Poe’s Short Stories
Study Questions & Essay Topics
1. How does Poe portray the motif of the doppelganger, or character double, in his two tales of 18 39, “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “William Wilson”?
2. In “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat,” what is the relationship between the confessions of Poe’s guilty narrators and their claims to sanity and reliability?
3. How does Poe use setting as a Gothic element in “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” and “The Masque of the Red Death”?
Suggested Essay Topics
1. How does Poe use black and white color imagery in “MS. Found in a Bottle” and “Ligeia”? How might this use of black and white imagery relate to tensions about slavery in the mid-nineteenth century?
2. How does Poe portray family in “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Cask of Amontillado”?
3. How does Dupin demonstrate his mathematical mind in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Purloined Letter”? How does Dupin’s analytical mind compare to the scientific imagination of the narrator from “MS. Found in a Bottle”?
4. Why does Poe have Dupin attempt to solve such drastically different crimes in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Purloined Letter”?
5. What is the role of history in “The Pit and the Pendulum”? How does the specificity of the tale’s historical placement contribute to its aura of terror?
6. Is the narrator of “William Wilson” insane? Compare and contrast him with the narrator of “The Tell-Tale Heart.”
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