Poe's fixation with eyes

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I was just wondering everyone's opinions on Poe's fixation on eyes in his writing. He uses eyes to describe, and often makes them a central issue. I would like to know your ideas about the symbolism or why he does this. Thanks. Mandy

-- Anonymous, September 15, 2000



Generally speaking, it would be difficult to argue a case that opposed the view that our dear Edgar was possessed of a particular fascination for eyes. Nor would I attempt such an argument. Especially after reading a tale such as Ligeia or The Tell-Tale Heart. These two tales are fabulous examples of Poes use of eyes to illustrate and depict the nature of the subject character and to convey to the reader just what the narrator sees or imagines he sees. However, I would (but very respectfully) attempt to reason that the term fixation is not really applicable in this context for the word infers a singular obsession or an unhealthy preoccupation and we know dont we all that Edgar was possessed of several passions.

In Ligeia, her beautiful dark eyes captured him, heart and soul, and in addition to being windows to her soul, they were also seen by the narrator as windows into her remarkable and awesome intellect. You will notice in Ligeia that Poe devotes an entire paragraph to a detailed description of Ligeias eyes alone. Yet, in an opposite vein, the description of the old mans vulture eye in The Tell-Tale Heart leaves us chilled, much different than we feel in Ligeia. Here, the vulture eye becomes the root cause of his determination to kill the old man that had shown him only kindness and rid himself of the evil eye forever.

To some measure, I believe he used this human feature to convey to the reader, the characters or even the narrators depth of passion. That is to say depth of love or intellect or beauty or fear or hatred or despair or what ever other passion you can possibly imagine. It is the eyes that most easily suggests depth. Arthur Hobson Quinn, author of Edgar Allan Poe  A Critical Biography refers to the eyes as the queen of all the human features and the one most instantly recognized and understood by the reader.

I tend to agree with him. What is your opinion, Mandy?

Warm Regards,

-- Anonymous, September 15, 2000

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