Essay Sample Dedicated to the Gothic Genre in Literature

Published: 2022-07-19
Essay Sample Dedicated to the Gothic Genre in Literature
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Edgar Allan Poe
Pages: 8
Wordcount: 2054 words
18 min read

The gothic literature is one of the unique literature properly defined as fiction. Gothic fiction is a writing style mostly character by fear, horror, chaos, death, gloom, curses, intense emotion and supernatural beings such as ghosts, vampires, and zombies. These gothic elements are embodied in the three literary works "The Oblong Box", "The Black Cat", and "Man of the Crowd" by Edgar Allan Poe. By examining the gothic themes in the three books, the author seeks to explain that

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How Chaos, Disorder, the Dark and the Grotesque Unnerve people Naturally

The oblong box is a horror story about a voyage which involves a mysterious box, while the story is nearly a detective story; it is clear that Edgar Allan Poe as the character of the detective is not emphasized in the story. The oblong story belongs to the genre or horror short stories as the summer sea voyage is interrupted by a mysterious oblong box as the independence ship moves from Charleston to New York City. Cornelius Wyatt brought on board an oblong pine box but the odd odor that it was emanating was a major cause for concern for the narrator and the others passengers on board the ship. The horrors start when the narrator heard his old college refined open the oblong box and sobbed and this continued for several days (Benton 26-28). The mystery is that the friend only cried whenever the ugly wide left the room in the middle of the night on several occasions till the terrible hurricane shook the ship and the man with the box diseased into the sea. It came to pass that the box had the corpse of Cornelius Wyatt's wife and the unattractive woman was a maiden that only posed as his wife to sidestep the ship rules that disallowed shipping Illegal cargo.

The coffin in the "oblong box" is a gothic element that is shrouded with misery. The first person narrator was first concerned about the small box in a funny shape (oblong) which was later revealed to be a coffin; the mystery surrounding the coffin is the disappearance of the Wyatt is both horrific and mesmerizing. Another mystery is that of Wyatt reserving three states -rooms while they were four people Wyatt, his two sisters, and the "wife". Another mystery when the ship foundered in the storm off the Cape Hatteras that forced Wyatt to leap from the lifeboat back to the ship to retrieve the six feet by two and a half feet box then threw him back into the water and is lost beneath the waves. The ship captain replied the narrator that Wyatt might have disappeared but, "They will soon rise again... but not till the salt melts" (p. 933) in reply the narrator's comment "how suddenly they sank". From the cryptic comment, it is clear that the salt would take nine days to melt portably referred to the salt that was used to embalm the corpse of Wyatt's wife whom his adored the corpse was kept a mystery in the oblong box because the captain feared that the nine-tenths of the passengers would have deserted the ship had they realized that Wyatt was shipping the corpse of how wide in the oblong box (p. 933).

Another mystery is the effect of the sea on the narrator who is described as having been both moody and nervous as well as insomniac the entire voyage. The narrator is also being said to have been haunted seriously by the friend's "hysterical laugh" (p. 934). The hysterical laugh managed to provoke ill-judged witticism about the mysterious box and the content. It is mysterious to think that the narrator rarely sleeps soundly at night because of Wyatt's laugh (p. 934).

In the black cat the box is also mentioned but this time, the "box was in the middle of the floor. The papers which had been in the box were lying around on the floor. "The content was packed in the box like merchandise with the normal arrangements while in the "oblong box" he narrates that Wyatt's wife's body was packed in a box like merchandise (Hutchison et al 23). The mystery of the two stories can be linked to the story of the John colt that was found guilty of murdering the printer names Samuel Adams after a quarrel over some payment. John cold himself shot Samuel Adams and packed his corpse in an oblong box covered with salt which was sent on board a ship called Kalamazoo.

What the unknown implies given what is known

Whenever one does not know anything about a thing, they start developing a poorly conceived opinion about the unknown. In the black cat, there are several mysteries that are less understood by the audience and their little understanding of the known can make one believe in either the worst or the best (Poe). For example, nobody knows that the man is thinking or what the black cat is capable of doing but the fact that they have often associated black cat with death, everyone feared the potential dangers.

Chaos in" The Black Cat"

Gothicism is highly associated with dark forces, darkness, horror, and mystery, therefore this story clearly embodies the characteristics of gothic literature. For example, the narrator is suffering from alcoholism which is a disease that has destroyed his personality. On the other hand, the black cat is used to symbolize mystery and superstitious as it is associated with death, bad luck or injury (Herzfeld 1). From the story, the narrator's wife also voices an idea that they are all witches in disguises. The black cat is also used symbolically to describe the states of the narrator's soul which is heavily dark, decaying and mutilated from the horrendous thing his has done in the past (Benton 26-28).

