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Edgar Allen Poe's Use of Lead Characters

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Edgar Allen Poe's Use of Lead Characters

It is very easy to associate Edgar Allen Poe with thoughts of dreariness and darkness and with good reason as much of his writing does reflect those very downcast moods. Although, authors do like to sometimes break their stereotypes and produce things entirely different from their usual and Poe is no exception. This can be easily observed by comparing the use of his lead characters in the stories “The Black Cat”, “Hop-Frog” and “The Purloined Letter.”

Each character is in a different situation and the reader has a different reaction to each one according to their actions.

The narrator in “The Black Cat” is the kind of character one likely comes into contact with most in Poe’s works. He is a man who is mad and in his madness commits terrible sins that can only seem justified in their own insane reasoning. He very much denies his madness from the very beginning of the story when he comes right out and says “My very senses reject their own evidence. Yet, mad I am not.” He makes all the excuses he can come up with for his actions, but they do little more than prove his insanity to the reader. After he viciously gouges out the eye of a cat he is convinced he loves, he admits that his soul is untouched by the guilt he should be overcome with after such an offensive crime. He says “I experienced a sentiment half of horror, half of remorse, for the crime which I had been guilty; but it was a feeble and equivocal feeling, and the soul remained untouched.” He feels himself overcome with a feeling of perverseness and cannot keep himself from doing things for no other reason than he knows they are wrong. He is not a good man, throughout the story he does multiple evil things without ...

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...is they are all of above average intelligence, a trait shared by many of Poe’s leading characters. Monsieur Dupin is a good and intelligent character who goes the whole story without any evil acts.

As much as people tend to assume all of Poe’s stories are much alike, in comparing these three one can see he uses three different, distinct kinds of lead characters to generate different obvious reactions. The reader’s response to each lead character and those he interacts with changes from story to story. Therefore each story had a different overall effect and feel to it. The characters may quite possibly be the most important element in any story for if the reader cannot relate to the emotions or empathize at all with any of the character there will be little or no emotion provoked by the story, in which case it would likely have had little impact on the reader.
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