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Analysis of E. Poe’s Short Stories Essay

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Updated: Oct 1st, 2021


The short stories by Edgar Poe are full of mystery and barren sceneries. His style is known as Gothic, and it is featured with depressing decorations, horror memories of the storytellers, and the feeling of guilt. The subjects, described in his stories, deal with the matters of death, entailing its physical symbols, decomposition, awareness of early burial, the reanimation of the dead, and grief. His love to codes and word games may be observed in lots of his stories, as mystery without puzzle loses at least half of its charm.

Analytical Analysis of Poe’s Short Stories

Edgar Allan Poe, an American writer, born in 1809 in Boston, is widely known as a poet, critic and a short story writer who is attributed with great works such as “The Fall of the House of Usher” which is considered as one of the most popular writing of Edgar Allan Poe. His tales analyzing the depths of human minds are of great importance and fame. Short stories are one of his most essential elements of writing. The main theme of this story is terror that comes from the involvedness and multiplicity of forces that shapes human concentration. Awful, horrendous events result not from a single, uncomplicated circumstance but from a smash and merger of diverse, complex circumstances.

Poe’s talent is depicted through the set of his words, which are responsible to add in to the overall outlook and effect of the story, thereby enhancing the effect of every event. This may be observed within the lines of “The Fall of the House of Usher”. The period of autumn is clearly demonstrated and enhanced through words such as wouldull,’ wouldark,’ and ‘soundless. ‘The scene is described in such an imaginative manner that it looks real through the use of phrases such as ‘the shades of evening’ and more.

“The Fall of the House of Usher” possesses the essential features of a Gothic tale such as a haunted house, boring countryside, strange illness, and doubled personality. Apart from these mentioned elements, the greater part of the story includes terror depicted in vague boundaries. Poe retorts to using the traditional Gothic components such as gloomy weather and barren surrounding. Poe provides the familiar building blocks of the Gothic tale. He contrasts this standard form with a plot that is strange, unexpected, and full of unforeseen disruptions.

The storyteller is tempted by Roderick’s attraction, and as he is trapped, it is impossible for him to escape, until the house of Usher finally falls. The characters of the story are not able to move and act freely in the house, as its structure is very compound. Therefore, it presumes that an ugly character creates perplexity between the living things and non-living objects by doubling the physical house of Usher with the inherent family line of the Ushers, which Usher himself calls the house of Usher. Poe uses the word “house” symbolically, but he also creates an image of a real house.

The congested and limited setting of the funeral tomb figuratively spreads to the features of the characters. Moreover, before Madeline really dies, she is buried in the coffin, and with the tomb where her name was carved because of her similarity with Roderick. Madeline also bears problems typical for women in nineteenth century text. She invests all of her distinctiveness in her body, whereas Roderick possesses the powers of intelligence. On the other hand, Madeline has a powerful role in the story, especially because of her supernatural powers as evident from the incident of breaking out of the tomb. She thus frustrates Roderick’s weak, anxious, and motionless character. On contrary, doubts regarding the existence of Madeline are also constructed as per her being the narrator’s imagination. However, she confirms her role to the symmetrical logic of the story.

There are lots of quotations from the other stories and poems, including “The Haunted Palace” and “Mad Trist by Sir Launcelot Canning. Both are equivalent, and the plot lines are similar to the one of “The Fall of the House of Usher”. “Mad Trist,” which is about the influential entrance of Ethelred into the house of a solitary person, reflects the immediate escape of Madeline from her tomb.

It is known, that Poe was fond of composing codes, ciphers, and word games, consequently, he uses his experience in the story, and this story intensifies his obsessive curiosity in naming. “Usher” refers not only to the house and to the family, but also to the journey ‑ access that brings the storyteller into the wicked world of Roderick and Madeline. The letter of Roderick serves as a purpose of guidance through an alien world, and the outsider might be a reason for the destruction of the house. The narrator appears to be the only exception for the Ushers’ terror of foreigners, a fear that emphasizes the claustrophobic origin of the tale. Undermining the fear of the outside world, the storyteller unknowingly brings down the entire structure. Poe thus buries the wisecracks that he was popular for in American magazines in the fictitious gravity of a medieval narration.

