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"There is in Edgar Allan Poe, so much of the ironist, the trickster, the player of games, that his stories must never be taken at face value." Illustrate this proposition.

"There is in Edgar Allan Poe, so much of the ironist, the trickster, the player of games, that his stories must never be taken at face value." Illustrate this proposition.

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by liam hughes. Originally submitted for Versions of Gothic at University of Ulster, with lecturer Kathryn White in the category of English Language & Literature
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by liam hughes. Originally submitted for Versions of Gothic at University of Ulster, with lecturer Kathryn White in the category of English Language & Literature

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 29, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
There is in Edgar Poe, so much of the ironist, thetrickster, the player of games, that his stories mustnever be taken at face value.Illustrate thisproposition. 
1
 
Edgar Allan Poe once wrote that within the structure of the short story, “there shouldbe no word written, of which the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one pre-established design.”
1
 Poe’s talent lay in his ability to craft tales and poems whichrejected the overtly linear and revealed a nuanced undercurrent of literary theme anddevice which rejected the binary strictures of critical thought intended to categoriseliterature. Poe’s writings occupied a category which refused to be categorised and,as such, were a,” showman’s display of his ability to manipulate the beliefs of agullible herd with verbal slights of hand”.
2
Whether Arabesque fantasy or ratiocinational deduction, Poe’s tales convey subliminal themes pregnant with literaryguile designed to promote a deeper insight into his work. If Poe himself advocatedthe reader to, “discover meaning beneath the surface as an undercurrent of suggestion”
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, then the reader is obliged to approach the writings of Poe with a moreinquiring perspective. This essay will attempt to illustrate subtle central themes withcareful reference to a selection of Poe’s tales which reveal themselves to be a skilfulliterary vehicle for Poe’s sophistication of thought and design which demand a morethan Prima Facie understanding.Poe developed and enriched his Gothic tales through his careful heightening of sensory details within his tales. This three dimensional literary onomatopoeia is wellillustrated in several of his stories. Within “The Cask of Amontillado” as theunfortunate Fortunato descends towards his doom, Montresor notes that,” the gait of my friend was unsteady, and the bells upon his cap jingled as he strode.”
4
Themalevolent blade in “The Pit and the Pendulum” is seen to be,” appended to a
1
Reuben Halleck, History of American Literature
 
, (Available at:www.forgottenbooks.org, Accessed onOctober 20
th
2010) p.213.
2
Istvan Csicery-Ronay Jnr.,The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction,(Middletown, Wesleyan UniversityPress,2008),p127.
3
John Muller and William Richardson (eds), The Purloined Poe, (London, The Johns HopkinsUniversity Press,1988),p323.
4
Edgar A. Poe, Selected Tales
 
,(London, Penguin Books Ltd, 1994),p376.
2
 
weighty rod of brass, and the whole hissed as it swung through the air.”
5
SimilarlyPoe’s anti-hero Dupin, in “The Purloined Letter”, is shown to use rhetorical pauses ashe smokes his pipe and addresses the Prefect thus;Why-puff, puff-you might-puff, puff-employ counsel in the matter,eh?-puff,puff,puff.
6
In using these sensory details and rhetorical interludes, more suited to speech thanthe printed page, Poe cleverly draws the reader into his tales thus furnishing himself with a transfixed canvas upon which to paint his themes and practise his literarytricks. One must now attempt to illustrate Poe’s use of guile and device to conveythemes within his work.Poe’s use of the “Doubling” motif is apparent throughout his tales. As such, ittranscends style by straddling the Arabesque and the ratiocinational .Within “The Fallof the House of Usher”, “The Cask of Amontillado”, and “The Purloined Letter” thisdevice is at once promoted and inverted in order to illustrate critically nuancedthemes from within the respective tales. Thus within “The Fall of The House of Usher,Roderick is doubled with both Madeline, his twin, and the decaying house which isseen to at once protect them form the reality of the outside world and also entombthem within a sarcophagus of dread and doom. Therefore, “the eye-like windows andhair-like fungi which bedeck a house which is decayed and fractured is mirrored byRoderick’s pale, sallow complexion and luminous eyes which find home in a bodywhich is fractious in mind and spirit.”
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The House of Usher is itself a double as it is atonce structurally and corporeally representative of both the ancient lineage and the
5
Ibid, p.260.
6
ibid, p345.
7
Somayeh Hoseini, The Study of the Gothic Element of Madness in Poe’s selected works, (Availableat;http:ezinearticles.com/?The_Study_of_the_Gothic_Element_of_Madness_in_Poe’s_Selected_Works&id=2816852, Accessedon October 21
st
2010)
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