Poe’s family life was not one to be desired by others. He also had a strange personality, which caused him to write even stranger stories. One of these stories won him an award, and even further recognition. Although only one of his works received official recognition, his works will always stay in the minds of those who read them. Before Poe was born, his father left him and his mother. His mother died when he was still a small child. After he went into an orphanage for a short time, he was taken in by John Allan and his wife Frances. John and Frances never officially adopted him, and later Poe and John became very estranged.
He was married twice, but both of his wives died. These events did not help his state of mind and appear as themes in his stories such as death and loneliness. Edgar Allan Poe is an extremely controversial poet. Although he does not receive an extreme amount of favorable criticism, his works speak for themselves. A look into some of his stories will show what the critics think and help you decide your own opinion (“Edgar Allan Poe”). “The Tell-Tale Heart” is one of Poe’s stories that focuses on a murder as the plot. The murderer is also the narrator of the story.
The story also give us a little more detail about Poe’s mind, as the narrator explains his motives and what he believes is a good reason to kill the old man in the story. It is also believed to be a “doppelganger,” or someone who is like a twin of the character. At the end of the story the narrator is overcome by guilt and confesses to the murder. The first and most prominent aspect of this story is the narration (Zimmerman). The narrator believes that it is immoral to kill at the beginning of the story, but throughout the story the opinion slowly changes to the opposite.
The narrator comes into contact with an old man, who never does anything to cause harm to the narrator, but has a disfigured eye. This eye causes the narrator to become uncomfortable because he claims to know that the old man is troubled. The narrator now has an inner conflict, which is whether to kill the old man or not (Chua). His motive is that he understands how badly the old man is feeling and wants to put him out of his misery. This story includes a doppelganger, which is an antagonist towards the protagonist, but has the characteristics of an evil twin (Zimmerman).
The old man could be classified as a doppelganger because the narrator claims to know that the old man is having the same feelings the narrator had. On first reading the story, the reader may think that “The Tell-Tale Heart” is a confession (Chua). The assumption may come about by the fact that the narrator is going into much detail about the crime and the events leading up to it. After the narrator commits the murder, he is visited by police officers saying that they are responding to a scream they had heard. The narrator talks with them, while hearing a growing noise that mimics a heart beat.
The sound eventually drives the narrator mad and causes him to scream and confess to the murder (Zimmerman). Poe is also famous for “The Fall of the House of Usher,” one of his most famous short stories. The story has a constant theme of gloom, and an apocalyptic atmosphere. The story begins with the narrator receiving a letter from his old childhood friend, Roderick Usher, who is one of the last in the Usher family, to visit him. The narrator accepts the invitation and goes to the House of Usher. When he arrives, he is now awed at the horrible mental and physical state Roderick is in.
The gloom of the story first appears when the narrator arrives at the House of Usher. The house is in a horrible state and lies in swamp. The gloom reoccurs inside the house, as Roderick and the narrator participate in seemingly lonely games and activities. Finally, the gloom of the story is solidified at the funeral of Roderick’s sister (“Overview “Fall of Usher”). The first main aspect of the apocalyptic atmosphere is when the narrator arrives at the house and the house’s location in a swamp. The narrator observes that Roderick is in a deprived state of mind and morality, like the world will be at the end of time.
Roderick also buries his sister, Madeline, prematurely. The final and most notable part of the story is when Madeline is revealed to still be alive and seems to rise from the dead, as the dead in Christ will also rise. A fire then comes, killing Roderick and his sister, and then engulfs the whole house, just like God will bring judgement by fire upon the whole earth. The story abruptly ends when Madeline attacks Roderick while the narrator escapes moments before the dilapidated house collapses. The ending of this story seems to leave the reader expecting more, since the whole story has been building up suspense for this one scene.
However, there is no more to the story. Poe may have chosen to end this story with death because life ends with death as well. There may have been more planned in a life, but once is ends, it ends forever (Cook). “The Masque of the Red Death” is a short story that has a high amount of symbolism. The symbolism ranges from the characters and their location, to the colors of the rooms, and the time the events take place. The first example of symbolism is the characters. The protagonist of the story is Prince Prospero. By taking a closer look at his name, the word, “Prosper,” or, “Prosperity,” seems to be at the root of his name.
