Call me a blasphemous English major, but there is a large percentage of canonical works I’ve read that I received no enjoyment or emotion from, and actually wouldn’t even consider that great. I can appreciate their significance and the points they make, but generally they do not contain what I personally look for in a piece of writing. Luckily, these short stories by Poe were quick to get through, and actually not so bad to read.
“The Cask of Amontillado”
Being the only Poe work I’ve read previously, this is was a story I liked far more this time around. I’m beginning to think there are many works out there that simply require a second read from me. We understand from the beginning that the narrator is seriously upset with the man called Fortunato (a comical name on Poe’s part). But we can’t be sure how far he’s willing to go until the end, when he traps him in a niche by closing up the opening with stone. I think almost anyone would agree that they’d rather be immediately killed. This psycho didn’t just want to kill, he wanted Fortunato to suffer for what he did, making this story, in my opinion, the scariest.
“The Black Cat”
When this psychotic narrator said he loved animals, I’d initially imagined him killing other people with them. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and I do believe I should have known better with an author like Poe. Cutting out a cat’s eye? Then hanging him? Such atrocities done to any animal is unforgivable. I was fully ready to purely hate this story. But, redemption is sweet when his new cat succeeds in tricking him into getting caught for murder. Animals can sense our personalities, and I do believe this one knew precisely what he was doing. What other story has an ending where the animal gets such sweet revenge?
“The Tell-Tale Heart”
I’d heard this title a lot before reading it. It was the only piece of writing I associated with Poe other than “The Raven.” I think the reason it’s studied, or that any of Poe’s works are studied, so much and so closely is because he was trying to accurately represent the perspective of a madman, and probably one of the first to execute it so well. The entire story, which isn’t very long at all, the narrator is trying to convince the reader, and likely himself, that he is not out of his mind and that killing an old man, as he did, was completely justifiable. Immediately, we know this is not that case, as he tells us how he had no issues with the man himself, just the foggy blue eye he had. It appears as though the narrator could focus on nothing else, and then he goes into how he stalked the man for days before he killed him, breaking into his home and watching him sleep. In the end, he became so paranoid about what he’d done, that he ends up revealing himself to the police. I don’t think this was done out of any sort of guilt. He was just psycho enough to think that he’d been caught, even though he probably would’ve gotten away with it.
What I like and appreciate most about each of these stories is that the lengths of them and details given are just right. They’re all quite short because we don’t need the extraneous detail, nor would it make sense given our narrators. Psychos are so focused on their obsessions, they wouldn’t be thinking about the decor of the house or the backstories of other characters. Poe’s intention was to portray the mind and perspective of a psycho, and I most definitely think he succeeded with this.