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The Facts In The Case Of M. Valdemar

2595 words - 10 pages

Edgar Allan Poe's "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" is a very interesting tale about a doctor who has become fascinated by mesmerism. The doctor is curious to see what would happen to an individual put under hypnosis while dying. Would it stave off death? Would dying make hypnosis impossible? A friend named by the narrator as M. Valdemar agrees to be the subject of this experiment. Seven months later, the doctor is called to the dying man's bedside. As the patient's breath and heartbeat slow, the doctor successfully hypnotizes him. The dying man feels no pain and responds to questions without rising from his trance. He asks the doctor not to wake him, but to let him die without pain. The next day, the patient's eyes roll upward, his cheeks lose their color, and his mouth falls open. The man is apparently dead, but as they prepare him for burial, however, the tongue begins to vibrate and a minute later, answers the question the doctor put to the patient just before his death. "Yes -- no -- I have been sleeping -- and now -- now - I am dead," says the corpse. The amazed doctors leave the patient in exactly the same state for seven months. Finally, they resolve to wake him. As he begins to wake, the doctor asks what the patient's wishes are. The dead man cries out that he is dead and must be awakened. The doctor wakes him and the corpse immediately falls apart into "a nearly liquid mass of loathsome - of detestable putrescence."

As this story picks up seven paragraphs from the end of the story, the narrator states, "It was on Friday last that we finally resolve to make the experiment of awakening, or attempting to awaken him." Poe uses this line to show that although the experiment had thus far worked and M. Valdemar had been successfully mesmerized, the forces of death and its triumph over life may prohibit the doctor from wakening his patient. Poe uses this theory of the power of death (and how it consumes the living qualities of a person) throughout this story and this is one example near the end of the story. Poe also describes the results of the events ahead as "(perhaps) unfortunate." It is important to realize that the results which involve a successful experiment for the narrator are actually horrifying for the patient and that is why the word "perhaps" is used in parenthesis in this paragraph. If the experiment actually works the narrator will gain fame and recognition even if doing so he makes his patient suffer. This concept of the narrator looking out for himself is an example of how the doctor is characterized as a "mad scientist" trying anything to make his experiment be successful. At the end of this paragraph there is a sentence about the "unwarranted popular feeling" towards the doctor for attempting to awakening his patient. This sentence alone shows the motive behind the title of the story "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar." The narrator uses the title of the story to defend the experiment and...

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