Satisfactory Essays
Edgar Allen Poe: A 19th Century Genius or Literary Lunatic?

Confusion, fear, wonderment, shock and horror—just a few words of many to describe the emotions Edgar Allen Poe’s tales are known to elicit. Critics say that Poe was well ahead of his time in his ability to examine the human psyche and create characters that really make the reader think, if not recoil in horror. One particular theme Poe quite often repeats is that of madness and insanity. He is known for his wonderfully twisted tales involving such characters as an unstable brother with a mysterious ailment (The Fall of the House of Usher,) a methodical murderer (The Tell-Tale Heart,) and an enraged, revenge seeking, homicidal maniac (The Cask of Amontillado.) Through analysis and citations of the tales listed above, in conjunction with the opinions of literary critics, the reader will clearly see the oft repeated theme of madness and insanity hard at work.
Madness seems to inject itself into Poe’s tale, The Fall of the House of Usher, from the very beginning. The narrator of this tale begins by using extremely detailed comparisons and descriptions of the home of Roderick Usher, to relay the “insufferable gloom” and “utter depression of soul” (654) he feels when he first sees the place. He describes the outside, with its “vacant eye-like windows,” and “white trunks of decaying trees” (654). Literary critic Victor Strandberg states that Poe “unmistakably depicts the gloomy mansion as representing the house of the psyche.” Strandberg believes the references refer to Usher’s mysterious mental condition and Poe’s intent to compare the two, are solidified with Usher’s telling of his “The Haunted Palace.” Roderick Usher states in “The Haunted Palace,” that his home was “on...

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...deny that Montressor represents a special kind of evil. He is consumed with revenge and takes the necessary steps to enact the madness within his mind.
Edgar Allen Poe may just be both-- a 19th-century genius and a literary lunatic. His tales mentioned here, of mystery and murder, are wrought with insanity, instability and the ramblings and doings of mentally deranged psychopaths. Though his themes are many, and the character motives always up for interpretation, the theme of madness and insanity seem to grab hold of the reader and pull him or her directly into the story. Critic Patrick Mcgrath ends his essay, “Method to the Madness,” by stating, “The reader who’s been successfully enlisted as a kind of psychiatric detective will find herself engaged with minds blind to their own dysfunction, which makes them as rich in complexity as any in our literature.”