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What makes Poe's writing Gothic?

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Introduction

What makes Poe's writing Gothic? The Gothic genre is an extensive and wide ranging area of literature and as one of its leading writers Edgar Allen Poe uses many Gothic devices and elements in his stories. There are, unfortunately, too many to explore in one essay and therefore I shall concentrate on those elements with which I feel Poe actually enhances and enriches the genre. The Gothic genre is one of extremities and extravagance, whether it be gruesome horror or suspense filled terror, obsessions and madness or surroundings and scenery, every detail is described and exaggerated with great care. The damnable acts of felony, sinister darkness and shadows all add tension whilst the lust of the tyrannical males, their madness and rage and the helplessness and isolation of their female victims add emotion and evoke sympathy within the reader. Irrationality governs most of the events as dark and illogical plots unfold. Walpole's Castle of Otranto an early example of the genre shows all these features. These ideals were carried over into other forms. Grotesque and brooding art such as that of Goya flourished, along side Gothic literature, influenced by medieval sources and contemporary authors. Architecture too followed the same course. Walpole's own house Strawberry hill was a rambling mass of crenulations and towers filled, like his stories with dungeons and secret passages. However this description is an oversimplification, as the genre continued to evolve and with such a diverse range of authors it has developed many other qualities. ...read more.

Middle

What say CONSCIENCE grim, that spectre in my path?' The second William Wilson is the conscience of the first, embodied and given human form. The story explores the limits and responses of the superego, showing and exploring how in the most extreme cases it can lead to all the person's plans and schemes coming undone before their very eyes. After winning a distinct sum of money from a friend, the second Wilson bursts in exclaiming 'examine the inner lining of his cuff and the several little packages which may be found in his capacious pockets. Instantly his ruse is undone for upon examination in the lining of his sleeve 'were found all the cards essential for ecarte (the game he was playing)' and in his pockets 'facsimiles of those cards used at his sittings'. Finally in its dramatic climax it shows how when driven beyond a certain point the conscience can be physically destroyed if ignored and disobeyed for long enough: 'and thus getting him at my mercy, I plunged my sword with brute ferocity repeatedly through and through his bosom.' The story is an insight into the reactions of the mind, a great fascination of Poe and an element of the Gothic which he enhanced and developed. 'Facts in the case of M. Valdemar', another short story is interesting in that it shows an example other ways in which Poe enriches the genre. In a strange tale of Psycho-analysis and hypnosis the narrator endeavours to save a friend condemned to death through illness, by hypnotising him. ...read more.

Conclusion

Schools such as Oxford and Eton, Capitals and countries all over the world are mentioned at one point in the story 'scarcely had I set foot in Paris...or at Rome...at Vienna too -at Berlin -and at Moscow!' and this gives added realism as we can relate to the story, at least geographically. Also places as remote and exotic as this have the potential to be the location for almost anything however wild. Even those places which are not given names or countries are described in such detail, details perhaps drawn form personal experience, that we believe they are real. 'my earliest recollections of school was a rambling Elizabethan house, in a misty looking village of England, where were a vast number of gigantic and gnarled trees...'. Finally the story, after its tension filled murder, goes on to say that that was only the beginning of the evil William Wilson's infamous career, trying to convey the idea that the character's life does not end with the story. Personally I believe it is subtlety that Poe adds to these areas. Whilst his killings and death are explicit and overt his use of realism and psycho-analysis are not similarly thrust upon us. He does not make long and technical lectures upon the parts of the human psyche nor does he begin with protestations and exclamations of truth and reality. However with carefully woven details and remarks he is able to explore and enhance both elements of Gothicism with refinement and nuance, which is far more effective and impressive than his more flamboyant and extrovert moments of writing. ...read more.

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