Comparison of Poe and Hitchcock : LUSENET : The Work of Edgar Allan Poe : One Thread

How can Poe be compared and contrasted to Hitchcock and what are some of the ways Hitchcock was influenced by Poe in his style.

-- Anonymous, January 10, 2001


Poe can be compared and contrasted to Hitchcock because of the type of material that Hitchcock wrote/did. Their writings are so similar and the basic style of writing is uncanny. Hitchcock basically considered Poe to be one of the, if not the greatest writers of all time. That's how he was influenced.

-- Anonymous, January 11, 2001


Actually, beyond a few anthologies put together by Hitchcock or by those writers that he may have endorsed, Alfred Hitchcock did not write anything. At least in the artistic literary sense. He once said something to the effect that writing is what screenwriters get compensated for and that he was a Director of films. I would not argue his unique brilliance and talent for Hitchcock was certainly one of a kind and America is the richer for it. Additionally, I would not question that Hitchcock was, in some measure, influenced by the works of Edgar Allan Poe although I have yet to find any reference to Poe's specific influence by Hitchcock himself. I would not deny some associative similarities but, generally, I think they are imaginary. For anyone familiar with Poe's short stories, Norman's house at the peak of the steps in the movie "Psycho" cannot help but provoke images reminiscent of Poe's narrative tales.

But as a practical matter, any profound parallels perceived between Poe and Hitchcock are, I think, predominately coincidental. Each may be considered equal masters of suspense but the comparisons begin to decompose rapidly when it is recognized that the method of their genius shared few parallels. Poe's instrument of art was literature while Hitchcock's artistic canvas was cinema and with each method having their own unique simplicities and difficulties. Hitchcock's medium was visual and aural while Poe had the freedom to paint his textual images in the unlimited imagination of his readers. Had each been given the opportunity, I dare say that Hitchcock would have rejected writing in favor of cinema and Poe may have declined cinema altogether. Possessed of a wonderful sense of humor, Hitchcock once said, "This paperback is very interesting, but I find it will never replace a hardcover book.... it makes a very poor doorstop."

There is one striking similarity between these two men that is of special interest and demonstrates a shared philosophy for their respective art. Hitchcock, himself, made specific reference to it in a comment he made regarding suspense in general. He said, "There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it." By this he simply meant that the sensation of fear is most effectively provoked only prior to an act of violence and through the anticipation, the dreaded expectation, of the act itself.

Edgar Poe understood this simple concept rather well, at least in the broader sense, and became a master at manipulating the readers sensations up to the point of climax. Poe dealt with this human peculiarity in tales such as "The Tell Tale Heart", "The Premature Burial" and "The Cask of Amontillado" through various themes but it wasn't death that provoked the fear, it was the terror of the violence. Isn't it really the instrument of death we fear, the anticipation of suffering, the sheer terror of the transition from living to not living... for eternity? I think so. : )


-- Anonymous, January 12, 2001

I might add to Tis's excellent observations (Particularly the remarks about the anticipation of violence outweighing, and in effect becoming, the violence through our imaginations. I'm expanding here and don't mean to step on his toes if he meant something else entirely, but rarely does an act of violence carry with it the terror of our expectations.) my own belief that Poe and Hitchcock had in common some difficulties in relating to women. This has nothing to do with Poe's influence on Hitchcock's narrative style, per se, and therefore may be useless to you, but it does point to certain similarities in personality.

Interestingly, I think Poe's difficulties in relating to women have been exagerated, while Hitchcock's have been downplayed. I can't presume to know how Poe felt about women, but there are obvious inferences to be drawn from his choices and I think it probable that he kept his sexual preferences (generally he was attracted to younger, intellectually simpler women) and his preferences as regards female companionship (it seems likely that on some level, he needed to be cared for and mothered and sought out older, more matronly types) separate. He was a romantic and his themes espousing true and endless love have been given a lurid spin by the sometimes less literate and certainly more cynical readership of today (even here at this message board, where questions about Poe sleeping with dead women abound).

Hitchcock's views on women went in almost the opposite direction. It may be that, since he was more open about his attitudes and gave so many interviews during his lifetime, speculation about his problems isn't as much fun to indulge as it is with Poe's problems. At any rate, Hitchcock had a great deal of trouble relating to women as people. His attraction to unapproachable, icy blondes (whom he used as leading ladies) was widely known, as was his disdain for them. He used them as tools for his movie making (mannequins, really), probably admired them from afar and treated them, generally, very poorly.

Poe, of course, treated women very well and himself poorly.

But that's my opinion. You might watch the movie, The Lodger, for similarities to Poe in terms of narrative suspense.

-- Anonymous, January 12, 2001

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