Aware Of Surroundings, Unaware Of Self

1420 words - 6 pages

In Edgar Allen Poe’s short stories, The Fall of the House of Usher and The Tell Tale Heart, both protagonists are stricken with hypersensitivity. And ultimately, the acute senses of Roderick Usher from FHU and of the narrator from TTH prevent them from recognizing their own culpability. One would expect that through their acute awareness, Roderick Usher and the narrator would acquire a greater recognition of their own faults. Yet, strangely, both characters are unable to recognize their own culpability in the deaths of those around them. Once readers analyze the distracted behaviors of both characters as well as the parallel language of Poe, they will realize that Usher and the narrator accuse their peers of their own flaws because they are truly unaware of their own weaknesses. It becomes clear that both character’s hypersensitivities cause them to be overly distracted by their surroundings; and they are therefore too distracted to recognize their own faults. Usher’s inability to perform basic human functions gives evidence to the magnitude with which his hypersensitivity disrupts his daily life. Similarly, the narrator in TTH’s obsession with the old man’s eye distracts him from thinking rationally. The narrator’s distracted state causes him to rationalize his crime, rather than recognizing his responsible for the murder. Ultimately, the hypersensitivity of both characters is a hindrance to their self-awareness, as it causes them to be in a perpetual state of distraction, and consequently both characters are unable to recognize responsibility for their own missteps.
Before analyzing Poe’s stories, it is essential to recognize that both Usher and the Narrator suffer from hypersensitivity as demonstrated by their own admissions. Usher tells his visiting friend, “Said I not that my senses were acute?” (FHU), and similarly the narrator in TTH introduces his disease by saying “The disease had sharpened my senses --not destroyed --not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute” (TTH). Usher’s hypersensitivity manifests itself in his mad behavior, while the narrator’s acute senses are shown through his evil rational.
Although one would assume that Usher’s hypersensitivity would grant him a greater understanding of his own shortcomings, in reality his disease overly distracts him, and therefore prevents him from focusing on his own flaws. Usher’s inability to function normally due to his hypersensitivity is evidenced by the testimony of the narrator in FHU; “He suffered much from a morbid acuteness of the senses; the most insipid food was alone endurable; he could wear only garments of certain texture; the odours of all flowers were oppressive; his eyes were tortured by even a faint light”. Usher’s hypersensitivity affects his ability to be around common stimulants. He was unable to endure even the most basic tastes, smells and sounds. The pain his environment caused him clearly posed such a distraction that it...

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