Edgar Allan Poe Short Fiction Analysis
The variety of Edgar Allan Poe’s short fiction cannot be conveyed fully in a short introduction. Though he is best known for his classics of gothic horror such as “The Fall of the House of Usher” and his portraits of madmen and grotesques such as “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Cask of Amontillado,” he is also the author of detective stories, “The Purloined Letter”; science fiction, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym; parodies, “The Premature Burial”; satires, “The Man That Was Used Up”; social and political fiction, “The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether”; and a variety of kinds of humor, “Diddling Considered as One of the Exact Sciences” and “Hop-Frog.”
Three stories that illustrate some of this variety while offering insight into Poe’s characteristic themes are “A Descent into the Maelström,” “The Purloined Letter,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Among Poe’s central themes is an emphasis on the mysteries of the self, of others, of nature, and of the universe. His stories usually function in part to undercut the kinds of easy optimism and certainty that were characteristic of popular thought in his time.
“A Descent into the Maelström”
“A Descent into the Maelström,” which first appeared in Graham’s Magazine in May, 1841, and was collected in Tales, opens with a declaration of mystery: “The ways of God in Nature, as in...
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