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The Madness Within A Look At Poe’s Use Of Mental Illness

991 words - 4 pages

Insanity is a repetitious theme in Edgar Allan Poe’s work, having fun taunting and teasing his readers with dark subjects. Poe’s writing contains topics that make people feel uncomfortable; his characters have inconsistencies that leave readers scratching their heads. Poe creates two prime examples of inconsistent characters including the unnamed narrator in “The Tell Tale Heart,” and Roderick Usher from “The Fall of the House of Usher.” These two stories have frequent similarities concerning the topic of madness. The symbol of an eye, diseases which share the same symptoms, and killing someone the characters love, are all common themes between the two stories.
In “The Tell Tale Heart” an ...view middle of the document...

Roderick is described as having “An eye large, liquid, and luminous beyond comparison”(3). This description seems to imply a sense of parallel between the House of Usher’s “Vacant eye-like windows,” and the large and mad eyes of Roderick Usher.
Not surprisingly, “The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Fall of the House of Usher” share similarities in the disease of the protagonist’s mind. Madness and insanity run through the core of both short stories, infecting the characters detrimentally. In both stories, the main character has an unnamed disease, which triggers heightened senses. In “The Tell Tale Heart” the narrator questions how he could be mad, stating “The sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell” (1). This heightened hearing causes the narrator to think he hears the heart of the old man beating, even after death. Believing the police can hear the heart beating too, drives him to tell his tale of killing the old man. Similarly in “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Roderick suffers from “Morbid acuteness of the senses” (1). This affliction gets to the point where he can not be in the sun, or smell flowers. Even wearing clothes of a certain fabric, and eating particular foods bothers him. A final aspect of the disease is shown in both Roderick and the unnamed narrator’s suffering from extreme nervousness. Overall, there seems to be many similarities shared between the two characters’ mental disorders; link “The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Fall of the House of Usher” together.
Within “The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Fall of the House of Usher” the protagonists kill someone they love. The unnamed narrator in “The Tell Tale Heart” is caught up in a love for the old man, but yet, still...

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