In Edgar Allen Poes short stories: The Black Cat and The Fall of The House of Usher the idea of insanity is accompanied by death or decay in some way.

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 Baginski, Parmar

Adam Baginski, Baljyot Parmar

C. Toubassi


Dec. 12. 2011

Comparison of Death by Insanity within Edgar Allen Poe’s Short Stories

Insanity is able to create horror and decay in one’s life. In Edgar Allen Poe’s short stories: ‘The Black Cat’ and ‘The Fall of The House of Usher’ the idea of insanity is accompanied by death or decay in some way. The decay of the unnamed narrator in the ‘Black Cat’ into insanity allows the reader to understand his murderous actions. Similarly, in ‘The Fall of The House of Usher’ the use of words such as melancholy and decay establish the idea of death through insanity. Ultimately, in both stories, the use of symbolism and diction is fundamental in establishing the theme of death through the insanity of the characters.

To begin with, the use of symbols is crucial in creating the ideas of insanity and death within the two texts. In ‘The Black Cat’, alcohol symbolizes the evolution of the narrator into insanity, which would ultimately lead him to murder Pluto, his cat. “But my disease grew upon me- for what disease is like Alcohol! - and at lengths even Pluto, who was now becoming old and consequently somewhat peevish- even Pluto began to experience the effects of my ill temper” (Poe, 224). One can clearly see that as the effects of alcohol increase in their use, the narrator is unable to control his temper. At times it seems as though a new narrator is present, the peaceful and animal loving person in the beginning is very different from the murderous and ill-tempered person view in the latter. To the narrator these actions: killing the cat and his wife, seem trivial under the influence of alcohol but become unbearable when he is sober, for example in the beginning of the story, where he wants to ‘unburden my soul’. The alcohol has become, by now, the lead explanation of the characters’ insanity. Similarly, the use of symbolism in ‘The Fall of The House of Usher’ displays the same trend of decay and death. However, in this story the actual ‘House of Usher’ symbolizes the decay of the inhabitants and there ultimate death.

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“…upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain — upon the bleak walls — upon the vacant eye-like windows — upon a few rank sedges — and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees — with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveller upon opium — the bitter lapse into common life — the hideous dropping off of the veil” (Poe, 231).

One can see from the narrator’s description of the house that it represents the decay of life and ...

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