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What other story in literature is similar to Edith Wharton's "A Bottle of Perrier?"

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obanski | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted October 6, 2011 at 4:40 AM via web

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What other story in literature is similar to Edith Wharton's "A Bottle of Perrier?"

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 17, 2011 at 5:39 AM (Answer #1)

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The short story "A Bottle of Perrier," by Edith Wharton, is similar in some respects to "The Tell-Tale Heart," by Edgar Allan Poe.  Both stories involve servants who have slain their employers and who seem to be nervous about the discovery of the bodies of the slain persons.  In Poe's story the body is buried beneath a floor, and in Wharton's story the body has been dumped down a well. Both stories end inconclusively, but in each case the discovery of the body seems imminent.

Of course, there are differences as well.  Poe's story is narrated by the killer himself, and so part of the fascination of the tale lies in the psychology of the narrator. The story memorably opens with the following paragraph, which "hooks" readers immediately and makes them want to discover more about this speaker:

TRUE! --nervous --very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses --not destroyed --not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily --how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

Wharton's story, on the other hand, is narrated from a distance and is far less excited in tone. Indeed, the servant in Wharton's story seems less crazed than the one in Poe's; the former, at least, can offer a somewhat rational explanation of his decision to kill his employer. This is obviously not the case in Poe's story.

Of the two stories, Poe's is obviously the more sensational and memorable, whereas Wharton's story is not nearly as famous. It seems likely, however, that Wharton would have read Poe's story, and so perhaps it was even some influence (if only a subconscious one) on her own tale.

 

 

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