Poe Review

As a complementary post to my last one, here is a quick overview of the main ideas of the Poe texts we read, as a refresher to you all.

“How to Write a Blackwood Article” – The first half of this short story is about Psyche Zenobia, a writer, talking to her editor.  He tells her that to write a successful story she must write about something with a lot of emotion , such as what it feels like to get stuck inside a bell or to take laxatives; she should make allusions to other great works whenever possible; and to sound intelligent, she should put in other languages such as Greek or Latin.  The second half of the story is the story that Psyche writes about herself, her midget slave, and her dog.  Psyche ends up on top of a church, getting her head chopped off by the clock’s hands.  Her dog ends up taken by a rat, her slave falls off the roof, and she watches her dismembered head with her missing eyeballs.

“The Premature Burial” – This is a series of stories about people who have been buried alive in many different ways.  One person was buried alive in their crypt, and the mistake was only discovered much later.  The others were able to draw attention to themselves and get unburied.  The narrator has an obsession with premature burial because of his catalepsy – a disease which causes him to fall into a deep, death-like sleep at random.  This obsession is cured when he wakes up, thinking he is buried alive, but finds that he is only in a boat.

“The Murders in the Rue Morgue” – Dupin, our detective, sets out to find out who murdered a woman and her daughter.  The police cannot figure out who killed the two women: the room door was locked, the room was on the top floor of the house,  and neighbors all claim that the murderer was speaking another language (Spanish? Italian?) Dupin manages to solve the mystery – an Ourang-Outang that a sailor lost had escaped.  The animal then scaled into the house, tried to shave the woman with a razor, and ended up killing her. It then strangled the daughter and stuffed her body up a chimney.

“The Masque of the Red Death” – A plague is killing many people throughout the kingdom.  In response, the King and his courtiers barricade themselves in the palace and live there in luxury.  The King decides to throw a masquerade party in the castle.  He sets up seven rooms, each of a different color.  Around midnight, a mysterious guest appears in the Black Room.  The king, disturbed by this guest, demands that he leave.  The guest steps forward, and the king and his courtiers fall dead.  The guest then disappears – death has struck.

“Hop-Frog, or The Eight Chained Ourang-Outang” – A crippled dwarf is the fool/jester of a King.  The King is a jokester, as are his seven council members; and often his jokes are cruel.  He makes Hop-Frog drink, even though the alcohol is bad for Hop-Frog’s disposition.  There is another dwarf, Trippetta, who is very beautiful.  The king mistreats her in front of Hop-Frog.  The King and his council ask Hop-Frog for an idea for a costume for a masquerade.  Hop-Frog says they should be oraung-outangs chained together: to achieve this, Hop-Frog tars and flaxes them and covers them with material to make them look like animals.  They are then chained together.  The eight men come into the masquerade, frightening their guests who rush for the doors – which are locked. The men are then attached to a chain in the ceiling.  The men are then pulled to the ceiling, where Hop-Frog sets them on fire.  Hop-Frog and Trippetta escape through a sky-light and gain their freedom.

“The Fall of the House of Usher” – Our narrator visits his friend Roderick Usher, who is ill. Roderick’s twin sister, Madeline, is also ill. The narrator stays with the Ushers for awhile, to attempt to cheer up his friend. One day, Roderick tells the narrator that Madeline has died and been entombed for two weeks in a vault.  The narrator helps Roderick put Madeline’s body in the tomb. One night, a storm begins, and Roderick comes to the narrator’s room (which is above where Madeline is buried) and is very upset.  The narrator attempts to calm his friend by reading to him. Suddenly, cracking sounds are heard in the house, followed shortly by a shriek. Then a hollow, reverberating sound; at this, Roderick exclaims that the sounds are Madeline, who was alive when she was entombed. Madeline crashes through the bedroom door, and falls on Roderick. Both Ushers are dead. The narrator flees the house and as he looks back sees it breaking and sinking into the tarn.

“The Black Cat” – Our narrator tells us about his black cat, Pluto.  The narrator and the cat are very fond of one another for several years, until one day the man begins to drink.  He wants the cat’s attention, but the cat is “ignoring him.” Therefore, the man gouges out the cat’s eye; and from then on the cat flees from the man.  In anger, the man hangs the cat from a tree. That same night, his house catches on fire, causing him and his wife to flee. Later, he finds another black cat, which is similar to Pluto – including the missing eye. This cat, however, has a white patch on its chest which begins to resemble a gallows. One day, the cat gets in the man’s way while he and his wife are in the cellar of their new home.  The man attempts to kill the cat, but his wife stops him – so he kills her instead. He then walls her up in the cellar; the police find nothing and the man goes free. However, the police come back and go with the man into the cellar. The man, confident he will not get caught, taps on the wall of the cellar.  A wailing sound fills the cellar, and the police open up the wall, where they find the wife’s body and the black cat sitting on her head.

3 Responses to “Poe Review”

  1. jholmes says:

    Thanks! This definitely helps to refresh the Poe memories!

  2. Stephanie says:

    Thanks for this. I was really dreading going back and trying to re-read all of these stories. I actually attempted too and then gave up, so thank you!

  3. cclark4 says:

    Thanks for putting this up! I think the Poe stories were swept away to the back of my mind until now, when I actually need them. I am surprised, reading over these synopses, at how much I see them dialoguing with the other stories we’ve read. Poe, like Twain, was often misunderstood and way ahead of his time.