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Full title “MS. Found in a Bottle” (1833);
“Ligeia” (1838); “The Fall of the House of
Usher” (1839); “William Wilson” (1839);
“The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841); “The
Tell-Tale Heart” (1843); “The Pit and the
Pendulum” (1843); “The Black Cat” (1843);
“The Purloined Letter” (1844); “The Masque
of the Red Death” (1845); “The Cask of Amontillado”
Author Edgar Allan Poe
Type of work Short story
Genre Gothic short story; detective story; science fiction
Time and place written
Baltimore, Richmond, Philadelphia, New York
Saturday Visiter (Baltimore); Southern
Literary Messenger (Richmond); Burton’s Gentleman’s
Magazine (Philadelphia); Graham’s (Philadelphia); Evening
Mirror (New York)
Narrator In the tales of criminal insanity, Poe’s narrators
are unnamed and often unreliable. They claim their sanity and then
proceed to detail their pathological madness. In the detective stories,
the narrator is a loyal friend of Dupin and is in awe of the crime solver’s
Point of view In the tales of criminal insanity, Poe’s first-person
narrators produce unreliable confessions. They control the narrative,
and we see only through their eyes. However, they describe their
own pathological actions so meticulously that they demonstrate that they
are actually insane. They are unable to step back from their narratives
to discern their own madness. In the detective stories, Poe employs
a third-person narrator, a friend of Dupin, and while the narrator
tries to convey the tale fairly, his loyalty to Dupin prevents him
from questioning or doubting Dupin’s actions and strategies.
Tone In the tales of criminal insanity, the narrators’
diction, which is precise and often ornate, suggests a serious investment
in confession as a defense of sanity. In the detective stories,
Poe’s narrator attempts a dispassionate and fair account of the
events, but he often humbly defers to Dupin at moments of confusion
Tense The tales of criminal insanity often begin in the
present tense as confessions and then flash back to recount past
crimes. The detective stories also feature little action in the
present and instead convey the important events as flashbacks.
Protagonist The tales of criminal insanity establish the first-person
narrators as protagonists by focusing on their struggles with madness
and the law. The detective stories feature Dupin as the protagonist
by focusing on his ability to save the Paris police with crime-solving brilliance.
Themes The similarity of love and hate; the rivalry between
self and alter ego; the personification of memory after death
Motifs The revenant; the doppelganger; the masquerade
Symbols Eyes; the whirlpool; “Fortunato”
Ace your assignments with our guide to Poe’s Short Stories!