The Sphinx : LUSENET : The Work of Edgar Allan Poe : One Thread

This story is just not sitting right with me. Maybe it is because I have only recently begun reading the excellent works of Poe. Is it jist of the story that the main character is depressed about receiving the daily death notices of his friends and acquaintances, and that these feelings are being manifested into illusions and mania, such as the tiny insect being misrepresented as a beast of giant proportions? Any help clearing this up would be greatly appreciated!

-- Anonymous, January 26, 2000


If you're going to enjoy reading Poe, you have to do at least one of two things: first, you have to understand what every word means; second, you have to be able to visualize.

When I say, "understand every word", I mean "understand every word". If there's a sentence that you don't understand, look up the words which form that sentence. And when you're looking up a word, don't just look at the definition, look at the etymology. Where did that word come from? If the definition includes a synonym, examine that synonym closely. Look it up, and ponder its etymology, too. Now, it's time to play. Re-write the sentence you don't understand, replacing the words Poe uses with the definitions of those words, or perhaps with words suggested to you by those definitions. Are you having fun, yet?

As I said before, a second practice which makes reading Poe more fun is to visualize. If you can't make pictures in your head, try drawing them on a piece of paper. After all, the man describes things quite vividly.

Of course, by engaging in this sort of gamesmanship, you run the risk of exploding into bursts of maniacal laughter, from time to time. For it stands to reason, does it not, that in order to understand a madman, you have to be at least somewhat mad, yourself?

Unfortunately, Poe is dead. He will never be able to validate or invalidate your interpretations. So all you are doing, by examining his works so closely, is looking into a mirror and describing what you see: a shadowed reflection of you. But take heart! Your ability to describe what you see will be worth 30% of your final grade.

-- Anonymous, February 03, 2000

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