How the Dark and the Grotesque Is Represented in the "Black Cat"

The meowing sounds made by the black cat attract attention to the wall. The narrator tries to justify his dark past and denies his dark soul not knowing that he had already been transformed into a monster based on his violence filed past. It is also important to note that the narrator is an unreliable narrator which shifts his position and lies openly about his grotesque characteristics (Poe). The unreliable narrator is a stylistic device to help in weaving a horrific tale of violence fueled by the narrator urge to hurt his family and pet cat. In the black cat, the first person narrator is used as the narrator talks about the things that he did in the past as well as the things that had happened to him and not the things that he saw happening to others or heard about. The conflict between the narrator consciences and his alcoholism and the conflicts between the narrator and his pet cat called Pluto.

The climax of the horror story is when in his fit of madness, the narrator picked up Pluto the cat and tortured him by gouging out its eyes and hanged it. This is also the main chaos and the cat's eyes are gouge out leaving it in dark without eyes. Most gothic pictures are embodied with characters with blackened out eyes or gory pictures of people with their eyes brutally removed and hanged. Additionally, the black cat is also named Pluto synonymous with the name of a character in Roman mythology known as Pluto the god of the underworld. One particular characteristic of the American gothic fiction is the use of first person and flashbacks (Hutchison et al). Initially, the narrator speaks like a social person with friends and is quite sociable. However, as he sinks deep into alcoholism, he undergoes a metamorphosis which sees him become more withdraws from others and from himself. He becomes violent to the pet cat that he loved before that falsifies his actions.

A satanic hero is the best description of the narrator based on his immoral acts. Even though he is married, his love for his cat shows that he loved the cat more then the wife and they have a deeper connection with the cat. The cat is mainly used in gothic stores and movies to create an element of superstition as can be conjured by the presence of the black cats and the unlucky witches.

How Lack of Understanding Drives Fear, Makes up Both the Uncanny and Unknown

The man of the crowd is a story about an old man scared of being alone. He has completely lost connection with everyone around him neither does he have any connection with the places he is in. the old man is walking along a crowded street be he is lonely and remorseful for his past deeds. It is also clear that the old man has a secret or hidden side as indicated by the dagger he is carrying under his cloak. The mystery of the man's past does not allow him to walk innocently in the street apart from wandering within a crown to avoid being noticed for his past crimes. The crowd is used as an abstract force hiding the man's dark side by literary and metaphorically.

The terrors and chaos in the man of the crowd is explained by the narrator when he described a number of contradictory characteristics such as "the ideas of vast mental power, of caution, of penuriousness, of avarice, of coolness, of malice, of blood-thirstiness, of triumph, of merriment, of excessive terror, of intense- of supreme despair. I felt singularly aroused, startled, fascinated." The man is mysterious because everything about him is contradictory because he is wearing a clock but had a dagger is hidden in the cloak, his line is dirty but it is also of beautiful texture. Even though he is described as a decrepit old man in his seventh, the old man refuses to be alone because he is a genius of deep crime.

Disorder and Chaos Represented In the Man of the Crowd

The internal conflicts mark the disorders and the chaos in the life of the narrator. For example, the narrator fights his consciences because the struggles are internal. He is in constant conflict with himself in that he struggles to know about the story of everyone in the crowd until he finds a man whose story he cannot read (Herzfeld 1). His curiosity takes him on a journey following the man to read him without success.

Disorder and chaos are represented in the man of the crowd by the fact that the narrator can read almost everyone in the crowd but cannot read the man in the crowd, For example, the narrator followed the man in the crowd for two days but could not understand him why he understood almost everyone in the crowd. The narrator could read flash clerks, pick pickets, gamblers as well as conmen and lowly people such as the prostitutes, the beggars, the Jews, and the drunks. The narrator gave up saying "It will be in vain to follow, for I shall learn no more of him, or of his deeds." (Poe). The chaos and disorders are also described by the suffering men undergo just to keep some secrets. There are some secrets that do not allow them to be disclosed and men would rather die with despair of heart and convulsion of threat n with the dirty secrets while wringing the hands of the ghostly confessors. The aloofness of the man invokes fear and panic by threatening social stability. The fact that the narrator did not understand the man since he developed several descriptions of the old man in the crowd and the lack of understudying has driven him to believe the worst.

Works Cited

Benton, Richard P. "A Guide To Poe: J. R. Hammond, An Edgar Allan Poe Companion: A Guide To The Short Stories, Romances, And Essays." Poe Studies 16.1 (1983): 26-28. Web.

Herzfeld, P. "Poe And "Gothic Opera"." The Edgar Allan Poe Review 16.1 (2015): 1. Web.

Hutchison, James M et al. Edgar Allan Poe. 2nd ed. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2011. Print.

Poe, Edgar Allan. The Man Of The Crowd. United States of America: Burton's Gentleman's Magazine and Atkinson's Casket, 1840. Print.

Poe, Edgar Allan. The Oblong Box (Short Story). New York: Godey's Magazine and Lady's Book, 1844. Print.

Baym, Nina. "The Norton Anthology of American Literature", 8th Edition, Volume B: 1820-1865. New York City: Norton. (2012). p. 695.

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