How does the first person narrator intensifies the effect of terror in Poe's works? : LUSENET : The Work of Edgar Allan Poe : One Thread

Poe frequently uses the first-person narrator in his gothic tales. Then how does this narroator helps him to achieve the effect of terror, especially in The Black Cat, The Cask of Amontillado and The Fall of the House of Usher? I'm a senior and is busy finishing my essay on Poe. Could you please give me some hints? Thanks a lot!!

-- Anonymous, June 12, 2001


Many articles have been written about this. I think The Philosophy of Composition and others of Poe's own essays( shed some light on the subject. The "I" narration helps to intensify the chief value of a story or poem for Poe- the emotion. What better way to perfectly hit the first prong of the tuning fork(the second being the reader)than to get inside and live the experience directly? The minds are usually torn by a crescendo of shocks, crises and increasing terror, bordering on madness and the supernatural, sometimes plunging over. The interior monologue, debate, conflict is its own cast and drama tossed around in a descending spiral by the onslaught of antagonizing events. He almost does not need other characters or dialogue. The mind is self-contained even in its disintegration. There is great variety in this kind of narration, depending on the sanity of the hero and degree of participation in events. In Usher, the narrator is an outside observer, drawn almost fatally into another's downfall.

Poe ever wants to play fair, to convince the reader the tale is an actual report.(Ms. Found in a Bottle- where the narrator dies after his last scribble)The plot must resolve too. This is the weakest part- the reentry into the conventional world. The narrator's persona, revealing itself more troubled or evil or insane gradually disturbs the reader more than the grim story. There is a natural pull of identification in first person that creates resonance or dissonance in the reader, at extreme levels of emotion or moral strangeness.

Listening to the mind(and here is where many imitators differ)of Poe's narrator's one is struck by the profound level of thought and feeling, of analysis and erudition, the step-by-step internal debate, yet still missing much of what the reader sees(the origin of Poe's detective creations). The reader is allowed to fill in the blanks while still being overwhelmed by the intricate gyrations of the narrator's excited mind. Hence more participation, anticipation and counterpoint to the narrator who is more or less afraid than he should be according to our judgment.

Different stories experiement with different types( the violent drunk obsessing toward violence in The Black Cat, the observant, but steady friend of the family in Usher, the cold and crazy murderer in the Cask of Amontillado,etc.). The list goes on and most are different, yet share one further trait. Just as the reader is not real to the story, neither quite is the narrator. We only have a mind, sans description or history, looking out upon abewilderinmg, oppressing darkness that he strugles to cope with as the mind within also struggles to keep control. The story is a bare skeleton compared to the internal development of the narrator's mind itself.

-- Anonymous, June 13, 2001

I also am currently doing a report on Poe, and in my personal opinion, the first person perspective really helped to see into the mind of whoever it was that was narrarating. It allowed you to be the person in the story, and see the other characters develope through his perspective. Like in the Cask of Amontillado, we jump into the mind of a vengeful murderer, which (hopefully)is a terrifying place to be for many of us. I dont know if that helped at all, but I figured id contribute what I put in my essay.

-- Anonymous, October 07, 2003

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