An Analysis Of Setting And Narrative Style

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An Analysis Of Setting And Narrative Style In Edga Essay, Research Paper An Analysis of Setting and Narrative Style in Edgar Allan Poe s Short Stories The American short story author whom I have chosen to research is Edgar Allan Poe. Having read many of his works in school and at home over the years, I have realized that his mysterious style of writing greatly appeals to me. Although many critics have different views on Poe’s writing style, I think that Harold Bloom summed it up best when he said, “Poe has an uncanny talent for exposing our common nightmares and hysteria lurking beneath our carefully structured lives” (Bloom, 7). This is best illustrated through his use of setting and narrative style. In many of Poe’s most morbid tales, setting is used to paint a dark

and gloomy picture in our minds. I think that this may have been done deliberately by Poe so that the reader can make a connection between darkness and death. For example, in the “Pit and the Pendulum,” the setting is originally pitch black. As the story unfolds, we see how this blind environment begins to play an important role in how the narrator discovers the many ways in which his life may end. Although he must rely on his senses alone to establish his surroundings, he knows that somewhere, in this dark, gloomy room, death awaits him. Richard Wilbur tells us how fitting the chamber in “The Pit and the Pendulum” actually was: Though he lives on the brink of the pit, on the very verge of the plunge into unconsciousness, he is still unable to disengage himself from the

physical and temporal world. The physical oppresses him in the shape of lurid graveyard visions; the temporal oppresses him in the shape of an enormous and deadly pendulum. It is altogether appropriate, then, that this chamber should be constricting and cruelly angular. (Wilbur, 63) Likewise, setting is an important characteristic in Poe’s writing called “The Fall of the House of Usher.” In this short story, the images he gives us, such as how both the Usher family and the Usher mansion are crumbling from inside waiting to collapse, help us to connect the background with the story. Vincent Buranelli says that “Poe is able to sustain an atmosphere which is dark and dull. This is one of the tricks which he largely derived from the tradition of the Gothic tale” (Buranelli,

79). The whole setting in the story provides us with a feeling of melancholy. The Usher mansion appears vacant and barren, and the same is true of the narrator. As we picture in our minds the extreme decay and decomposition of the house, we can feel as though the life around it and its inhabitants are also crumbling. Narration is also an important element in Poe’s short story style that appears to link all of the stories together. He has a type of creativity which lets the reader see into the mind of the narrator or the main character of the story. Many of the characters in Poe’s stories seem to be insane, and, quite often, the narrator also seems to have some type of psychological problems. For example, in Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado,” the story opens with a first

person narrator, Montresor, speaking about the planning of Fortunato’s death. By the anger and remorse that Montresor has for Fortunato, one might think that this has been provoked by a recent incident. It is not until the very end of the story that it is revealed to the reader that the entire event has occurred fifty years previous. David Herbert Lawrence says: To the characters in Poe’s story, hate is as inordinate as life. The lust of hate is the inordinate desire to consume and unspeakably possess the soul of the hated one, just as the lust of life is the desire to possess or be possessed by the beloved, utterly. (Lawrence 1985, 33) Poe’s stories often have narrators that feel extreme hate or extreme love for another character in the story. Another example of Poe’s