A careful reading of Poe’s tales will quickly reveal the importance that landscape plays in the development of each literary work. "Ragged Mountains" has both a surreal and realistic landscape allowing Poe to use both the mental and the physical environment to explain his tale. This technique is also found in "The Fall of the House of Usher," "William Wilson," and "The Masque of the Red Death." In these tales too the reader may tend to focus on the action at hand, and the psychological details, because that is what we are prone to do with Poe stories. However, it is also important to understand that physical landscape as well. As Daniel Philippon states in his article "Poe in the Ragged Mountains": "Any search for a whole universe of suggestion must be held in check by the realities of the landscape in which it occurs."
In "A Tale of the Ragged Mountains," it is pretty obvious that the landscape is going to play an important part in the story - we are given the setting right in the title. However, a majority of the story actually takes place in an "Orientalized" locale that has been transposed into the Ragged Mountains. This alone is a great juxtaposition: the title describes what seems to be a run-down, unappealing landscape, while the real action takes place in fantastical setting. But why is the landscape so important if the psychological aspect is what Poe is trying to focus on? Most likely it is because the landscape gives us clues about what is actually happening in the minds of the characters, and hints at things that make the story clearer. For example, Bedloe starts his tale by describing "the thic...
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...dscape as well as a physical one, his pieces pack a more powerful punch, and always allow the reader to find hints about what is really going on at a deeper level. Since much of Poe's 'action' is psychological, the landscape is an element of the story that can't be ignored, and should not.
Poe, Edgar Allan. "The Masque of the Red Death." The American Tradition in Literature. Ed. George Perkins and Barbara Perkins. 9th ed. vol. 1. New York: McGraw, 1998.
Poe, Edgar Allan. "A Tale of the Ragged Mountains" ; in Poe, ed. Harold Beaver. The Science Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976.
Poe, Edgar Allan. "William Wilson." Selected Poetry and Prose of Poe. Ed. T. O. Mabbott. New York: Modern Library, 1951.
Poe, Edgar Allen. "The Fall of the House of Usher". R.V.Cassill, ed. The Norton Fiction. New York, London, 1995.
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