irony in Poegreenspun.com : LUSENET : The Work of Edgar Allan Poe : One Thread
I desperately need information aboutirony in narration of "Ligeia" and "The Fall of The House of Usher"
-- Anonymous, April 26, 2002
Yow, you had to pick two of the most serious works. That would prove however how pervasive Poe's irony might be though. Outside references aside let's see. Ligeia is the stranger of the two, the most suggestive. In fact the chief irony may be that the tale by the "weak" narrator is not about a real person at all but a projection by a less than sane narrator. His feeble memory makes Ligeia an idealized obsession, but not a person, nor a woman with family and history. Isnstead she seems dran timelessly from classical c=sources, existing Muse-like by his side until they drift into a sort of isolated marriage in that decaying city by the Rhine. Something weak and unhealthy all right. Save for the will of the obsession the narrator barely exists and cannot sustain himself as Ligeia and his strange happiness fade. Like a self-created vampire or goddess deriving real strength from him she rebels against death(caused perhaps by HIS weakness)for in his mind she is the source of knowledge, life and perfection. Ligeia wasted away and lost, he first turns to another gloomy mansion in England replete with the accoutrements of Druid magic, a sign that once again he wishes to conjure this vivid specter who was statue-like, raven-haired, an echo from "The Raven" and "To Helen" in all the imagery of her, a Pallas Athena of wisdom and knowledge beyond mortal, goddess of night, eyes like an owl, raven black and profound with undying will. Then he regresses to his youth in another house, yet still more wild with the symbols of death borrowed from all his descriptions of his Rhine relationship with Ligeia. Their "transcendental" relationship then prefigures the ebon Indian couch overhiung with the shroud-like canopy. The window light and curtains recall the fading light exactly of the the time of Ligeia's slow dying. Irony in that he does not admit to what he is doing, even though he despises his victim bride as he arranges the altar of sacrifice- of Ligeia's return. Is it Ligeia's will, her shadow of remembrance on the tufted floor beneath the censor? Or, as too in The Raven, is it the narrator's fitful incantations and dreams that recreate his vision? And so startling is the terrible conclusion(even if only in the vague mind of the narrator) that we might forget the narrator is relaying this tale as if Ligeia is dead, his memory unreliable, but her existence more important than his own inverted vampirism of himself by his Muse. IF Poe meant it that way at all, but this story predates The Raven" and that bird was no more an unarguable supernatural phenomenon than the narrator's belief in his undying "first bride". The symbolc unreal first marriage parallels Poe's own artistic copings with his first love losses(no marriage, no real death)and an ethereal, unfleshly passion. So much for Ligeia.
Usher is fairly straightforward according to the theory of the inanimate in strong connection with the living, in this case the decay of the grounds, house, family, person and mind of Usher that ironically collapse when Usher manages to prepare himself very well for scaring himself to death at the actual moment his sister dies. A strong conjunction of inevitable doom that Usher seems to participate in as orchestrator not a distracted rebel he and the narrator try to pretend to be. The man/woman fate relationship is disturbingly like the fearful intimacy of Ligeia, the symphony of image horror and decay.
The unintentional irony may lie in how Virginia's(his wife) dismal fate will later become all too prophetically similar to these tales, blending the past melancholic themes of ideals and loves lost with a more physically complete tragedy in his near future.
Does that help? Forgive the typos.
-- Anonymous, April 26, 2002