“Ligeia” is Poe’s best attempt to join the Gothic ugly with the love story as it should be. Some components are also joined in “Berenice” and “Morella”. Ligeia is the name of the main character, and of the story, and every detail of the plot defines the Ligeia’s predestination in the story, as she is the narrator’s object of love. Ligeia dies, but the memories of her remain the primary passion of the narrator’s mind. The fair-haired Rowena replaces her as the narrator’s wife, but the gloom of the marriage bedroom Depresses Rowena, and Ligeia’s soul gets into Rowena’s body, infusing Rowena’s body with the gloomy colors.

Rowena suffers from her imprisonment within a Gothic bridal cavity that is dark and filled with perverted streamers. The narrator aims to preserve Ligeia’s sensuality and Romanticism’s artificiality in the chamber’s architecture and decorations. Moreover, Rowena is fearful of the unreal gold tapestries and red drops. Figuratively speaking, Rowena dies because of the absence of essentials such as nature and sunlight. However, If the bizarre compartment is somehow considered to be the reason for Rowena’s death, then the lady Ligeia might be thought of a symbolic assistant.

However, the final victor of Ligeia stands in her re-birth. Her return suggests the lesser power of rationality on the part of the narrator. Though some critics highlight the impulsiveness of the narrator because of his mistreatment of opium, Poe is less concerned with the quality of the narrator’s sanity than with the power of his visualization, not how he sees it. This is not to say that Poe underrates the narrator or resources for us plainly to believe his strange and opposing confessions. Although Ligeia’s return from the dead is doubted in terms of reality; physically or an opium-induced delusion, her evident physical demonstration at the end suggests that she has become more real for the narrator than just a memory.

Most of Poe’s narrators are untrustworthy as they are too suspicious and guilty for their own previous crimes, as in “The Black Cat,” in which the storyteller is nervous about the investigation of his murder. In “Ligeia,” the narrator is passionate about lost love. Thus, he passionately loves a woman not knowing her name. But for Poe, these disagreements are symptoms of love. Poe proposes the possibility of love behind bringing Ligeia back. The peculiarity of Ligeia’s eyes pervades symbolically to the narrator’s eyes. The narrator’s power of imagination is seen when the hidden knowledge behind Ligeia’s eyes are used by the narrator based on unnatural knowledge, i.e., to envisage the dead. The narrator’s skill in conveying the knowledge to the audience is quite conspicuous, thereby enabling us to observe and judge the return of the lady Ligeia. However, the real secret behind the actuality of her eyes is still unknown.

Although “Ligeia” attempts to fit in the criteria of a love story, in actual, it relies seriously on the Gothic imagery for which Poe became famous. The Gothic dimension as demonstrated here represents the fancy of modifying a human to her body parts. The Gothic stress on framework suggests the probability that human identity exists in certain specific parts of the body, giving rise to questions related with an immortal soul. Everything that stays alive of Ligeia is in no way her soul, but just the materialized form of her body. This materialization is symbolic, as the only feature that is emphasized in her black hair. The story only adapts for the stage the insensible yearnings of the storytellers to see his lost love again, and it provides these longings the animal shape of Ligeia’s body.


These short stories generally include the image of a villain and the image of a victim. These two images are claimed to complete the description of the gothic scenery, which can not be full without this pair. Actually, the very center of any mystery is covered by the word games, which are used to assign some features of investigation, and add to the atmosphere of mystery. “The Fall of the House of Usher” is mostly based on these games. Poe’s ability to get the reader interested overcomes any fear of horror scenery or some inadequate behavior of a villain, and the admirer of horror stories would easily solve all the enigmas, offered by the author.


Poe Edgar, 1995, The Fall of the House of Usher, Dramatic Publishing, p 9-14.

Poe Edgar, 2001, Great horror stories, Courier Dover Publications.

“, Web.

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