Theme Of Fear In Poe's Literature

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Fear is an emotion we experience every day. Throughout Poe’s stories, we learn that the effect of fear greatly depends on the determination, strong will, and hopefulness of the victim. The variation of these aspects allow both helpful and harmful outcomes of fear. In some cases, fear can sharpen senses, induce caution, and strengthen our will to live. Likewise, fear can lead to paranoia, hallucination, and isolation. In “The Tell Tale Heart,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” and “The Masque of Red Death,” these circumstances are portrayed through the adoption of various literary devices. The use of symbolism, irony, and imagery, reveals to us the distortion of the character’s morals and settings while showing the effect of fear on their ultimate…show more content…
The narrator in “The Tell Tale Heart” quickly reveals his insanity towards “vulture eye,” as he raves, “... for it was not the old man that vexed me, but his evil eye…”(523.) In this story, the eye represents judgment, therefore the killer is not paranoid about the eye specifically, but rather the opinion it gives the old man. This fear of judgment grows into an obsession and overwhelms the narrator, consuming any sanity he possessed, and leaving him guilty and illing to confess his crime. This same paranoia and fixation is demonstrated by Prince Prospero in “The Masque of Red Death.” The Prince however is paranoid by the inescapable Red Death, so much so, that he isolates himself: “A strong and lofty wall girdled it[the castle] in. The wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnace and massy hammers and welded the bolts.”(57.) The Prince became so obsessed with death that he couldn’t rest until he was able to isolate himself from it, which in the end proved unsuccessful. In this story, the red death itself symbolises the Prince’s greatest fear; fate. In this case symbolism brings Prospero’s fear to life, ultimately allowing us to see the inevitability of death. As seen in both texts, fear acts strongly upon the character’s minds, eventually controlling their actions and leading them both to…show more content…
However, despite similar uses of these devices, in each story we see a different effect of fear. In ¨The Tell Tale Heart¨ the use of symbolism shows how fear and obsession can bring about guilt, and in the ¨Masque of Red Death,¨ symbolism as well as irony demonstrate how our fears cannot be cast aside. However, in ¨The Pit and the Pendulum,¨ we see how hope and perseverance can allow us to overcome fear. With all these outcomes, it is impossible to say whether fear is harmful or helpful, but with the use of literary devices we can begin to recognize fear´s role in each character's individual
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