Narration Techniques of Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most influential and outstanding American writers, who elaborated his own specific style and determined the transformations of the world literature by his unique texts. Poe created short novels for the most part. This detail is very important for one’s understanding of his style because it would be very difficult for Poe to engage his readers using big prose forms; on the contrary, short stories perfectly served the writer’s goal. To achieve the needed effect, Poe uses various narration techniques. Some of them are common for most writer’s texts, while the others are used in particular cases only. In fact, the difference becomes clear through the comparison of narration techniques used in such Poe’s short stories as “The Cask of the Amontillado,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” and “Ligeia”. In these short stories, the writer creates each narrator’s unique experience with the use of different narration techniques in order to build up the empathic connection between his main characters and the reader.
All the novels have similarities in emotions they evoke in reader. In fact, each novel begins with demonstration of the main character’s feeling of being oppressed and ends up with the solution of the problem that caused distress. In some cases, such solution may deeply impress the readers, making them feel shocked, scared or terrified. The emotions presented in each novel require deeper examination as well as comparison.
The analysis of Poe’s novel “Ligeia” demonstrates an interesting use of mentioned emotions. It begins with the main character’s memories about his wife’s death. The main emotion of the short story’s beginning is his grief for Lady Ligeia. However, in “Ligeia” emotions gradually evolve from grief to outburst of feelings by the end. . In fact, it is difficult to identify true emotions of the main character because his memories differ from the story. Probably, his emotions include both shock and joy. In such a way, the plot’s development comes from te negative oppressive emotion to the main character’s sudden contradictory relief from his deep grief.
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The same emotional flow from oppression to relief is characteristic for “The Cask of the Amontillado” as well. The short story begins with the main character’s confession about his need for revenge to Fortunato, who always offended him and finally crossed the line of acceptable injuries. Therefore, he starts the narration with hatred and revengefulness. The main character also tells the reader that the only way to get revenge is to cheat Fortunato. Thus, he hides his true feelings and plans. All of these emotions such as hatred for offence, need for revenge, fear of failure and of being exposed as well as some other dark emotions overwhelm the main character and the reader. At the end of the short story, Fortunato is immured, and the main character feels some kind of contradictive release from those oppressive emotions that borders with a shame. These feelings make him call Fortunato “noble”. It is clear that the emotional transformations of this short story are quite the same as those of “Ligeia” because both Poe’s works start with the feeling of oppression and end with a contradictory feeling of relief of the main characters.
Through the comparison of the two short stories, it becomes clear that their similarities are common for Poe’s fiction in general. “The Fall of the House of Usher” serves as another illustration of that. The short story begins with the main character’s melancholy that fills everything he sees and describes. As the plot’s develops, some spirit of anxiety comes and gradually replaces melancholy. As a result, when Lady Madeline comes and kills her brother, an indefinite anxiety and a shocking feeling of fear drive the main character to escape from the house. At the same time, it is clear that the main character is particularly glad to leave the building because his melancholy ends in such a way. In fact, the sequence of emotions is the same one as in previous two short stories. In all these works, oppressive feelings such as grief, need for revenge, and melancholy precede contradictory emotional outbursts that become a relief for the main characters and readers. Therefore, the short stories are based on the same emotional gradual development and its textual representation.
As for the narration techniques used in these short stories, there are also some similarities that are characteristic for Poe’s unique style in general. One of the most important Poe’s narration techniques is the use of the first-person narration. As a result, the narrator becomes emotionally close to the reader. Poe uses this technique in all the novels mentioned above, and it is a significant feature of his writing manner. In this way, the writer makes the reader experience the full scope of the narrator’s emotions from depression to relieving suspense. One of the most important details is the indefinite description of Poe’s main characters that is contrast to detailed description of other characters, nature, and inanimate objects. It allows the reader to transfer his or her personal features on the main character and, in such a way, to become psychologically united with him. Certainly, Poe would not achieve such a result using the third-person narration, as the narrator better engages the reader into his emotional state.
Another component of Poe’s narration techniques is the use of dialogues. In fact, only “The Cask of the Amontillado” includes direct dialogues instead of indirect ones like in “The Fall of the House of Usher” and monologues like in “Ligeia”. The author achieves different effects by using these techniques. For instance, the direct dialogues between Montresor and Fortunato help to feel the full scope of emotions Montresor feels toward Fortunato. The short story ends with Fortunato’s silence for dramatic effect. In contrast to it, “Ligeia” is based on inner feelings of the main character. As for the relations between Usher and the main character, the author mostly uses indirect speech because the short story takes place in the past.