Madness Depicted in Poe Stories Term Paper

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Madness Depicted in Poe Stories

Madness always makes an appearance in Edgar Allan Poe storiesand what makes the madness especially interesting is the fact that it is always associated with some flaw in the personality. Some characters are suffering from paranoia, grief, a weak personality, or they are struggling with personal issues and have developed a weakness for alcohol or drugs. Whatever the reason, Poe introduces us to some interesting characters that are mad beyond any hope. "Ligeia," "The Black Cat," "The Cask of Amontillado," "The Fall of the House of Usher," and "William Wilson" are examples of stories with narrators that cannot fight the mad demon and instead yield to its calling.

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In the story, "Ligeia," the narrator's madness stems from grief and lost love. He begins to lose his stability when he loses Ligeia. He no longer wants to carry on and admits that h is "crushed to the very dust with sorrow" (Poe Ligeia 131) and that he could "no longer endure the lonely desolation of my dwelling" (131). In an attempt to begin anew, he moves away from the Rhine. His move, however, does not cure what ails him. Nor does remarriage. Instead, the narrator seems to be even more consumed with Ligeia than before. He begins to experience events that cannot be explained - except using opium. However, before we blame the opium for the narrator's mental state, we should consider why he is seeing and hearing the things he does. He is still mourning Ligeia and nothing that he does will remedy this. We know because of how far gone he is when Rowena takes ill. The narrator cannot stop thinking of, and seeing, for that matter, his beloved Ligeia. He admits that while he looks upon his ailing wife, a "thousand memories of Ligeia" (135) filled his mind. Late into the midnight hour, while he looks upon Rowena, he thinks of the "one and only supremely beloved" (135). He is mad with grief and love and does not want to get any better.

Term Paper on Madness Depicted in Poe Stories Madness Always Assignment

While grief and loss of love can be a contributor to mental disease, so can paranoia and guilt. We see an example of this in "The Black Cat," where guilt precipitates paranoia. The mental state of the narrator in this tale is more apparent because it seems exaggerated; however, for someone that is mentally incapacitated, this behavior seems normal. One clue that we have for believing that the narrator is mad comes from the narrator himself when he admits that he is not mad.

He begins the story by telling us that he would "be mad to expect" (Poe Black Cat 319) any reader to believe his wild tale and yet, he does believe it. He also knows that he is not dreaming so our options are few when it comes to the mental capacity of this narrator. It is also very interesting to note that the narrator writes this tale the day before he is going to die and that he "unburden" (319) his soul. The paranoia the narrator experiences stems from alcoholism but we must remember that alcoholism is a symptom of something else that is going on inside of the man. His mental state, too, is probably enhanced by alcohol but by no means is caused by it. We see the narrator's instability with his relationship with the cat. He love he creature but he also hates it. He rids himself of the creature because it causes him mental distress but then the animal haunts him. What is most disturbing about this character's madness is how he can commit cold-blooded murder without giving it a second thought.

In "The Cask of Amontillado," we see another force for causing madness at work. In this tale, it is revenge. Montresor is a man driven mad by revenge and his need for revenge will not be satiated until he follows through with his meticulous plan. Montresor might be mad but let us not overlook the fact that he is evil as well. He experiences no sense of hesitation for what he is about to do. Instead, he finds pleasure in "playing" with Fortunato. For example, Montresor fools Fortunato into believing that he is concerned about him. As he leads him deep into the deadly catacombs, Montresor feigns concern for Fortunato's cough. He says, "We will go back; you will be ill, and I cannot be responsible" (Poe Cask of Amontillado 92). Furthermore, Montresor says Fortunato's health… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Madness Depicted in Poe Stories" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Madness Depicted in Poe Stories.  (2008, April 14).  Retrieved May 27, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Madness Depicted in Poe Stories."  14 April 2008.  Web.  27 May 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Madness Depicted in Poe Stories."  April 14, 2008.  Accessed May 27, 2020.