Last night, with the wind howling outside, I sat down in front of the fire to read “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe. I had never read anything by Poe before (or I might have when I was younger, but in French and so long ago that I don’t really remember). It was about time to read some of the stories written by the first author to discuss how the short story works and to set the principles that became the basis short story theory. According to Poe: “the unity of effect or impression is a point of the greatest importance. It is clear, moreover, that this unity cannot be thoroughly preserved in productions whose perusal cannot be completed at one sitting”. Indeed, this principle becomes evident when reading his stories. Every word seems to be down on paper in order to create a certain impression and very little is explained, which actually helps to the effect the story has on the reader. They left me perplexed.
Both stories can be classified as gothic fiction and are concerned with characters who suffer from mental disorders. Thinking about it now, I realise that the two stories also rely heavily for their effect on the incidences of sound, which adds to the creepy atmosphere. I find “The House of Usher” great for the atmosphere it creates and its way of showing how the house reflects the mental state of its inhabitants until their fall. However, I prefer “The Tell-Tale Heart” with its mad narrator who attempts to prove his sanity by explaining how he committed murder (because of the old man’s vulture eye) and finally confessed his perfect crime to the unsuspicious police officers because he was hearing his victim’s heartbeat.
For some reason, I find little to say about them and I think it is probably because their impact resides in the experience of reading them.