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Edgar Allan Poe, a great American poet and novelist, had a huge interest in the reasons and motives of human actions, to the secret depths of the soul, which many people do not realize. In many stories, he explores what is called the spirit of contradiction, a kind of split personality. Poe was concerned with the question why people’s actions often come despite their obvious desire and even benefit. It often turns out that the criminal wants to get exposed while a decent and kind person commits an offense. In order to analyze Poe’s approach to writing, it is necessary to consider his two novels “The Black Cat” (8-16) and “Tell-Tale Heart” (3-7).
In the “terrible” stories of the 1840s, the writer masterfully used his method of making a strong emotional impact on the reader. Later, this method was theoretically generalized as an aesthetic principle of single expressive effect in critical essays of Edgar Poe. Impressing the reader, making him experience the powerful feeling is what, according to Poe, is the meaning of literary work. Emotional distress, fear, and terror, due to Edgar Poe, are the same literary devices as the appeal to the reader’s sense of beauty and compassion in the description of the tragic events. The writer thinks that the shape of the short story fits the best to achieve the “terrible” effect. For Edgar Poe, such a preference in the genre is fundamental since the volume of work influences the intensity and integrity of the experience. Achievement of the planned effect is fully possible only in the case when the author manages to dominate the reader, holding his/her attention to the final point. According to the writer’s opinion, it is a short story that provides the greatest opportunity for developing talent.
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In the story “The Black Cat”, the cause of transformation of the soft and sensitive hero loving animals into the villain is named directly – it is alcohol. Unfortunately, the writer knew what a destructive effect it has on the individual. Protagonist of the story has been steadily deteriorating that changed his character. Previously, he loved animals and was betrayed by his wife, a soft and sincere woman. However, the animals began to annoy him as he started drinking. He killed his wife as a result of clouded consciousness, because she was trying to protect the animal. He prudently concealed traces of the crime. However, retribution overtook him. The story “The Black Cat” had a single idea: the crime is an already concealed retribution, and in the soft man may harbor terrible cruelty. Nobody understands people, least of all a man understands himself. In “Tell-Tale Heart”, the main hero is a person, whose degeneration was caused by illness – schizophrenia. The story is narrated by a nameless person, who killed the old man living with him under the same roof. The narrator insists on his sanity, explaining the murder by the fact that an old man had an evil “vulture eye” with the cataract. The killer describes in detail the path that led him to the crime and subsequent revelations; he accurately got in everything and strangled an old man in his room. Then, a murderer coolly dismembered corpse and buried the remains under the floorboards, leaving no traces. However, in the morning, when the police came with a search, he gave himself away, because he allegedly heard loud banging of the victim’s heart under the floorboards and was confident that the police also hear it, but purposely tormented the narrator, pretending not know the truth.
Perhaps, the only difference between the two main characters of “Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat” is the ground of their behavior (Poe 3-16). One of the heroes was initially sick; the second becomes sick as a result of persistent misuse of alcohol. In both stories, place and time are rather arbitrary marked. They were written in the genre of story where self-accusation is a vivid example of the implementation of Poe’s aesthetic effect principle. The “terrible” effect becomes dominating. The heroes of the stories experience the horror and the reader together with them. A murder becomes the main event of the plot. In the middle of the story, the hero commits a crime. In both works, in order to create an ominous atmosphere, the writer uses different stylistic means. He achieves this effect through tropes and word choice with the semantics of darkness, death, fear, and terror, with which the story is saturated (Obaid n.p.). Creating a gloomy atmosphere of the story, all these means of expression relate not to the description of the events, but rather to the description of the hero, his fragile mental, physical, and psycho-emotional state. It should be noted that Poe never describes the condition of a person who completely lost his/her mind. While reading “The Black Cat” and “Tell-Tale Heart”, one feels how emotional and intonation medium of the nervous tension is created, which not only maintains but also enhances the text. Culmination of this tension can be seen, for example, in a swift denouement of “Tell-Tale Heart”, where the hero confessed to the crime: “Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed! --tear up the planks! here, here! --It is the beating of his hideous heart!” (Poe 7). During the whole story, the reader hits into the writer’s carefully constructed system of emotional impact, being step by step drawn into the world of the schizophrenic character (Zimmerman 30-40).
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