Disguised Motives for Murder in Short Stories by Edgar Allen Poe

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In the mid 1800’s America was in full swing of the romanticism movement. During this time readers were entertained by the fresh new writing styles of the latest authors. There were several famous authors in this era such as: Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, and William Cullen Bryant. One innovative author from this movement however, added a new dynamic writing style that still intrigues many readers today. Edgar Allen Poe, through his invention of detective stories, has become a house hold name to many. In his short stories “The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat,” Poe describes two heinous crimes committed by men whose motives can only be traced back to their deranged perception of reality, domestic relationships, and a soul whose thirst can only be quenched through violence. In the stories, “The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat,” both narrators have a misguided perception that induces their senses to confuse reality with delusions. This misguided perception is brought on by the abnormal psychology of both men. This is a common theme in Poes’ stories. In “The Black Cat” the narrator feels a sense of fright and disgust when reviewing the attached behavior of the second cat. Poe’s description of the second cat is eerily similar to that of the first cat, Pluto. As author Magdalen Wing-Chi Ki states, “the narrator is convinced that it ‘must be’ Pluto on account of two things: it follows him around in the hope of becoming his absolute partner, and one of its eyes is gone.” A rational person understands that it is impossible for the second cat to be Pluto, but the narrator is so misguided that he believes this inconceivable delusion. This mistaken fantasy fuels the narrator’s madness, giving him more evidence that mu... ... middle of paper ... ...d the rational explanation is that the narrator wanted to kill the old man for his own indulgence. The liberation the narrator describes after the murder of the old man shows that violence was truly the key motive for his crime. Throughout both stories Poe shows that both narrators in “The Black Cat” and “The Tell Tale Hart” long for violence. He does not give clear motives for their crime; instead he leaves the detective work to the readers. After careful analysis of both stories, the reader understands that the narrators’ psychotic perceptions of reality, their domestic lifestyles, and their craving for violence, is the only reason these men commit such heinous acts without reason. The horrific crimes illustrated in these two stories along with his dynamic writing style is what has lead Poe to be one of the most recognizable authors of the 19th century.

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