To What Extent Do 'the Black Cat' And 'the Tell Tale Heart' By Edgar Allen Poe Conform To The Conventions Of The Gothic Horror Genre?

2457 words - 10 pages

During the 18th century the gothic horror genre became popular with stories such as 'Frankenstein' and 'Dracula.' By using the conventions of the Gothic horror to his advantage and also expressing a recognisable individual style, Poe has become one of the, most respected writers of his genre.To study the extent that Poe conforms, the conventions of the genre must first be identified. A dictionary definition of Gothic Horror states that it is 'of or like a style of writing popular in the late 18th century which produced stories set in lonely frightening places with ruined castles, haunted graveyards, and eerie noises.' However, when reading such stories, other common conventions become apparent. Some of these are paranoia, fear of the 'dark side,' and images of ruin and decay.In 'The Tell-Tale Heart,' the common features of a gothic horror story become clear from the start. Poe says 'will you say that I am mad?' This shows that Poe is trying to play on people's fear of the dark side of the mind and the demons associated with insanity. This shows how Poe often did not create something scary but instead he took something people were already afraid of and made it seem more real. Also, the way this quote is phrased as a question makes the character sound paranoid. The question suggests he needs reassurance on his mental state and is therefore unstable. Poe then continues to describe this madness as a 'disease,' the idea of a disease can be closely linked with images of decay of a physical or in this case mental state. Therefore, within the first two lines of 'The Tell-Tale Heart' Poe has used three ideas that are considered conventions of gothic horror.However, as you continue to read the story it becomes apparent that paranoia and the decay of the character's sanity are the ideas that are used most strongly. The character has become fixated on a man's eye, which he describes as a vulture eye. The eye is different, so the character instantly decides it is 'evil.' The fact that there is nothing to show the eye is evil except for gut reaction means that we can put the characters judgement of the eye down to him being paranoid. On this theory of the evil eye, the character continues to slowly sneak into the mans room plotting to kill him. The first impression that we get is that the character must be mad to want to kill this man purely on the appearance of his eye. However, once his method of sneaking slowly into the mans room night after night is described, the task appears to be a slow and obsessive one that no mentally sane man could create or execute. The emphasised repetition of the task shows the mans obsession and fixation on the eye, he seems to become concerned with this one aim of killing the man and therefore putting himself at rest from the eye. The behaviour of the character is like what we would associate with someone who is possessed, this is very relevant as in the period that this was written, people often believed that people were 'mad'...

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