“MS. Found in a Bottle”

Unnamed narrator

A world traveler and survivor of two hurricanes at sea. After a mishap on the South Seas, the narrator embarks on a journey of self-discovery to regions beyond human exploration and rational knowledge.

Old Swede

Along with the narrator, the only survivor of the tale’s first hurricane. The Old Swede’s experience of the tragic voyage is purely physical, not intellectual like the narrator’s. His death signals the metaphoric importance of the voyage as a quest for knowledge.


Unnamed narrator

Husband of both Lady Ligeia and Lady Rowena. Unable to recall certain details about his only love, Ligeia, the narrator keeps her alive in his memory after her physical death and his second marriage.

Lady Ligeia

The darkly beautiful and learned first wife of the narrator, Ligeia is a woman who returns from the grave. After dying from a mysterious illness, Ligeia haunts her husband and his new bride, becoming part of the Gothic decorations of their bridal chamber.

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Lady Rowena

The blonde second wife of the narrator. Rowena’s cold English character contrasts with Ligeia’s sensual, Germanic romanticism. Ligeia punishes Rowena’s lack of affection for the narrator by haunting the bridal chamber and dooming their marriage.

“The Fall of the House of Usher”

Roderick Usher

The owner of the mansion and last male in the Usher line. Roderick functions as a doppelganger, or character double, for his twin sister, Madeline. He represents the mind to her body and suffers from the mental counterpart of her physical illness.

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Madeline Usher

Roderick’s twin sister and victim of catalepsy, a mysterious incapacitating illness. Because the narrator is surprised to discover that Madeline is a twin, she signals the narrator’s outsider relationship to the house of Usher.

Unnamed narrator

Roderick Usher’s best boyhood friend. Contacted by Roderick during his emotional distress, the narrator knows little about the house of Usher and is the first outsider to visit the mansion in many years.

“William Wilson”

William Wilson, the narrator

The narrator who murders his double, also named William Wilson. The first William Wilson suffers from a split personality: he takes a figment of his imagination and gives it physical shape.

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William Wilson, the double

A classmate and rivalrous competitor of the narrator. This second William Wilson is the external embodiment of the narrator’s paranoia.

“The Murders in the Rue Morgue”

C. Auguste Dupin

A Parisian crime solver. Dupin discovers the truth behind the violent murders of two women after the Paris police arrest the wrong man. He employs psychological analysis and intuition and considers possibilities not imagined by the police to conclude that the murders were committed by an Ourang-Outang.

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Madame L’Espanaye

The older of the two Parisian murder victims. Violently beaten with a club, Madame L’Espanaye dies from a cut throat and is thrown through the window to a courtyard below her apartment.

Mademoiselle Camille

Daughter of Madame L’Espanaye. Mademoiselle Camille is choked to death by the murderer and then stuffed into the chimney.

Adolphe Le Bon

A bank clerk and the first suspect in the two murders.

Unnamed narrator

A friend and housemate of Dupin. The narrator attempts to provide an objective chronicle of the crime, but his tone celebrates Dupin’s brilliance.


The owner of the Ourang-Outang. The sailor witnesses the two murders but is unable to interfere. His inability to restrain the Ourang-Outang also represents the limits of the Paris police to imagine a nonhuman explanation for the vicious murders.

“The Tell-Tale Heart”

Unnamed narrator

The murderer of the old man. Addressing the reader, the narrator offers his tale of precise murder and dismemberment as an argument for his sanity.

Old man

The narrator’s murder victim. The narrator’s obsession with the old man’s one vulture-eye indicates the insanity that the narrator wants to deny.

“The Pit and the Pendulum”

Unnamed narrator

A victim of the Inquisition. The narrator maintains sanity that many of Poe’s other narrators lack. He functions with Dupin-like practicality despite the invisible enemy threatening him with torture.

General Lasalle

A leader of the French army. General Lasalle is a real and positive presence of authority in contrast to the shadowy and invisible leaders of the Inquisition.

“The Black Cat”

Unnamed narrator

The murderer of his wife. Haunted by a favorite cat that he hanged, the narrator seeks revenge, only to lash out against his wife.

Narrator’s wife

The murder victim. Also a lover of animals, the narrator’s wife defends the second cat from her husband’s anger. She possesses the generosity that the narrator has mysteriously lost.

“The Purloined Letter”

C. Auguste Dupin

A savvy and learned Parisian who helps the city’s police solve crimes. Dupin uses psychology to foil the plans of a thief and uncover a stolen letter that the police of Paris could not uncover by conventional investigations.

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Unnamed narrator

A friend of Dupin. In awe of Dupin’s brilliance, the narrator faithfully recounts Dupin’s explanations without doubting or challenging him.

Monsieur G——

The Prefect of the Paris police. Limited by his conventional police training, Monsieur G—— depends on Dupin’s assistance in peculiarly difficult crimes, and his own general competence highlights Dupin’s superior abilities.

Minister D——

A government official and the thief of the letter. Minister D—— ‘s ability to outwit the police in his crime proves he is a worthy adversary for Dupin.

“The Masque of the Red Death”

Prince Prospero

A wealthy nobleman and the ultimate victim of the Red Death. Prince Prospero’s wealth turns out to be irrelevant in the natural cycle of life and death.

Mysterious guest

The embodiment of the Red Death. Donning the gruesome marks of the plague as his costume, the mysterious guest brings death to those who deny their own mortality.

“The Cask of Amontillado”


The narrator, Montresor, murders Fortunato for insulting him by walling him up alive behind bricks in a wine cellar.


A wine expert murdered by Montresor. Dressed as a court jester, Fortunato falls prey to Montresor’s scheme at a particularly carefree moment during a carnival.