Perhaps the most recognizable aspect of Poe's work is that of fear.
Michael Burduck states that Poe explores areas of "pain, decay, and terror"
to entertain his readers and "enlighten the dark tunnels of human life"
(Burduck 102). He also states, "Poe prefers to scare his audience from
within" (105). Tales must also "spellbind and capture the audience's
complete attention" (105). Additionally, the theme of death occurs just
as much in Poe's writing as fear. In fact, J. Gerald Kennedy notes that
with Poe, we find a writer "whose entire oeuvre is marked by a compulsive
interest in the dimensionality of death" (Kennedy 92). Two stories that
fulfill this requirement are "The Tell-tale Heart" and "The Fall of the
Both stories fill us with fear because they illustrate the sometimes-
hideous nature of man. We become terrified in "The Tell-Tale Heart"
because we see a devious madman who is crazy enough to kill an old man
because of his so-called evil eye. "The Fall of the House of Usher" is
frightening because we witness how quickly one can become consumed with
Madness is also a recurring theme in Poe's tales. In "The Tell-Tale
Heart," the narrator tells us at the beginning of the story that he is not
a madman. He takes pride in his accomplishments and declares that a madman
would have never been able to devise such a scheme. We quickly question
his statement when he tells us that he was "never kinder to the old man
than during the whole week before I killed him" (Poe The Tell-Tale Heart
189). However, by the end of the story, the narrator cannot escape the
terrible sound of the beating heart. He becomes nervous and begins to pace
as the noise increases. He begins to question his own sanity when he
wonders if the officers do not hear the sound.
In "The Fall of the House of Usher," the narrator seems to be perfectly
sane at the beginning of the story. "The Fall of th...