The Masterful Use of Fear and Horror in Edgar Alan Poe’s Poems

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You know that feeling you get when you read or watch a scary story? Your heart is in your throat, you run for your life up the stairs thinking someone is chasing you, and when you can’t fall asleep at night type of feeling? For me, it’s not exactly an enjoyable sensation, but for some it is. But why do we love to scare ourselves so much? Is it because of the thrill we get, the satisfaction, or the natural high from the fight or flight response?

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This sensation I got while I was reading “The Fall of the House of Usher”, “The Tell-Tale Heart”, and “The Masque of the Red Death.” Poe was trying to use fear in his stories to attract us, the readers into the gothic world. Poe’s life had so much unhappiness, ever since his parent’s early death, from him being an adopted orphan, to his stepfather disowning him, and his wife who died a few years prior to their marriage. Because of his search for security and love, his life seems to have been an unsolved struggle; so too it isn’t surprising the way he chooses to write his stories, with such death, horror, fear, and madness.

Death plays an important scene in almost all of Poe’s poems. Just like in “The Fall of the House of Usher” Roderick buries his sister alive and dies at the end with her too. “The Tell-Tale Heart” the narrator, who was a nameless murderer kills an innocent man because of his vulture eye. And everyone dies in “The Masque of the Red Death.” Also Poe’s settings in his poems emphasize a lot of mysterious dark gloomy surroundings throughout the stories to inflict us with fear and to get us the readers more involved. Then again, lots of people enjoy these scary situations because it makes you more confident. For example, I’ve been to many haunted houses and at first, my friends forced me into it, but once I made it through, I thought to myself “yes I did it! I made it out alive” which gave me a boost of self-esteem.

Edgar Alan Poe’s poems had so much madness and horror because he wanted to capture the reader’s attention, or perhaps writing about death and fear gave Poe answers to his questions he has been looking for. Questions like, why his life was so hard, why his loved one had to die so soon, and why he was still alive and alone. Or maybe he even wrote these poems to escape from the world.

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