A Narrative of Subjectivity in Central Aesthetic Role in Edgar Allen Poe'S Gothic Stories Bui Hoang Nga (student ID A2106143) Topics in American Renaissance Literature Professor Frank Stevenson November 20th 2013
Widely acclaimed to be the masterpieces of Gothicism and origins of the
detective genre, short stories written by Edgar Allan Poe, published mostly in the
early 19th centuries, had established worldly literary milestones and evidenced the
writer's timeless influences upon not only literature but also other studies on
humanity, specifically psychology. In his writings, Poe managed to achieve "a
unity of effect" in which different aesthetic tools being employed, in a relative
economy of words, contribute toward a key tone over the whole story. One of the
most effective and recurring aspects of Poe's oeuvre is the intensified narrative
subjectivity, which appears to be his distinctive aesthetic trait against other writers
of his time. With an origin from the Romanticism, this stylized subjectivity in
Poe's acted as the central mean to deliver the horror theme of classic Gothic
fiction, provide methods for contemporary psychological studies, and open up
future case studies for other scholar fields such as philosophy and psychoanalysis.
In the light of such interpretation, this essay attempts to examine the role of the
subjective narration in two of Poe's short stories: The Tale-tell Heart and The Fall
of the House of Usher.
Born and bred in the age of Enlightenment, Poe, like many other writers of
his time, tempts to project reality through a manipulative lens of Romanticism.
However, unlike Emerson and his peers' concentration in optimism, Poe, in a
much more extreme manner, surpasses the delighted stage of individualism and
enters himself into a much more shadowy area, the realm of desperation and
ultimate obsession and madness. Both The Tell-tale Heart and The Fall of the
House of Usher are centralized on delusional haunted minds. In the former story,
the unnamed narrator directly addresses the readers about his sanity and then
excitingly describes his murder of an old man over his obsessive eye. The latter
story is about the course of visiting a boyhood friend by also an unnamed narrator
and his observation of the ghastly atmosphere and the terrifying occurrences
which lead to an ultimate collapse, physically and symbolically, of the Usher
family. Both stories are told from the first person, with confidence in the validity
of their narrative, yet both gradually reveal themselves to be unreliable storytellers,
even to the extent of psychotics. With the murderous protagonist, the more he tries
to convince readers of his rationality, the more he proves his insanity. The
vulture-looking eye and the heartbeat sound, which are claimed to be the torment
of his soul, are simple distorted projection of his own turmoil upon average reality.
The madness craved so deep inside the mind that it deceptively interprets his
mental deterioration into...