Tales of Edgar Allan Poe (Part 1)

September 9, 2007 Reading Nook 10

So, I haven’t quite figured out how to go about blogging for these short stories yet. Because I want to remember the individual stories as I do with a book, I guess I’ll just make a record each time I read a few (I’m going for 3 a week so I can finish this month) and then give a regular review of the book as a whole? Whatever– Oh ya, I’m not sure how to talk about a 10 pages story without spoilers, so these contain spoilers. Get over it. :)

Today, I read “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Black Cat,” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.” The first and third I have read several times, so it was fun to revisit, but I had never read “The Black Cat” before. Perhaps I’m a little numb to the ones that I’m so familiar with, but yikes!! This one really creeped me out.

“The Cask of Amontillado” is the story of revenge in the most primal sense. Fortunado has committed some offense against the narrator (is it telling that we don’t know what the offense was??). In order to seek his revenge, the narrator lures Fortunado into the catacombs beneath Venice. Although he gives him several opportunities to leave the dank, dark maze, Fortunado refuses. Once at the end of the pathway, the narrator chains a drunk Fortunado to the catacomb wall and begins bricking the passageway until Fortunado is sealed into his death. I love the irony of Fortunado’s name; I love the pure vileness of Montresor but also Fortunado’s greed for superiority that continues to lead him to his grave after Montresor gives him numerous outs. But to me, the creepiest part of the story is not really knowing what Fortunado did to offend Montresor (or, maybe I missed it!!). I don’t know how to upload it onto here, but I found a great cartoon on YouTube!

“The Black Cat” is the story of, well, a black cat. Once upon a time there was a man, a man who is NOT mad, mind you! Anyway, for reasons that I’m not quite sure of (is being drunk a good enough reason?), he begins tormenting the cat–beginning with the eye and finally ending with hanging it in the yard. The cat comes back to haunt him, although this time it is not exactly the same cat. The narrator (who is NOT mad), attempts to take an ax to the cat’s head but instead hits his wife in the head. So, he buries her in the cellar beneath the mucky plastered walls. Finally, he can sleep at night peacefully. When the police come to the house, he takes them to the basement (see, he says, not here!), but then a harrowing screech comes from beneath the walls. The wife is found nearly decomposed with the black cat. Having read this one for the first time, I was really bothered by his cruelty toward the cat (nevermind the wife…I expected that). Other than that, it seemed very reminiscent of “The Tell-Tale Heart.”
So, I was going to include a picture of “The Tell-Tale Heart” but just looking at them was going to give me nightmares, so I refrained. Again, this story is of a man who is so convinced that he is meticulous and thoughtful instead of demented and crazy, but in the end crazy wins! He is haunted by his neighbor’s eye, a pale blue eye that is filmed over. After watching his neighbor for seven nights, he kills him to rid himself of the eye (yes, very sane). But, as the police come to investigate, the man begins to hear the dead neighbor’s heart beating. At first very softly, then louder and louder until he is so consumed by the noise that he confesses to the police. I think that of all the Poe I’ve read, this one is my favorite. It is short and the narrative is concise and tight. And the justifications this narrator gives for his actions and motives–can’t beat it.
Alright, now that I’ve scared myself silly, I’m off to read something a little more…well, not crazy anyway!

10 Responses to “Tales of Edgar Allan Poe (Part 1)”

  1. Petunia

    Thanks for sharing that there were spoilers. I plan to read Poe for the RIP II Challenge too. And thanks for sharing that The Black Cat was really creepy before the review. I look forward to reading it.

  2. Trish

    *Petunia – I felt bad about the spoilers since I try to keep my reviews relatively spoil-free, but part of the reason why I keep the blog is so that I can remember what I read. It’s easier for me to put clues when talking about books, but short stories are different (for me). Come back when you’re done and read… :)

    *Nymeth – I can seriously say that Poe actually shocked me with that one. And like I said, maybe its just because I’m so familiar with the other ones. Cat was cuddling when I was reading it, so that probably impacted my thoughts as well.

  3. Kristen

    “I was really bothered by his cruelty toward the cat (nevermind the wife…I expected that).”

    Haha. How many wives walk into Poe stories with big “DOOMED” signs tattooed on their foreheads… I’ve read a few Poe stories that I’ve more or less enjoyed, but they always stick with me far longer than other short stories, even ones I like better. Must be the creepy factor!

  4. Stephanie

    Yeah…I TRIED to read some Poe short stories this weekend. But got caught up in football! It’s funny. College football just doesn’t do it for me. (Could be because I went to a college with no football team!) I am a Notre Dame fan though.

    Now….basketball is totatlly different. I LOVE college basketball. Can’t get into the NBA! Weird, I know!

  5. Trish

    *Kristen – I think everyone besides the narrator walks into the room with a big “DOOMED” sign. I agree that Poe tends to stick with on longer than others–but Hawthorne’s stories also have a similar effect on me.

    *Stephanie – I hate everything basketball. I’m not much of a sports fan anyway, but it was difficult to go to my college and NOT be a sports fan (go Texas A&M Aggies!). The nice thing about Poe’s short stories are they are…well…short. A lot shorter than many writers anyway. Hope when you do get to them you enjoy!

  6. BookPlease

    Thanks for your comments on my blog.

    I’ve not read The Cask of Amontillado yet, so I skipped this part of your post.

    I agree about The Black Cat and The Tell-Tale Heart. They’re very similar and the details of the cruelty to the cat (and the wife) really sickened me.

  7. Trish

    *booksplease – I usually don’t write spoiler-posts, but I found it difficult with these when I’m also trying to remember what I read. Anyway, Cask of Amontillado is not really all that creepy–not like the other two.

  8. Debi

    I’m hoping to get to some Poe myself this weekend. I’ve actually only read a handful of his stories in the past, so I’m looking forward to it. Now I’m dying to see if the book I’ve got has “The Black Cat” in it…I think I’m up for a little creeping out.

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