Readers get an education when it comes to the role that the first-person narrator takes on some of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories. In “The Tell-Tale Heart” (1843) the unnamed narrator is not trying to convince the reader that he is not guilty, just that he is not crazy. He was justified in killing the old man with the “vulture-like eye” and hiding the body under the floorboards of his home. He may be trying to save his own skin, but that is not the point. The crime is not in question; it is the narrator’s sanity. How can one trust the storyteller, if you only get one part of the story?
This is what makes the journey as a reader more interesting. How do you discern the truth? This is what it is like going through Poe’s work. Most of his stories rely on the unreliability of the character telling the story. Is he telling the truth? Is it his truth, is it the actual truth, or is it a possible truth? Who knows? The only way to know is by reading the story, see how the other characters interact, and just question everything. Eventually all the facts will come out. It could also create reasonable doubt and it will be up to the reader to discern what happened. The reader will write his own story in his head after bearing witness to what transpired.
There are many elements and themes that can be utilized to analyze the way that Edgar Allan Poe uses the unreliable narrator. I want to focus on one aspect—love. Tragic love plays a big role in his oeuvre of works, such as in his poetry. Some of his most famous poems include “Lenore” (1843) and “Annabel Lee” (1849). I selected three “love” stories as interpreted by the narrator of the tale. These are not among Poe’s most popular stories, but ones that I feel that should be focused on—“Be...
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...y—of the LADY LIGEIA (579).
Now, how true could this be? Was it the narrator’s wishful thinking? A hallucination? Insanity? Or did it actually happen? The point is that it does not really matter. What is important is the impact this scene has towards the reader and in their interpretation of events. It is a story of madness, though the narrator does not seem to think so. However through his actions, through his words, readers get to explore the psyche of this man. What made him like this? That is the appeal of Poe’s work. Nothing is what it seems so you need to read between the lines. We try to keep an open mind, but are limited with what we are given by the storyteller. It is why his stories have survived the passage of time. Each story provides a lot of material open for interpretation, as well as many different possibilities. It is the joy of being a reader.
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