Edgar Allan Poe's Literature

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What are the Romantic Characteristics of Edgar Allan Poe's Hop-Frog, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado, The Black Cat, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Raven, and The Masque of the Red Death

-- Anonymous, December 19, 2002


This looks like the type of question teachers more concerned with schools of thought, pop phrases and trends use to torment their students unnecessarily. It would be more intelligent to see HOW Poe differs or fits into his contemporaries style and thought. Poe is more like Mary Shelley(but with more art and poetic soaring) in regulating wild fantasy and acutely stretched perception and emotions with classical order and science. Not being British it is harder to place him except as he falls in line with Byron or Coleridge.

Searching for examples is drudge work compared to that. Look for fantastic settings, faraway, vaguely suggestive, evoking strong emotions of terror, horror and awe. Extreme actions and nervouse, hypersensitive characters reacting with wild passion to the above, to the focussing on extrteme and varied ways to recapture the insirational spirit of Poe's ultimate and early Muse vision("Alone"). That involves themes of alienation, danger, ecstasy, keying on thoise aspects of nature which reinforce those feelings, and the heightened intuitive intellect that comes from such stimulation, superior but not grerater than the forces arrayed around and aginst him.

Save Hop Frog for LAST. It should never be listed first because this in some ways is a bitterly personal and satirical revisitng of his Gothic fiction. It highlights the "raging against the night" factor and the attempt to show his superiority over his dimwitted oppressors. The appurtenances(old, faraway setting, extreme violence and passion, boundless act of clever revenge) are there. Pair "The Black Cat" and "The Tell-Tale Heart" for the concentrated experience of two characters in total awe of their own heightened experience and mental state in conjunction with an awful fate of extreme violence. Neither shows real concern about their actions, but revel obsessively about that state of mind and the horror of their own self destruction. The Byronic Hero eating his own tail. Usher and red Death deal with the conquest of death over their also wild rebels of art(Prospero and Roderick) who also have their own fate signed right in the suffocating architecture around them. Byronic heros overcome by fate. Amontillado, set in a faraway exotic Italy, focusses on the extreme passion of Montresor to avenge his honor, his heightened sensitivities(compassion suppressed) and passions(suppressed to perform the apparently cold blooded trick), again focussing on his state of mind NOT his victim or crime. Vengeful Byronic hero again playing God with a repressed conscience. Only in the Red Death do we get some element of the supernatural, although rendered vague and allegorical by third person fable type style. Poe avoided blatant trappings of the supernatural as if they were concretely real. The metaphysical occultism is best expressed in Usher where the harmonies of place, person, mind are completely bound in character and event.

Poe atttempts to be a pure Romantic even in the Gothic by avoiding mere trappings for the internal exposition of the indiividual spirit and mind of the new consciousness. Order and morality bind the stories in a way to remind us that the Romantics were extremly talented with artistic structure and philosophical analysis(revisiting Classicisim with a more unbound and liberated mind, mixing with passions daring to be disordered and beyond the ordinary, knowing themselves like Icarus taking the mnechanism to the fatal limits of the doomed quest. That they cannot pass over into the beyond and achieve that perfection of art is the source of so much rebellion and violebnt tragedy, and self destruction. It is in the "striving" as Geothe's Faust would proclaim, that the heroic fulfillment happens, the experience of climbing, not the acts or ends.

Copyrighted 2002. Don't copy any of the above verbatim please. It would be as disastrous as Prospero's palace retreat.

-- Anonymous, December 19, 2002

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