Disguised Motives for Murder in Short Stories by Edgar Allen Poe

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In the mid 1800’s America was in full swing of the romanticism movement. During this time readers were entertained by the fresh new writing styles of the latest authors. There were several famous authors in this era such as: Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, and William Cullen Bryant. One innovative author from this movement however, added a new dynamic writing style that still intrigues many readers today. Edgar Allen Poe, through his invention of detective stories, has become a house hold name to many. In his short stories “The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat,” Poe describes two heinous crimes committed by men whose motives can only be traced back to their deranged perception of reality, domestic relationships, and a soul whose thirst can only be quenched through violence.
In the stories, “The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat,” both narrators have a misguided perception that induces their senses to confuse reality with delusions. This misguided perception is brought on by the abnormal psychology of both men. This is a common theme in Poes’ stories. In “The Black Cat” the narrator feels a sense of fright and disgust when reviewing the attached behavior of the second cat. Poe’s description of the second cat is eerily similar to that of the first cat, Pluto. As author Magdalen Wing-Chi Ki states, “the narrator is convinced that it ‘must be’ Pluto on account of two things: it follows him around in the hope of becoming his absolute partner, and one of its eyes is gone.” A rational person understands that it is impossible for the second cat to be Pluto, but the narrator is so misguided that he believes this inconceivable delusion. This mistaken fantasy fuels the narrator’s madness, giving him more evidence that murder is the only option.
As witnessed in “The Black Cat,” Poe continues with the delusions of reality in “The Tell Tale Hart.” The narrator in “The Tell Tale Heart” is under the illusion that the old man’s eye is evil and the only way to overcome this wickedness is to destroy it. This insane perception leads the narrator to construct a precise plan to be used in the assassination of the old man. As the narrator executes his plan by spying on the old man at night, his psychotic delusions are reinforced by his observations. As J. Gerald Kennedy puts it, “Entering a realm of fantasy and hallucination (objectified in the nightmarish cityscape), the narrator believes he has seen, by the ‘fitful and garish lustre’ of gas lamps, emblems of the old man's sinister nature” (“Limits of Reason”). The narrator’s menacing personality establishes a motive for the execution of the old man.
Along with the manic illustration of the narrators, Poe also introduces direct and indirect language during both stories to describe how the domestic life of each narrator possibly plays a role in their rage. Through direct statements, the narrator in “The Black Cat” lets the reader know that his fondness for animals was made possible by his...

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