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
House of Usher."
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
He takes pride in his accomplishments and declares that a madmanwould have never been able to devise such a scheme. He notes that this is evident in what the narrator claimsthat we mistake his "over acuteness of the senses" with madness (Poe TheTell-Tale Heart 190). In addition, Roderick complexion is described as"cadaverous" (40) with an "eye large liquid, and luminous beyondcomparison" (40). In addition, his sight is sensitive to the old man's eye. Arthur Robinson observes that Poe's theory of art emphasizesdevelopment almost equally with unity of effect" (Robinson 161). Arthur Robinson states that the sensory data provide the foundationfor an interesting psychological phenomenon in "The Tell-tale Heart"(Robinson 162). His stories reflect a dark element of lifeand disturbing aspects of the human psyche, which always shock and surpriseus. Additionally, having elements of the story move in slow-motion"intensifies the subjectivity of the narrator" (163). Nature and thesurrounding atmosphere correspond no less to the state of mind of Usher. Additionally, the narrator refuses to admit his ismad. According to Robinson, "Thethematic repetition and variation of incident in a"The Tell-Tale Heart' isone of the clearest examples of this architectural principle of Poe's work"(162). The narrator tells us thatseveral days after placing Madeline in the donjon, he began to experiencethe "full power of such feelings" (46). "The Fall of the House of Usher" is atestament to the autonomy of the unconscious, by whose inexorable powersare revealed the deepest truths of the soul" (Hoffman 175).