado,” but out of fear upon being discovered by his victim, “cautiously- oh so cautiously-cautiously”.. The narrator in “The Tell Tale Heart” seems to be doing everything in his power not to be discovered, where as in “The Cask Of Amontillado,” the narrator not only does not seem to do anything to conceal actions, he even leaves handy hints to the fate of his victim along the way.
We can see different actions presented by the narrator in the story before and after he commits the murder which the reader reacts differently to. Firstly we can see a perverse obsession with the murder that he wants it to be slow so that he can enjoy every inute of it. This can be also seen as psychopathic, with no remorse. “I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But, for many minutes,” the reader reacts to this psychopathic obsession by believing that the narrator is in fact mad even if he states again to us in the next paragraph that he is not, “If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer.” We can also see a certain arrogance towards how he conceals the body after he has commited the murder, “when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body.” This arrogance can be compared to that of Montresors’, for the narrator believes he has the “Perfect Plan.”
However this psychopathic view can be dismissed as we read on in the story. The narrator almost shows off to us to be more confident, like Montresor, than he actually is for at the end of the story we see his real feelings when his “Perfect Plan” is put to the test by the officers. Real sign of remorse are shown to the reader as the narrator’s plan seeems to go horribly wrong for him. “No doubt I now grew very pale,” the reader reacts to this by almost feeling sorry for the narrator for we have been persuaded that what he is doing is the right thing and so do not wish him to fail. The reader can also see that the narrator is not psychopathic at all, for he has shown remorse and guilt for what he has done.
Now if we refer back to “The Cask Of Amontillado,” surprisingly we can see a similarity in the endings. There are signs of remorse and guilt again after he has commited the deed and thus we cn say that te narrator was not psychopathic, “My heart
grew sick.” The reader reacts to this similarly as in the previous story for the persuasive language throughout has has put us on the narrators side. Montressor shows feelings of remorse for murdering a friend of his, as he is a proud man and throughout the story has shown no remorse or guilt he blames this feeling in his heart on the environment, “dampness of the catacombs,” and the reader reacts to this by feeling pityful for Montresor.
In conclusion to the analysis of these stories I can dra is that by Poe allowing the narrators to tell their own stories we find it interesting how we know what is going to happen for t is as if the narrator is talking to us throughout the story, sharing with us their emotions and thoughts. Each of Edgar Allen Poe’s stories are presented to us as if they were confessions to the reader for by the end of the stories we can see the remorse and guilt they feel. The techniques the narrators use to hide their emotions and show that they are in total control include irony, persuasive language, arrogance, reverse psychology and many other. These techniques help the reader to see how the narrator’s obsessive, psychopathic and perverse attitudes. As the narrators are telling the stories and not Poe they occasionally go off the subject and reveal more to us then they maybe anticipated and thus we feel sorry for them at the end, because we get to know the narrator more.