Celebrating Edgar Allan Poe

Engraving of Edgar Allan Poe. Photo courtesy of Futurilla on Flickr.

Edgar Allan Poe is without a doubt my favorite author. His compilation of short stories and poems are fascinating to me. I was recently assigned by Dr. Karl Martin to celebrate an aspect of American Literature for his American Writers II class, so I decided to write about Poe. His work is highly complex and induces hours upon hours of stimulating conversation as well as a multitude of interpretations. 

Poe’s best piece of work in my opinion is “The Tell Tale Heart.” I remember reading it aloud with my freshman year high school English class and to this day the story captivates me like no other. The way Poe describes the relationship between the two neighbors: one being utterly insane and murderous while claiming he’s not, and the other, easy going and completely oblivious to his neighbor’s thoughts.

 The main character reassures the reader that he is not insane periodically throughout the story and it seems as though he is trying to convince himself of this more than the audience. He creeps by his neighbors door and peeks inside very steadily so as to not wake him, and he does this every night for an entire week, the same exact thing at the same exact time. A common phrase that is believed to originate from a 1983 novel written by Rita Mae Brown is that  the word “insanity” means ‘doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result’, which I think just adds to the invalidity of the main character’s “Oh but I am not insane” mentality. 

The last, most noteworthy part of the story is at the end, and it’s after the sleeping man is killed by his neighbor. A single shriek was let out by the man who was killed prompting another building attendant to call the police. When the police show up, the main character acts confident that he successfully hid the dismembered body, but as they stay a bit longer he starts to hear the faint beating of a heart.  As the cops are in the same room as the dead body, the beats get louder and the guilt gets heavier as it begins to consume him. He is so overcome with guilt that the beat of the heart is too much to take and he confesses to the cops what he had done, thinking they heard the beating too, which they didn’t. This leads to the arrest of the man and further proves that he is in-fact insane.

Edgar Allan Poe has an incredible writing style that can pull the reader in deep enough that the story feels real. He put us inside the mind of the killer which I thought was a fascinating perspective. I will continue to read Poe and I encourage anyone that doesn’t know much about him to do some research and check out his work. Other amazing pieces by him include, “The Raven,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” and “The Masque of the Red Death.”

This piece was written as part of Dr. Karl Martin’s LIT-2057 American Writers II course. This course is available during the Fall and Spring semesters in Bond from 8:30am-9:25am.