Thursday, March 4, 2010

Edgar Allen Creep, Erm...Poe

As the weather turns for the better, I look out both my wide open windows, considering sun glasses as an alternative to shutting them so I can see my desk without squinting, I consider how reading Poe in the dead of winter would have felt. Probably awful, as I task back to Monday night, unable to sleep and reading "The Black Cat" just before sunrise instigated admittedly foolish, but all the same real, fright as I made one last walk down the hall for a sip of water. It's scary shit, Poe is excellent at what he does. The criticism of his work at large I will make, however, is sort of a big deal: it's all the same with a different melody. Look at "Cat," and "The Fall of the House of Usher:" a chick dies, two dudes go postal, it lives AND IT COMES OUT OF THE WALLS!" Let's not neglect "Tell Tale Heart" either. More of the same, noise, paranoia, &c.

But that's all good and fine; nobody's talking mess about Stephen King for his upteenth horror book, or Steph Myers' one in the same vampire books, or Nick Spark's repetitive works; because (except for Myers) they are good at what they do so they do it. Same is Edgar Allen Poe; he had an awful, horrific life, so why not channel that into his horrific, awful stories? It just works.

So here are the conclusions I have drawn, and if this were a paper, here is your thesis: "The Black Cat" and "Liegia," both stories of obsession contrast the sometimes lethal always devastating effects of unhealthy love." This idea, above all, is something Poe would struggle with considering his not so happy life, and can be found in a majority of his works; these two, I feel, work together the best. There both happened to be new Poe for me, so the exposure was nice, so...

Both read like Poe's, or any narrator's, very personal intimate diary. We also quickly become akin to two facts: one, our narrators are sociopaths, see quote "I cannot for my soul remember how when or even precisely where, I first became aquatinted with the lady Ligeia," which is sketch because the entire text is you know, about this Ligeia; or look at "I neither expect nor solicit belief [in my story]" says narrator of "The Black Cat." And second quick fun fact, the narrators cannot be trusted.

These two texts go on to establish powerful emotional connection to an opposite force in the respective texts.

The narrator's love of pets in "The Black Cat," is an immediately established driving force of his character: "Am never so happy as when feeding and caressing them," says the narrator. Similarly, Ligea's speaker in a 'Lolita' like fashion tells us of his obsessive love for the namesake woman, stating her name upwords of ten times in the opening paragraph. Obviously, these two forces are going to go awry, after all, these men are men of Poe's creation.

In the case of our cat man, the pet love turn sour. "The fury of a demon possessed original soul seemed, at once, to take its flight from my body" says the narrator of his favorite cat. He then gouges it its eyes. This seemingly out of character move, although pathetically excused by claims of "much intoxication" still shows something deep from inside this man's very soul. "It was this unfathomable longing of the soul to vex itself," he says. In this way, destruction, he is in control of the loving relationship he and his cat share.

Looking at this circumstance, that of "Ligeia" becomes all the more curious. This is unhealthy, obsessive love. And instead of killing it off to keep it forever, our narrator simply objectify, idolizes, makes this love into something of a deity. "Her presence...rendered vividly luminous the many which we were immersed." Poor Ligeia, throughout the entire story has no physical geography, save a wildly fantastic and sensational, dream like image he paints: "In stature she was tall, somewhat slender, and in her latter days even emaciated...I would in vain attempt to portray the majesty." One would almost believe that Ligeia is an apparition of sorts.

Not too far from the truth.

Oh that's right, the narrator of "The Black Cat" kills his wife. This detail is sort of dropped on readers in a really horrific nonchalant manner, remember, this is the narrator talking directly to us. This is where the narrative path begins to blend. Ligeia dies too. So sad.

So, these two men remain, both clinging to their awkward, pun intended, creature comforts: pet man and his pets, Ligeia keeps to his obsession.

What I think is interesting is how these are opposite reactions to the same tragedy: a loss of love. One route, violence and hidden insanity, the other route, passivity and overt insanity.

The two climaxes are great for this point.

Cat man is proud of his inner demons, points out his craftiness to the police who bust his murderous ass on the spot, because of the infidelity-wrought relationship with the new cat, fate curses this man to bear the guilt of a murder.

Ligeia man is devastated, and not going to hide it. He remarries although is lethargic around his psuedo replacement. She dies, and of this is, in his mind, born the reincarnate of his lost love.

Where one hides behind guilt, the other embraces it shame free. Both tango with death, and both are creepy.

At least we hit Poe on a sunny day as the dead rose and axes were buried in skulls.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, Poe definitely freaked me out as well. Stories about the narrators killing people and animals because he is paranoid. Greeeat. An eye that stares at him, so he kills the dude? Whatever. Good stuff about unhealthy love, kinda freaks me out that people really have murdered people they love but can't be with..yikes.

    And on a side note, I completely agree with your opinion of Stephenie Myer and the Twilight series :)