The reason why I chose the works of both Poe Edgar Allan and Dickson Emily is that they have very interesting plots that keep the reader intrigued by the unfolding events of their narration. The key theme in these stories is madness, which is a topic of great interest to me as a reader.
A writer like Allan Poe Edgar has been termed as one of the very famous Gothic fiction writers of the 19th century. All of his stories are identified with dark settings as well as characters who have deluded or diseased minds. In addition to this aspect, the fiction he writes revolves around illusion where reality and madness remain unsolved. This type of stories appeals to young people and particularly college students.
In addition, the target audience is especially people who have a keen interest in the topic of madness or people who deal with madness cases. However, I dedicate this anthology to my friend Allan simply because he is a great encouragement to me when it comes to studying and developing myself. What makes my anthology interesting is that it revolves around a very captivating yet serious topic, which is madness that many people may not speak of, but is very much in our society.
Poe Allen has written “The tell-tale heart” where his artistic and imaginative capabilities emerge with the strong original story line he has come up with. The story is a first person narrative whereby a murderer confesses having committed a gruesome crime without any motive.
Right from the start of the story, there is a revelation of the protagonist’s madness; however, the reader wonders whether what he is saying is true or he is just hallucinating (Poe The tell-tale heart 34). There is no certain date of when the author wrote the Tell-Tale Heart narrative, but evidence shows that it happened most likely in mid 1842 right after Poe had his third heart attack.
The other story that Poe Allen has written is “The fall of the House of Usher” whereby the main theme is about the haunted house, which is crumbling and this aspects brings out a Gothic effect. This story brings out Poe’s capability of coming up with works that have emotional tones and particularly feelings such as guilt, doom, and fear. The main character Roderick Usher is suffering from mental illness as narrated by an unknown narrator.
Third story written by Poe Allan is “the Cask of Amontillado” published in the month of November 1846. The setting of the story is an Italian city that remains nameless and is about revenge by the narrator on his friend allegedly for insulting him. The plot covers a story of a person who is attacked and the killer buries him alive.
The main theme in this story is murder; however, there is no investigation done in regards to the Montresor’s crime; instead, it is the murderer himself who reveals how he killed his friend (Poe The Cask of Amontillado 16). This story leaves the reader with the task of determining who committed the murder.
The fourth works that I chose is “Much madness is Divinest Sense,” by Dickinson Emily, which dates back to 1862; however, the poem was published 30 years later. In a world that was heavily male dominated, the poem brings out Emily Dickinson as a person who brought out a sense of rebellion and humor in the poem. The poem also brings out a feeling of anger. The central theme of “Much madness is Divinest Sense” is madness, which is a key factor in all the other stories that I chose.
As aforementioned, this paper is an analysis of the aforementioned stories based on the theme of madness. “The Tell-Tale-Heart” by Allan Poe is a murderer’s confession explaining the ghastly murder that he committed. The narrator’s high degree of madness stands out clearly even as the story opens up; however, one might confuse this madness with delusions, which leaves the reader torn between the two elements, viz. madness and delusions.
As the story starts, the narrator maintains that he does not have any mental illness by stating that he is telling his story in a calm manner and this somehow aspect proves he is sane (Poe The Tell-Tale-Heart 65). He goes on to give details of how he killed an old man who he claims that he loved and actually, they shared a house.
What stands out is the reason as to why he killed him; he says that he killed him all because the poor old man had some physical characteristics (pale eyes), which were a threat to the narrator and thus he decided to do away with them altogether and thus eliminate the threat and torment eventually. Contrastingly, at one point, the narrator states that he is sane and he goes ahead to give an account of the crime.
He chronicles the happenings of the crime with such precision that anyone would doubt his madness given the degree of remembrance that he portrays in the process of recounting the story. However, the pressing question remains, why a sane person would kill another simply because the victim has ‘unpleasant” features like pale eyes and confess the crime.
The sanity that underscores the aspect of clear remembrance and recounting of the events leading to the death of the old man is overshadowed by the insanity of committing such an act and thus the narrator is clearly mad. The narrator is obsessed by the element of time throughout the story. The readers can point to clear madness for how can a sane person kill a person just because the color of his eyes freaks him out; only a mad person can do such a thing.
“The Fall of the House of Usher” based on the theme of madness shows that Poe’s story is of Gothic genre. Feelings associated with madness such as trouble, fear, and guilt emerge in this story particularly by the main character, Roderick Usher, as explained by the narrator. Roderick is mad not only because he buries his sister while still alive, but also because of his family history of mental illness.
