Edgar Allen Poe: Writing Style


The short story writer which I have chosen to research is Edgar Allen
Poe. After reading one of his works in class, I realized that his mysterious
style of writing greatly appealed to me. Although many critics have different
views on Poe\'s writing style, I think that Harold Bloom summed it up best when
he said, "Poe has an uncanny talent for exposing our common nightmares and
hysteria lurking beneath our carefully structured lives. " ( 7) For me, this is
done through his use of setting and narrative style.

In many of Poe\'s works, setting is used to paint a dark and gloomy
picture in our minds. I think that this was done deliberatly by Poe so that the
reader can make a connection between darkness and death. For example, in the
"Pit and the Pendulum", the setting is originally pitch black. As the story
unfolds, we see how the setting begins to play an important role in how the
narrator discovers the many ways he may die. Although he must rely on his
senses alone to feel his surroundings, he knows that somewhere in this dark,
gloomy room, that death awaits him. Richard Wilbur tells us how fitting the
chamber in "The Pit and the Pendulum" actually was. "Though he lives on the
brink of the pit, on the very verge of the plunge into unconciousness, he is
still unable to disengage himself from the physical and temperal world. The
physical oppreses him in the shape of lurid graveyard visions; the temporal
oppreses him in the shape of an enormous and deadly pendulum. It is altogether
appropriate, then, that this chamber should be constricting and cruelly angular"
(63).

Setting is also an important characteristic is Poe\'s "The Fall of the
House of Usher". The images he gives us such as how both the Usher family and
the Usher mansion are crumbling from inside waiting to collapse, help us to
connect the background with the story. Vincent Buranelli says that "Poe is
able to sysatin an atomosphere which is dark and dull. This is one of the
tricks which he laregely derived from the tradition of the Gothic tale" (79).
The whole setting in the story provides us with a feeling of melancholy. The
Usher mansion appears vacant and barren. The same is true for the narrator. As
we picture in our minds the extreme decay and decomposistion, we can feelas
though the life around it is also crumbling.

Narration is also an element in Poe\'s short story style that appears to
link all of the stories together. He has a type of creativity which lets the
reader see into the mind of the narrator or the main character of the story.
Many of the characters in Poe\'s stories seem to be insane. The narrator often
seems to have some type of psychological problems. For exapmle, In Poe\'s "The
Cask of Amontillado, " the story opens with a first person narrator (Montresor)
speaking about the planning of Fortunato\'s death. By the anger and remorse that
Montresor has for Fortunato, one might think that this was a recent incident.
It is not until the very end of the story that we realize, that the entire event
occurred fifty years ago. David Herbert Lawrence says, "To the characters in
Poe\'s story, hate is as inordinate as live. The lust of hate is the inordinate
desire to consume and unspeakably possess the soul of the hated one, just as the
lust of live is the desire to possess or be possessed be the beloved, uterly. "
(33). Poe\'s stories often have narrators that feel extreme hate or extreme love
for another character in the story.

Another example of Poe\'s narrative style is seen in his story entitled,"
The Black Cat", where the narrator seems to have an obsession with pets. He has
one "special" pet which is a black cat. Although their original relationship
with each other is one of respect and love, the situation soon changes. The
narrator becomes somewhat possessed with the hate for the car. He turns against
his wife and stabs his cat in the eye. By the end of the story, he killed his
wife in an attempt to kill the cat. Afterwards, the narrator does not even feel
remorse for the wrongful death of his wife. Instead, he is just happy that the
cat dissapeared. This is just another instance in which the reader wonders what
is the driving force begins the narrator\'s insanity. Buranelli, "In both Poe\'s
"The Cask of Amontillado" and his "The Black Cat", the