The Philosophy of Composition Questions and Answers
by Edgar Allan Poe

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Demonstrate how the writings of Edgar Allan Poe fulfill his philosophy that literature should have a single, emotional effect. Apply what he writes in "The Philosophy of Composition" to some of his work.

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In "The Philosophy of Composition," Poe writes emphasizing the importance of choosing a unified tone or mood for a story or poem. He uses "The Raven" as the model for his method, saying of that poem that he picked its subject based on wanting to convey a mood of melancholy. Mood came first, and subject second. He asked:

Of all melancholy topics, what, according to the universal understanding of mankind, is the most melancholy?

He then responded (in a statement that many feminist critics have objected to as objectifying women) that:

the death, then, of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world.

Though Poe uses "The Raven" as his subject, we can apply his ideas to other works. Two (of many) that come to mind as expressing a relentlessly consistent tone or emotional effect are "The Cask of Amontillado" and "The Masque of the Red Death ." I choose these two because Poe, in his ""The Philosophy of Composition," also mentions the importance of using sound to create...

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