There is symbolism of the end of madness in the Roderick’s family especially with the crumbling down of the house and the end of the two Usher’s siblings (Poe The Fall of the House of Usher 93). Madness also emerges through other themes such as vampirism, melancholy, and even possible incest. Between Madeline and Roderick, an incestuous relationship emerges despite the fact that the author does not go so much into detail, but it is evident from the way the two have a bizarre attachment.
Madness is evident for Roderick buries his sister alive, which is not something that sane people do. In addition, the fact that he comes from a family that has a history of mentally ill people shows that he has a high chance of being mad, which comes out clearly by the way he acts.
Sane people also do not have intimate relationships with their siblings as Roderick has with his sister Madeline (Poe The Fall of the House of Usher 1o6). In many societies, it is a taboo for a brother and sister to have intimate relationships and there are even grave repercussions that follow such actions. Roderick even goes ahead to write a poem titled “The Haunted Palace”, which is a reference to crumbling house that spells tragedy and doom.
Poe’s other story, “The Cask of Amontillado”, tells a tale from the perspective of the murderer. Unlike other crimes, there are no investigations carried out and in its place, the criminal is the one giving the details of the crime (Poe The Cask of Amontillado 16). This aspect shows a form of madness for most criminals, if not all, never confess to being the ones responsible for a murder. Montresor must thus be insane; however, he gives even the smallest details of what happened making the reader to question whether indeed, he is mad.
The manner in which Montresor kills Fortunato shows that he does not have any sane feelings left in him. Fortunato is drunk and does not suspect a thing when Montresor chains him quickly against the wall after which he stones him to death. In addition, as Fortunato cries in pain and screaming for help, Montresor only mocks him, as he knows very well that no one can hear him (Poe The Cask of Amontillado 18). In my view, only a mentally sick person can stand the wails and cries of someone in pain and continue to make fun of the same.
The poem I chose “Much madness is Divinest Sense” can also be looked at critically particularly based on the issue of madness. The poem shows that people see madness as the most profound type of insanity particularly if a person with a discerning eye views it. It is not just a sense of madness, but profound madness, “the starkest madness” (Dickinson Line 3). However, the poem can be challenging to read, but once one gets the message, it becomes easy to understand the write up.
Madness, according to the poem, is in reality the truest sanity, but since majority of people view it as being wrong, they refer to it as madness. Dickinson was herself called mad during her time and even after she died. This poem is not only related to the judgments of “sense” or “madness”, but also talks about judgments that are made and have significant ramifications and the person who has authority to make them.
After reading the poem, the reader can see that people make judgments regarding person’s insanity “straightaway” according to the author for such an individual has made a choice to “Demur” from the majority. However, I do not agree with the poet when she says, “Much madness is Divinest sense” especially judging from the short stories by Allan Poe where the insane characters engage in the most horrid murders, which according to me is not “Divine Sense”.
All the three stories and poem have one common element in them, viz. madness. The characters in the stories as explained by the narrators are mad and that is why they end up killing other innocent people. In addition, the manner in which they kill their victims is very frightening from entombing to dismembering the bodies.
Madness by definition is a continuum of behaviors that have characteristics of abnormal behavioral or mental patterns. The person becomes a danger to not only other people, but also to himself or herself. In this case, the characters have posed danger to the people around them.
From my findings after reading the three narratives and the poem, one cannot identify a mad person simply by looking at him or her; however, one’s actions determine if s/he is mad or not.
For instance, in all the aforementioned stories and poem, the characters showing signs of madness cannot be said to be mad at a glance; however, it is only after reading the criminal actions that they have committed that one can tell of their madness. Some of the insane characters even give intricate details of the events of what they did. Gothic stories bring out what happens in society and so these are not fake stories for they help the audience to relate to the different kind of people in the society.
There are insane people living among us and some of them end up committing heinous acts like murder, and so we should all be careful. Therefore, madness is both an interpretation and exemplification of insanity. Also from the poem, I have learnt that people have different opinions on the topic of madness. While some believe that madness is a problem, others think that it is a divine sense.
Dickinson, Emily. Much Madness Is Divinest Sense, 2012. Web.
Poe, Allan. The Cask of Amontillado, Charleston: BookSurge LLC, 2004. Print.
Poe, Allan. The Fall of the House of Usher and other writings, Poems, Tales, Essays and Reviews, London: Penguin Group, 1986. Print.
Poe, Allan. The Tell-Tale Heart and other writings, New York: Bantam Books, 1982. Print.