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Edgar Allan Poe - Essay Example

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Though both the stories "The Fall of the House of Usher" and "The Telltale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe are told using first person narratives and possess similarities that have to do with the mystery and suspense of the action, differences still abound with regard to tone, language, and the thematic issues of the story…
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Edgar Allan Poe Essay
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Download file to see previous pages Yet, though the narrative structures are dissimilar and combine with the language to produce distinct atmospheres in the two tales, the settings created by the author demonstrate remarkable similarities of effect.
The tale of the House of Usher is told by a narrator who discovers much of the story's substance as the tale unfolds. Nevertheless, he is considered sufficiently trustworthy, as his thoughts are coherent and he feels the mystery of the situation as much as the reader comes to feel it in the earliest moments of the story. The fact that he is so affected by the simple yet strange things in this setting startles him as it intrigues the reader. He considers this fact "unsatisfactory," and that places him in the realms of sanity and garners the trust of the reader. The narrator of "The Tell-tale Heart," from the very beginning, startles the reader with a very abrupt and spastic attitude that gains the immediate mistrust of the reader. The very form of the text is broken by dashes, as the narrator introduces the possibility of his madness in the very first sentence. He goes on to mention "the disease," which further confirms his untrustworthiness. The result of this is that, while the reader unites his interests with the narrator of "The Fall of the House of Usher," the same reader is inclined to feel no sympathy for the narrator of "The Tell-tale Heart." The tension of the suspense is increased in the former tale and decreased in the latter because of the difference in sympathy levels for the two narrators.
A mysterious atmosphere exists in both the tales, though the nature of the mystery and reasons for suspense differ. The language and setting used to create these atmospheres are largely responsible for the existence of these differences. On the one hand, "The Tell-tale Heart" is granted a certain psychological mystery as the uncertainty lies in what actions might proceed from the mind (and body) of the narrator. In contrast with this, the mystery of the House of Usher occurs outside the narrator and any dangers present are almost as likely to happen to him as anyone else. The psychological constitution of the narrator of the Tell-tale heart is revealed through the author's use of the language, as he gives the impression of the narrator's picking motives out of thin air. In fact, he at first declares that there was no object for "the idea" that entered his brain, but soon lights upon the old man's eye and declares unconvincingly, "I think it was his eye! yes, it was this!" (121). These inconsistencies create a kind of concentrated fear in the mind of the reader. It differs from the diffuse fear found in the tale of the house of Usher, as this fear comes from not knowing where danger lies.
This fear is reflected in the narrative language used by the author. Apart from the story's beginning in the middle of a solitary wooded area, lacking in all light and sound, the description of the House of Usher itself demonstrates the use of language to create a gothic and eerie atmosphere in which all evil seems possible. It was "an atmosphere which had no affinity with the air of heaven, but which had reeked up from the decayed trees, and the gray wall, and the silent tarn, in the form of an inelastic vapor or gas - dull, sluggish, faintly discernible, and leadenhued" (179). The descriptions call forth images of cold death, with the dreary possibility of spirits lurking within the vaporous substance that suffuses the air ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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