English Literature Coursework.
Compare and contrast at least two short stories by Edgar Allen Poe, paying particular attention to setting, atmosphere, characterisation, theme and language.
Throughout this essay I will be comparing and contrasting Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Black Cat’ and ‘The Cask of Amontillado’. Edgar Allen Poe had a particular preference to what though was good writing he believed that a story should build suspense and tension and all techniques should be used to build this tension for a big finish, his ‘unity of effects’. Many of Poe’s stories are very gothic and sinister, this can be seen to have been influenced by the long chain of very traumatic events in his life such as losing both parents, losing his wife, alcoholism and hallucinations. He should never be called crazy himself but his stories often involve ‘crazy’ narrators and characters.
I will firstly start of with the setting in ‘The Cask of Amontillado’, this is a story set in old Italy in which our main character ‘Montressor’ has been gravely insulted by ‘Fortunato’ and to find his revenge he buries him alive deep underneath his mansion. The setting in the Cask is sinister and also ironic. Its set in a mansion during the carnival, the mansion itself is very gothic and creepy which gives us the gothic element, but the fact that its set during carnival is very ironic as carnival is supposed to be a time of joy and gaiety not a time for evil murders such as this. The reason this murder actually takes place is also due to the carnival, as during it a lot of social boundaries are dropped and laws are less firmly enforced which gives him this chance to ‘get away with murder’. The deed itself is set deep in Montressors cellar, his catacombs, which provides is with a very gothic atmosphere. The deeper they descend into the cellar can also been seen as irony for descending into hell which gives us another layer to the setting of this tale.
‘The Black Cat’ is a story set all at home in which a very strange series of events take place and the narrator who was once a very fond animal lover becomes their enemy and ends up killing one cat and attempting to kill his second but instead kills his wife, who he walls up in his cellar and accidently walls up the cat alive with her. During this time we witness his slow decent into utter madness. The setting as I said is all at the narrator home, this is ironic as the home is where we are supposed to feel most secure and most safe but it this tale its where these crazy and rather disturbing events take place, this affects the reader in a way which makes them think that the home is maybe not so secure as they once thought and challenges their views of safety and security. The safety of home is a total contrast to the sinister events that take place. This is similar to the Cask as all deaths in both stories take place in the narrators home, but is contrasted as in the Cask he was more in control of where the death could have taken place as he was more ‘sane’, but it in ‘The Black Cat’ he is less in control and the death of his wife was more spur of the moment. The murder in the cask was very much thought out and everything was planned to the last detail but in the black cat he is often drunk or not in a safe state of mind when the murders are committed.