Unreliable first person narrator

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How does Poe reveal to the reader what the unreliable narrators themselves are not aware of? Focusing in on "The Tell-Tale Heart", "The cask of Amontillado", and "The Fall of the House of Usher". any help would be much appreciated Thank You, Linda

-- Anonymous, May 04, 2002


This invovles the author and the reader in the game of being more insightful than the endangered characters. The madman mistakes his own heart and perceptions for threats and supernatural happenings. The clues are obvious to everyone but him simply because he is mad. Not hard to find. Amontillado is more indirect because the clever, "cold" killer is not that crazy. Yet what he keeps telling us, how cool clever, justified and without conscience he is is belied by his own recount. He is motivated by a real rage he downplays. His haughty, suave self-justification is a bit too assuring. His discomfort with the cramped, damp cellars belies his own guilt, sweaty terror and second thoughts. Or else why his frantic singing to drown out Fortunato's cries? The end seems the barren wasteland of a soul buried along with a victim who is not at all unforgotten.

The Usher narrator is an observer. The narration by Usher himself is a self-fulfilling defeatism yet fearful rebellion that alternates between escapist artistry and scaring himself to death- one and the same thing as it finally brings all together. So what is the observer doing all this time besides being a dark romantic sycophant? He seems to be as willing as Usher to just let things happen, ironically his mind less oriiginal or powerful than his friend's. He lets the terrible revelations and denouement wash over him, then flees since he is not part of the calamity. Good cover for his desertion of the scene, but wouldn't you, really? Very convenient that his narration shows he could do only what he did and that the event was fast and overwhelming. So why did he come? Why did he play along with the amusement but otherwise provide no real help? Why did he go along with Usher's self-dooming behavior?

-- Anonymous, May 06, 2002

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