I have to write a paper and I'm confused, please help!

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I have to write a term paper on three of Poe's short stories. It's supposed to be a critical analysis. I can choose any stories I want, and I'm pretty sure I want to do "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Black Cat," and either "The Cask of Amontillado" or "The Fall of the House of Usher." I'm not exactly sure what to do from here. Does anyone have any suggestions about what I could focus on in my paper and how I could tie three of these stories together in my paper? Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks, Tia

-- Anonymous, April 19, 2001



I also am writing a paper on Edgar Allan Poe right now. Our English Teacher had us pick one story, so i picked The Black Cat. We are having to analyze the story, if this is what you are having to do also go for the symbolisms in the story. How he looses everyone he loves some way or another. Do you understand what i am saying? Just compare him loosing his loves and some of the other simliarties in the stories. Sincerely, Courtney P.S. I know how you are confused right now cause i was feeling it to until i went and talked to my teacher.

-- Anonymous, April 19, 2001

Tia, ` Here are some suggestions:

1. Poe's use of an unreliable narrator. Often his first-person narrators are insane, despite how hard they try to convince us otherwise! All the stories you mention clearly have unreliable narrators with perhaps the exception of "Usher," although an argument can be made there, too. What is an "unreliable narrator"? How can you tell? What evidence? Why would a writer do this? What is gained? To whom is the narrator addressing his story? What is the occasion?

2. Poe's use of Gothic horror elements--what are they, to what effect, specific examples in each story, especially "Usher"

3. In a famous review of Hawthorne's story collection _Twice-told Tales_, Poe praised Hawthorne and defined the requirements of a good short story: (a) short enough to be read at one sitting; (b) a single effect, created in the first sentence and maintained throughout, with no unnecessary words or digressions. Now, to what extent does Poe follow his own advice in the stories you have listed? Examples? Support? Your overall conclusion?

4. The theme of revenge--clearly evident in all works you mention, except for "Usher," although a motive there could be interpreted, too, if we believe Roderick to have had some demented idea of revenge in his mind for prematurely interring Madeleine. In each case, who/what is the person/object of revenge? By whom? Why? What is the result? What is the effect on the revenger? Does the revenger get away with it? To whom is the revenger telling his tale? Why? (Note how in the beginning of "Amontillado" Montresor the narrator points out that for revenge should be carried out in a way that the person who get revenged does not get caught. Also, it's important that the revenger make his identity known to the person against whom he seeks his revenge. Why is this theme often used? Does it appeal to readers? Why?

5. Death and dying--in each story at least one person dies. Why do such stories have great appeal? Are we preoccupied with death and dying? Why? What from Poe's life, if anything, might have influenced him to write such stories? How is the death in each case ironic? Is Poe trying to entertain us? Disgust us? Frighten us? Make us laugh? Make us cry? All of the above? Why? What examples for support?

6. Two of the stories you mention do not contain a female character; in the two that do, in each case the woman is killed, a wife and a sister. What conclusions, if any, can you draw from this with regard to how Poe depicts or ignores women in his stories, if these four are representative of all his tale? Is Poe trying to tell us that women drive men crazy one way or the other? Is that why men kill them? Does this view have any connection to present-day relationships between men and women? Could a female writer have written Poe's stories? Why or why not?

-- Anonymous, April 21, 2001

I`m sorry for you. Maybe it helps you to feel better if I tell you that I also have to write a monstrous paper on "The Black Cat" until 26 April. And I also get confused about that damned fuckin`critics on his works. So, nevermind- there are more important things than a good mark. That`s what I think- or suppose. Good luck!-Bye.

-- Anonymous, April 23, 2001

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