Friday, September 14, 2007

Lunchtime read: Selected Tales

Poe uses a device whereby the story is being told by someone who is confessing of a crime. It is used in the Tell-Tale Heart and again here with The Black Cat. The technique makes it darker because you know it ended in some grislly manner for the narrator to be telling the tale at all.

Highlights from The Gold Bug
A doctor on an island colony meets up with a friend who lives with a servant and occasionally meets up. He lets him self into his friends home and although the weather is usually hot it is such an unusually chilly day the fire is blazing and he sits down next to it and waits. His friend arrives and talks about finding a gold bug and draws it for him but when the doctor looks at the paper all he can see is a death’s head skull. The friend’s part on bad terms arguing about the image on the paper but an idea seems to have germinated in the mind of the gold bug owner.

Weeks pass and the doctor gets a visit from the servant who informs him that his master is going mad and has a letter calling on him to come. When they meet up the strange behaviour continues and the gold bug owner asks them to walk off into the forest and sends his servant up onto a tree. At the end of the seventh branch there is a skull and dropping the bug through the left eye it marks a spot from which the men can dig up Captain Kidd’s treasure. The gold bug is almost unconnected but had the owner not attempted to draw it he would never have found the map on the reverse that included the pirate sign of a death’s head that the doctor saw as he sat by the fire – which had heated the invisible ink.

Highlights from The Black Cat
An animal lover becomes an alcoholic and after one particularly bad bout he comes home and decides that his cat is looking at him strangely so cuts its eye out. He then tries to be remorseful but a few weeks later he hangs the cat. That night his house burns down all except for his bedroom wall that has the image of a cat being hanged burnt into the plaster. Again time passes and the animal lover comes across a cat almost identical to the one he killed and buys it. After a while he tires of the animal and moves to kill it with an axe but his wife stops him. For her trouble he puts the axe through her head. He thinks he has got away with bricking up her corpse but when the police come there is a screaming behind the wall that leads them to frantically pull the bricks away to reveal the corpse with the cat sitting on the head.

Highlights from The Premature Burial
A man, who is obsessed with being buried alive, partly because he suffers from a condition that means he slips into trance states that resemble death, discusses his phobia. First of all he reveals stories of others who have not been dead who wither died in a crypt or were lucky to be found before they died. Then he thinks the worst has happened and starts to scream out before remembering he is tightly squeezed on a ship and is waking the rest of the crew. The result of his moments when he really thought he had been buried alive is to relive him of the fear and hand him the chance to enjoy life.

More tomorrow…


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