SILENCE, the fable : LUSENET : The Work of Edgar Allan Poe : One Thread

Hi. Can anyone help me please. I have a paper due on friday and it's about the fable Silence by Poe. But no matter how many times i read it,I don't get it. The character, the demon, the settings and so on.... What the hell is it about?????? Please help me!!!!!!!


-- Anonymous, February 07, 2001



The story "Silence - A Fable" was originally published under the title "Siope - A Fable" in the Baltimore Book, a Christmas and New Year's Present in Baltimore in 1837. It was reprinted in his "Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque" in 1840 with the same original title. The first appearance of this prose poem with the current title, "Silence - A Fable", was when it was printed in the Broadway Journal in September 1845.

"Silence" is a tale narrated by a Demon that tells the tale of testing a man who is alone in a desolate setting. The man sits on a rock amidst a tall primeval forest with undulating trees that "rock eternally,... with a crashing and mighty sound", dripping with "everlasting dews" upon the "strange poisonous flowers" that lie "writhing in perturbed slumber" at the roots of the trees. Nearby is a river of a yellowish and sickly color that does not flow but only pulsates in a heaving torment beneath the heat of a large red sun. Along the oozy banks of the river grow gigantic pale water- lilies that strain their "long and ghastly necks" to Heaven and sigh their torment to one another. It is in this stagnant, desolate and dreary setting that the man is tested by the Demon who secrets himself among the lilies to watch.

It is important here to understand the man. He was "tall and stately in form", he wore a toga of old Rome and he possessed the features of a deity. Hidden and watching, the Demon sees in the face of the man "sorrow and weariness" and a "disgust with mankind" but, most importantly, a yearning for solitude. The man sat upon the rock, alarmed at his corrupt and polluted surroundings, and as he trembled in his solitude, he was safe upon the rock as the world raged around him.

The Demon called to the hippos and the elephants (behemoths) and commands them to roar and bellow beneath the crimson moon at the foot of the rock to shake the man from his solitude. But the man remains and trembles in silence as he sat upon the rock.

The Demon then curses the elements and calls a terrible storm and as the clouds blackened and the winds roared and the forest fell crashing before the wind, and the rains came and flooded the river and the river was whipped into a frenzied foam, and the lilies cried out in their despair, and the Heavens became violent with the flashing glare of lightning and the thunder rolled and shook the rock, the man remained upon the rock and trembled in his solitude.

Furious, the Demon cursed and called silence upon the earth and the river calmed and was still and the forest stood without motion, and the moon hung still in the Heaven and the clouds in the air, and gone were the lightning and the thunder roll, and the lilies ceased their screams and their sighs, and no sound could be heard and stillness and silence held sovereignty over all. The Demon watched as the man turned in fear and strained to hear a sound. The man rose and stood in terror upon the rock and listened once again and, again stillness and silence pervaded the landscape. Overcome by the oppression of stillness, the silence, the hollowness and the emptiness of his solitude, he flees.

I think Poe's intent was to attempt to illustrate a common human fear. That is, to be alone, in solitude, within a world of motion, action, sound and imagery, even a polluted wasteland, is endurable. But to be alone and isolated in a world absent of sound and motion or activity, is terrible to contemplate. To be alive in a dead world is intolerable for there exists nothing to excite the mind nor stir the heart and soul.

Perhaps, this is not the best interpretation and I am sure there are others, but it best fits my sense of Poe.



-- Anonymous, February 08, 2001

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