What are some common themes in To Kill a Mockingbird and the The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe? (Such as "The Black Cat", "Hop-Frog", "The Raven", "The Bells" and "The Purloined Letter"?)
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Certainly, Poe explores the darker side of human nature and the psychology of evil with great complexity and depth. But, while To Kill a Mockingbird has its merit, the extent to which Harper Lee explores the regions of evil is incomparable to Poe. Nevertheless, both authors do share themes of the exploration of Goodness and Evil as well as the influences of Evil.
The narrative of To Kill a Mockingbird is one told in flashback, but it moves in order: There is the initial innocence of the children, whose only concept of anything that approaches evil is in their imaginings of a "haint" across the street from them. It is not until the second part of the novel that they encounter any evil in human nature, ranging from the angry resentment of Lula that Calpurnia has brought white children to her church to the evil treachery of Bob Ewell, whose lies and the coerced lies of his daughter bring an innocent man to a kangaroo trial. In contrast, Poe's narratives often open with ominous signs and actions that dance in arabesque until they reach a tremendous crescendo of evil.
While the deep evil of Ewell who would destroy children in order to satiate his desire for revenge does approach some of the characters of Poe, and his threats, perhaps, echo the hollow "Nevermore" of "The Raven," surely, his actions of attacking the children in Chapter 28 echoes the cries in "The Bells":
What a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!
In the startled ear of night
How they scream out their affright!
Too much horrified to speak,
They can only shriek, shriek,
and his perfidy displayed at the trial that effects the death of the innocent Tom Robinson measures strongly against the evil of the axing of the innocent wife in "The Black Cat." Also, the revenge story of "Hop-Frog" may find some parallels in the heinous intentions of Ewell to get Robinson executed, as well as his intent to avenge himself upon Atticus Finch, although Ewell's words and actions lack the sophistication of Poe's character in "Hop-Frog" and, certainly, Montresor in "The Cask of Amontillado."
That evil destroys innocence is certainly apparent in "The Black Cat,"as the innocent cat and wife are so brutally slain, and in "The Cask of Amontillado" as the sinister Montresor leads the innocent Fortunato to his entombment and death. As a parallel to this destruction of innocence in To Kill a Mockingbird, little Scout and her brother Jem suffer the loss of innocence, Boo Radley's innocence is endangered by his defense of the children as he stabs Bob Ewell, and Tom Robinson is robbed of his innocence by death. Perhaps, too, even Mayella has lost innocence as she never intended to cause Tom any harm.
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