This, of course, shows that he and his kingdom have good health and prosperity. The antagonist in this story is not a person but a disease known as the Red Death. It receives its ominous name because if a person contracts the disease they bleed from the eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. In order to save his kingdom, Prince Prospero takes his close friends and locks themselves in a castle, hoping to keep out the Red Death (“Masque Red Death”). The most prominent subject of symbolism in this story are the colors of the rooms. The colors are blue, purple, green, orange, white, violet, and black with scarlet.
Each room has its own color. There are many speculations as to what the colors mean, but speculation is that they stand for the seven stages of life, according to Eric H. du Plessis. Blue stands for birth and is the first room in the castle. The next room is purple, which stands for the infant to adolescence stages of life. Third, green represents growth and maturity from adolescence to an adult. Orange symbolizes the prime ages of adult life. White is the entering into old age coupled with violet, which stands for the final stages of life. The final, and most notable room is black with scarlet.
This final room represents the final stopping place for life, which is death. This room also has an enormous ebony clock that tolls out every hour and silences the crowd by making them aware of the passing time (du Plessis). The guests make their way around to all the rooms, but few enter the last room. Prince Prospero, in order to cheer up his guests, calls for a masquerade. The masquerade proves to be a disaster for everyone in the castle. All of the guests wear their homemade masks and all gather around in the rooms, will avoiding the last room.
During the party the ebony clock in the seventh room begins to toll, and while it tolls, the guests stop and stand perfectly still, while uneasiness flows over all the castle. While the periodic tolling of the clock continues, a rumor begins to spread of a guest who has dressed himself as someone who has the Red Death (“Explanation of Red Death”). The guest travels through all of the rooms from the room of black with scarlet to the blue room, where Prince Prospero resides. When the Prince sees the figure, he is angry and commands his guards to seize the guest. They are too scared to try.
The Prince then tries to capture the guest by himself but falls over dead, and so do the guests around Prospero. Prince Prospero and his guests died from the Red Death (“Masque of Red Death”). As the story ends, the reader may understand the events of the story, but not the symbols. The guest who wears the mask that represents the Red Death represents death itself. Near the end of the story, “Death” walked through all of the rooms, which represent the stages of life. This is symbolic of the fact that death can come to us at any time in out life, not just at the end.
The final major fact of the story that is symbolized is that we cannot escape death no matter how wealthy or isolated we are. Death will come to all (du Plessis). Finally, we come to the most famous and influential poem Poe wrote, “The Raven”. “The Raven” was published on January 29, 1845, in the New York Evening Mirror. “The Raven” is a story that has controversial symbolism. The main symbol being the raven and what it represents. A seemingly minor character, Lenore, which is the narrator’s wife, also has a large amount of symbolism. The poem gives one last look into the deep, tormented mind of Edgar Allen Poe and his fears (Peeples).
The antagonist in the story is a raven, the raven flies into the scene with the unnamed narrator, and proceeds to humor him at first, then later to frighten him and finally to torture him. The raven will only quote one word, “Nevermore. ” The narrator, however, asks the raven questions in fits of rage and hysterics but the word, “Nevermore” is a fitting answer for every question. The final encounter between the two characters are no different that the rest, except one thing, the final verse is written in a tone that insinuates it has been written later than the others and solidifies the symbolism of the raven as death (Poe).
This story in particular gives a deeper understanding as to what goes on inside Poe’s mind. Poe and the narrator are both grief stricken because they have lost their wives. As he describes the setting, it is extremely bleak and cold (Peeples). There is, however, a fire, but it is not being stirred and is dying. This fire could represent Lenore. Since Lenore has died, the fire too is dying. As the narrator sits in his room, in almost a vegetative state, he is suddenly aware of the thing that haunts him most, death.
The raven symbolizes death and how death looms over every person in the world (Poe). “The Raven” is believed to be the most famous and influential story Poe wrote. The main reason “The Raven” is most associated with Edgar Allan Poe is because it illustrates the main theme of Poe’s life, death. Edgar Allan Poe is a very controversial author. However, it is up to every reader to decide whether Poe is brilliant or mad. If a reader does dare to venture into the voids of Poe’s works, then he or she will be haunted forever (Peeples).