Classification of E.A.Poe's Characters in Terms of Sanity/Insanity and Rationality/Irrationality

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E. A. Poe often liked to use the first person narration. Choose at least 7 such stories and offer a classification of their characters in terms of sanity/insanity and rationality/irrationality.


American Literature I

Edgar Allan Poe often used the first person narration in his stories. Many of his narrators share the bond of insanity. In my essay, I would like to depict some elements of sanity and insanity, rationality and irrationality in several Poe’s stories and classify the narrators according to these features.

Classic examples of Poe’s unreliable narrators are found in the stories “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat.” In “The Tell-Tale Heart” insanity is used as a character motivation. Despite the love the narrator claims to feel towards the old man, he decides to murder him because of his eye. “One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture -- a pale blue eye with a film over it. He is obsessed with the eye and so afraid of it that this fear results in insanity and the hatred overcomes his fondness of the man. “Whenever it fell upon me my blood ran cold, and so by degrees, very gradually, I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye for ever.“[1] The narrator denies being mad - “nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why WILL you say that I am mad? “[2] - and tries to prove his sanity by rationally and calmly explaining his systematic action. “You should have seen how wisely I proceeded -- with what caution -- with what foresight, with what dissimulation, I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him.“[3] However, “the tone is ironic in that his protestation of sanity produces an opposite effect upon the reader.”[4] Having successfully hidden the body, the narrator is convinced there is nothing to be afraid of and he feels satisfied. His...